Based upon a true story but I certainly did take liberties.... Apologies to all Franciscan scholars....
As she knelt on the cool, dewy-moist green grass she drew in a breath of spring air, expanding her lungs as she stretched in appreciation of the beautiful morning and the landscape before her.
In the distance, she heard the church bells ringing their lively prima, the daily first call of the faithful, the only alarm clock that would be in existence for centuries ahead. The people in her town, in every town in her region, in every region in her beloved country would have no need for anything more than the bells calling them to the first Mass of the day. They lived in fear of eternal damnation for such a grievous offense as not participating in this daily ritual. But today, Claire felt differently as she exited her home, slipping out quietly without waking her sleeping parents. Today, she was drawn from her doorstep, out onto the streets which led her to the outskirts of her town, high up to the top of what is now known as the Rocco Magiore.
Claire did not fully understand what was happening. Why was she so moved to her bravery, her utter lack of concern for the religious law of the land, her lack of fear of reprisal from her parents? She simply got up, followed what she felt in her beating heart, and made swift in her movements, not stopping until she reached this vantage point. From here, she had the most spectacular view of her town and as the morning fog lifted she could swear that she heard a voice…..resta qui…resta con mi….stay here, stay with me. “Am I dreaming?” She wondered if this was just another of the voices that she had been hearing of late. From where were they coming….resta con mi…..drifting in and out of her head.
Slowly, the fog lifted, allowing the most spectacular ray of sunshine to follow. Everything that she touched and looked at felt sweeter, brighter, radiance she had never before experienced. A new day presenting itself in a way so unique her breath was taken away. New feelings awakened in her causing her to be more awake, more aware of her surroundings. She was not frightened. Instead, she was feeling protected, warm. The thought of returning to her home remained far, very far. Nothing could lead her back down the little mountain. Her eyes remained fixed now. Her view, the center of her town, a little city actually, bustling with carts and wagons as the rumbled along unpaved streets. All around, she became aware of the cacophony of sounds. Sheep bleating, horses clip clopping, children laughing and running along. An everyday morning to all but her it seemed.
Amid all of the morning activity came a new sound. The sounds became louder and louder, filling the piazza below with an air of chaos, stopping all other sounds as passersby grabbed the children for fear that a madman was approaching. Was he singing? Was he shouting? Is he dancing or is he stupefied from drinking through the night into this otherwise perfect morning? Louder, louder, totally obliterating the calls from the street peddlers as they shouted out their offers of merchandise. Now, everyone stood in silence, most in fear as the man approached, whirling, twirling, shouting, and singing. Who was he?
“A religious freak” …..”he’s possessed by the devil”…..”Is he a madman?”….then suddenly, Claire recognized him. As she stood to her feet and started to walk down the mountain, her gaze remained fixed upon the man who was dancing with joy, shouting the words “God” “Love” and “praise” as he whirled and twirled. She recognized him as her good friend, the child she played with until he was too old for such things and too busy being the play boy rather than the play mate of their youth. Now she knew him as the son of wealthy parents, living the good life, showing off his good fortune. Could it be him? Her heart started to race, faster and faster as if it were a bomb about to explode in her chest. She enlivened her pace, briskly walking, now running toward the piazza in the Centro, and hoping to confirm the impossibility before her eyes. “How can this be” she whispered to herself.
Just then, the dancing, singing, shouting man in the expensive tunic lost his step and found himself on all fours in a puddle of water muddied by the early morning rain that has touched the grass upon which Claire had only moments before rested in quiet anticipation of what she did not know. Without missing a beat, he was once again on his feet, smiling, laughing, shouting “love, peace, joy”….over and over as more people began to recognize him and news spread rapidly throughout the crowd like a wave crashing at the seashore…….
By now, Claire was once again in the center of her town, not far from the doorstep of her home, herself amid the crowds of startled townspeople. From their own doorsteps, they tumbled onto the cobblestoned street, some rubbing their eyes as if they had seen an apparition or a dream sequence that they were trying to validate. Silence quickly replaced their gasps at recognition and disbelief of the vision before them. Some tried to subdue him in gentle ways. Others drew whatever weapons they could quickly devise as they attempted to beat him down but the more they tried, the less they were able and the apparent “madman” continued his flight down the street, smiling and shouting his songs of praise.
As Claire’s heart filled more, she too started to smile. She knew now why this day was special, why she has been called to the mountain top to await this extraordinary demonstration. Her friend was no ordinary man. Her friend was named Francesco, better known as Francis and from the beautiful town of Assisi, they both would travel on and one day they both would be proclaimed saints.