"Francis of Assisi, the End of the World, and Hoeing Beans"
The foremost conflict, however, was between the emperor and the pope. Conflicts between Holy Roman Emperors, Otto and Frederick, north of the Alps spilled over down on the peninsula where the emperor struggled to solidify his empire. The Germanic kingdom -- consisting of lands in northern Italy as well as the south including Sicily -- was being chipped away at by Italy’s myriad factions and strife. Yet it was the pope -- that potentate of the Papal States in the center of Italy (and of his kingdom!) -- that grieved the emperor the most. Therefore, attacks against monasteries and churches were commonplace leading to papal interdicts and excommunications against the emperor.
While all this was going on around him, Francis of Assisi was calmly at work hoeing his garden near the humble church of St. Mary of the Angels.
This surprised the novice friar who assumed, perhaps, that Francis had not heard him. So he shouted even louder, “Francis! I said the end of the world is coming! What are we going to do? What will become of us?”
Francis, without looking up, continued serenely at his work and replied simply, “Nothing. For now I will finish hoeing this row of beans.”
Though on the surface this story (likely apocryphal, as it does not appear in any of the 13th-century sources) may seem simple, it has much deeper meaning. It gives us a little insight into a man who is both engaged with the world (in his work in the soil as well as his interaction with his brother), but who is also not easily excited by it. It is apparent that this is a man who is “in the world, but not of it.”
In subsequent reflections, I’ll examine Francis’s actions and what he did to achieve this detachment. Hopefully, despite current events, we, too, can use the “St. Francis Option” and also learn to serenely “hoe our beans” despite today’s claims that the end of the world is near.