Picnic with Brother Bandits

(O Seraphic Father St. Francis; long has it been since I have spoken of you and your ways: forgive me. Here is a story of conversion and penance.)

How St. Francis and his 'lesser brethren' (the friars minor) won the souls of bandits by humility and charity [Mirror of Perfection - #66].

A party of bandits who used to hide in the woods and rob travelers occasionally came for food to a hermitage of the friars situated above Borgo San Sepolcro. Some friars said that it was not right to give them alms, while others did so out of compassion and urged them to repent. Meanwhile blessed Francis came to this friary, and the brothers asked him whether it was right to give them alms.

The eternal debate: Who is my neighbor? Are the criminal poor entitled to compassion? Are they suitable candidates for repentance? Some say 'yes': others complain. Enter the Poverello; what does he have to offer? He counsels kindness and compassion for the conversion of bandits: while supplying spiritual guidance for his 'lesser brethren', a path for their sanctification.

And he said to them, 'If you will do as I tell you, I trust in God that he shall win their souls. So go and bring some good bread and wine, and take it to the woods where they live. And shout to them saying, "Brother Bandits, come to us. We are friars, and are bringing you some good bread and wine!" And they will come at once. Then you must spread a cloth on the ground, place the bread and wine on it, and serve them humbly and gladly until they have eaten.

The divine absurdity: Feed the thieves; serve them gladly and with great humility. Doesn't this resemble our Lords own action? Let the cloth cover the ground as the linen covers the altar: offer good bread and wine to them.

After the meal speak to them of our Lord's words, and end by asking them for the love of God to grant your first request, which is to promise not to strike or injure anyone. For if you ask for everything at once, they will not listen to you; but because you are humble and loving they will promise this immediately.

Can this really work, Brother Francis? Will love open their twisted hearts? 'Yes of course, each time they hurt others they do more harm to themselves, though they don't see it.' 'Give them God's words – let the Holy Spirit counsel them through you.' 'You yourselves, my brothers are to be God's Word.' 'They won't see or hear their Savior and Lord Jesus, unless you carry Him within you.'

On a later day take them eggs and cheese with the bread and wine to show that you appreciate their promise, and serve them until they have eaten. And after the meal say to them, "Why do you stay here all day to die of hunger, and suffer so much hardship? And why do you do so many evil things for which you will lose your souls unless you turn to God? It is better to serve God, for He will both supply your bodily needs in this world, and save your souls at the last." Then God will move them to repentance because of the humility and charity that you have shown them.'

'We did as you said Father Francis and we ourselves were filled with the Holy Spirit.' 'When they saw that we came back with food again, and were joyful in being with them, they were moved and amazed.' 'Not only that, but they realized the foolishness of their old ways and asked if they could have our joy.'

So the friars did everything that blessed Francis had told them, and by the grace and mercy of God the bandits listened to them, and punctiliously observed all that the friars had humbly asked of them. Further, because of the friars' humility and friendship towards them, they themselves humbly began to serve the friars and carried logs up to the hermitage on their shoulders for them. At length some of the bandits entered the Order; the others confessed their crimes and did penance for their sins, laying their hands in those of the friars, and promising that henceforward they would live by their own labor and never do such things again.

They confessed and did penance. Eight hundred years have passed and those with the spirit of St. Francis continue to call out: "Brother Bandits, come to us. We are friars, and are bringing you some good bread and wine!"


teresa_anawim2 said...

Thanks for the inspiration today.
The first thing that came to mind... (being one who lives in the inner city where 'cool bandits' abound)...was that "The Lord's commandments demand that we take RISKS to keep them the way He teaches in His Gospel and through His Saints".
As I go out into the marketplace in a few hours , I take with me the example of St Francis and his friars and the command to Love my neighbor.
What risks will be required of me today??!!
Abandonment to His will in the humdrum of the marketplace and workplace can bring excitement in a sort of way which reveals to ME what is really within. Adventure!
St Francis...pray for us.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

Excellent post, Tausign. And good point about risk, Teresa.

David H. Lukenbill said...

For many reasons this is true still, and for many other reasons it is very dangerous work and one—if done on a regular basis with deep involvement, which it requires if any long-term success is to be had—better left to reformed criminals with the level of understanding of the criminal world and of Catholic social teaching, both of which is the core of our apostolate at the LampStand Foundation, http://www.lampstandfoundation.org/