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Saint Francis

February 11, 2011

Jeff Dunn at Internet Monk posts about the art of doing nothing.  He says this about Nikos Kazantzakis’s great novel Saint Francis:

Francis of Assisi is lying sick and is attended by a wild-haired young man whom Francis calls Leo. Francis asks Leo how he came to find God.

“My route, Sior Francis—and don’t be surprised when you hear it—my route when I set out to find God … was  … laziness. Yes, laziness. If I wasn’t lazy, I would have gone the way of respectable, upstanding people. Like everyone else I would have studied a trade—cabinetmaker, weaver, mason—and opened a shop; I would have worked all day long, and where then would I have found time to search for God? I might as well have been looking for a needle in a haystack: that’s what I would have said to myself. All my mind and thoughts would have been occupied with how to earn my living, feed my children, how to keep the upper hand over my wife. With such worries, curse them, how could I have had the time, or the inclination, or the pure heart needed to think about the Almighty?

“But by the grace of God I was born lazy. To work, get married, have children, and make problems for myself were all too much trouble. I simply sat in the sun during winter and in the shade during summer, while at night, stretched out on my back on the roof of my house, I watched the moon and the stars. And when you watch the moon and the stars how can you expect your mind not to dwell on God? I couldn’t sleep anymore. Who made all that? I asked myself. And why? … Who made me, and why? Where can I find God so that I may ask him? … Piety requires laziness, you know. It requires leisure—and don’t listen to what others say. The laborer who lives from hand to mouth returns home each night exhausted and famished. He assaults his dinner, gobbles up his food lickety-split, then quarrels with his wife, beats his children without rhyme or reason simply because he’s tired and irritated, and afterward clenches his fist and sleeps. Waking up for a moment he finds his wife at his side, couples with her, clenches his fists once more, and plunges back into sleep … Where can he find time for God? But the man who is without work, children, and wife thinks about God, at first just out of curiosity, but later with anguish. Do not shake your head, Sior Francis. You asked and I answered. Forgive me.”

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From → Fiction

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