Today we honor our Holy Father’s favorite saint, Francis of Assisi. Francis grew up in the eleven hundreds when France and Italy were swept up in a craze for the songs of the troubadours. Everywhere one could hear songs about brave knights doing courageous deeds to honor untouchable ladies fair. As teenagers Francis and his companions strolled the streets of Assisi giving the town free concerts.
Even after his total conversion, Francis was true to his troubadour spirit, doing all for his lady Poverty, and serenading even the birds and animals.
Among the stories told about Francis, one of the best known is the one about his father Pietro bringing Francis to court for selling fabrics from his shop to come by money for the poor. Francis did his all for repaying his father by stripping off the clothes he wore, returning them to his father.
To make reparation to my own father for all the times I left his tools to rust out in the rain, I’d like to say a word for Pietro. With Assisi positioned at the western terminus of the silk road from China, Pietro had built up a good business in fabrics and brocades. At the time this seventh child of his was born, Pietro was away in France, peddling fabrics for the support of his expanding family.
While there, he had been so caught up in the troubadour craze, that on returning home, and finding that his wife had their new son christened John, in honor of the French rage for chivalry, Pietro had the baby boy’s name changed to Francis.
With the apple not falling too far from the tree, Francis brought his father’s dreams to fruition in composing his “Canticle of Creatures.” It was the first masterpiece composed in Italian, and it can be seen as the song of a sanctified troubadour.
My own father, to protest to the world that he was a person as well as our breadwinner, composed passable poetry. The shortest of his productions, with only seven words, went like this: “Washington’s birthday was Washington’s father’s birthday too.”