The Tale of St. Francis-on-the-Hill (ch. 3)
This is the third and final chapter of this tale. To read the lead up, go here for chapter one and here for chapter two.
That morning I decided to move St. Francis back to his rightful place. In the evening, between dinner and Compline, I had an experience that seemed unrelated, but turned out to be quite important.
I decided to walk the Stations of the Cross. In the realm of "new stuff" at the Monastery, this was something that deserved my seal of approval. There is a fairly good distance from the Guesthouse to the Abbey Chapel (which they call the "Church"). In the past, one could either walk along a road, or take a short-cut trail.
This year, I discovered that the short-cut had been dramatically altered. A gravel path had been put down, and 14 seven-foot wooden crosses had been set up along the new trail. Though they were unmarked, I assumed that this was a Stations of the Cross pathway.
So, that night, I walked the Stations. I did not have a written Stations liturgy with me (I'll bring one next time), but I have participated in the service often enough to have it basically memorized. As I walked along I remembered moments in Jesus' journey to his death. And at each cross I prayed very personal prayers, each relating that event to me and my life.
At one of these stations I remembered the moment when Simon of Cyrene took up Jesus' cross for him. At this moment I asked God to give me the grace to allow others to help me bear my burdens. This is something I have definitely grown in over the past years, but I recognize in myself the sort of "can do" attitude that still leads me to believe that I can care for myself.
Back to Frank.
I spent the next morning at each of the services. This means I got up at 3:45 a.m. At the end of Mass at 7:30, I went back to bed for a while. After lunch, I wandered into the bookstore/gift shop. The person watching the store was the maintenance guy. He is not a monk, but lives on the property. I can't remember his name right now, which is embarrassing, but he remembered me from my other visits. We chatted for a while.
At the end of our talk, I said "hey, who moved St. Francis?" He looked at my quizzically. "What do you mean?" "The St. Francis that overlooked the Guesthouse, someone moved him." He got kind of upset. "Where is he?", he asked. I told him where I had found him. "Well, we didn't move him," he said, and then paused. "You want to move him back?" he asked.
"Hell yeah, I'll move him back," I answered. Happy to do it. I left the bookstore all pumped up. I was now officially commissioned to move Frank back to his hill.
First I needed to have some quiet time, which I did. At 3 pm, though, the time had come. My big decision was whether or not to get Robert (my fellow traveler and old friend) to help me. On one hand, I felt that this was highly personal. This was something that would have deep meaning for me, but not for Robert. I knew I could physically do it, so why involve him?
But then I thought of the Stations of the Cross. Here was an opportunity to allow someone else in, to allow him to share my burden. Yes, I could do it myself. And no, this would probably not be a significant moment in Robert's life. However, this was a chance to live into my prayer in some small way.
I asked Robert if he wanted to help, and he was all in. We found Frank, and I picked him up. He was heavy and cumbersome, but there was no good way to carry him together. So I put him over my shoulder and took him about halfway up the hill. I then turned him over to Robert who took him the rest of the way. Robert is in better shape than I am, which became apparent pretty quickly.
Once on the hill, I put him his place, and we put rocks all around his base. I put the rosaries back in place, and we spent a few moments taking in the view. Then Robert was ready to go, and I felt odd saying "no, we must engage in some sort of liturgy," so I went with him. In retrospect, I wish I had asked for a time of silent prayer.
In the end, Frank got back to his hill. And I got to share something with my friend. I got a chance to let him serve me.
The morning we left the Monastery I waved goodbye to Frank. I'm looking forward to seeing him again next year. In the meantime, I'm happy to think of him up on his hill. It gives me a sense of peace to know he is there, timeless like the Chama river valley and the Monastery chapel. But also changing, subject to accidents and falls and mistakes, just like I am. And somewhere in the midst of these things, somewhere between the eternal and the temporary, he and I are under the watchful care of the God who loves both the real St. Francis and the real Thomas as well.