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St. Francis came out of the closet but now he’s homeless


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Inspired by another blogger who decided to add a “Saint of the Week” feature to her blog (I didn’t include a link because it looks like she ran out of steam after only one saint), I decided to write about my own garden saint.

Francis and I go way back. I like to visit the guest house at the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, often for several days at a time. It is a vibrant community full of women who serve God in incredible ways, and they offer warm hospitality to those needing a quiet place to rest as well. I spend my time there in silent retreat, attending worship four times a day, writing and catching up on some sleep.

Since meals there are served in silence, I usually find myself looking out the window into the courtyard. It is a green space that has evolved into a Quiet Garden in recent years, and is filled with a winding path, perennials and a small pond. That is where I first laid eyes on St. Francis.

Francis was sitting by the window, looking in at me. At the time, he was surrounded on all sides by a sea of vibrant green shrubbery and wore an expression of quiet reserve. There were a few flakes of snow, but he didn’t flinch. When I went back for my evening meal, there he was again in the same spot. Day after day he stood, still and stoic. Francis was a very patient man, it seemed.

I struck up a conversation with him (all in my head of course, so as not to disturb the silence) and he seemed friendly enough. I became sort of attached to him and his faithful presence was reassuring. I liked him.

Naturally, when I was on sabbatical, I decided that I would like to have St. Francis in my own garden. Since I knew the sisters would miss him if I made off with my dinner companion, I set out to find his likeness. After searching high and low, I found him. He has a serene face and a small bird in his hand (he is known for his love of animals). His robes look comfortable. He seems like the strong, silent type.

Unfortunately, when I brought him home I had nowhere for him to live right away, so I put him in the living room. But then we decided to sell our house and the stager wondered if perhaps he might like to live in the closet for a wee while instead? So he lived amid coats and shoes and skipping ropes until this August, when we gave him a ride to the new house in the back of the van. Now at long last St. Francis is free! He has emerged from his retreat ready to join me in a lush and meditative garden full of beauty and blooms.

Sadly, I have no such garden. There are no blooms. There is no beauty. There is only a dilapidated deck and a few scraggly pots of annuals. I have given him a temporary place to sit, mind you, so that we can see each other through the back door. I hope that he doesn’t mind waiting until next spring for a more permanent home. It’s a good thing I know St. Francis to be such so patient. There is a long winter still ahead.

About the author

Kristine O'Brien is minister at Trafalgar, Oakville, Ont. She blogs at The Blooming Reverend.

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