Notebook

St Francis & the Viol

So vivid are the accounts of St Francis’s personality that we risk forming an impression that is purely this-worldly. Francis is held hostage to more pragmatic causes than any other saint. It matters to recall with reverence the supernatural foundation of his life and witness. The Fioretti speak of an incident that took place not long before his death. Weakened by abstinence and spiritual trials, Francis turned his mind to meditation on celestial joy. ‘Now while this thought was in his mind, suddenly an angel appeared to him in surpassing glory, having a viol in his left hand and a bow in his right. And St Francis stood in amazement at the sight, the angel drew the bow once across the strings of the viol, when the soul of St Francis was instantly so ravished by the sweetness of the melody, that all his bodily senses were suspended, and he believed, as he afterwards told his companions, that, if the strain had been continued, the intolerable sweetness would have drawn his soul from his body.’ Here we glimpse the soul-mystery of this singular Christian, whose being was wholly attuned to the music of eternity.