Friday, October 5, 2007


This week our university set aside a day with no classes, but with an opportunity for learning. It's called Day of Reflection. I think it is fair to say that most people are better at speaking/writing than they are at listening.

Although I allowed work to interfere with attending most of the DoR events, work has given me a second chance. I've been editing some audio of a musical/spoken word program that served as the coda for the day. There was an issue with one of the recordings and I asked one of the speakers to visit the studio for a do-over. It was a passage from Thomas of Celano's Vita Prima or "First Life" of Saint Francis of Assisi. It makes me consider that perhaps we might want to look at the War on Terror and at the Islamofacists who seek our forced conversions or deaths from a different perspective.

"Accordingly, in the thirteenth year of his (Francis) conversion he set out for Syria, at a time when great and severe battles were raging daily between the Christians and the pagans; he took with him a companion, and he did not fear to present himself before the sultan of the Saracens. But who can narrate with what steadfastness of mind he stood before him, with what strength of spirit he spoke to him, with what eloquence and confidence he replied to those who insulted the Christian law? For before he gained access to the sultan, though he was captured by the sultan's soldiers, was insulted and beaten, still he was not frightened; he did not fear the threats of torture and, when death was threatened, he did not grow pale. But though he was treated shamefully by many who were quite hostile and hateful toward him, he was nevertheless received very honorably by the sultan. The sultan honored him as much as he was able, and having given him many gifts, he tried to bend Francis' mind toward the riches of the world. But when he saw that Francis most vigorously despised all these things as so much dung, he was filled with the greatest admiration, and he looked upon him as a man different from all others. He was deeply moved by his words and he listened to him very willingly. Still, in all these things the Lord did not fulfill Francis' desire for martyrdom, reserving for him the prerogative of a singular grace."

The problem with applying this tactic today is that while the sultan in Syria appears to have had an open mind (at least in hearing what Francis had to say,) the same cannot be said of the Islamic extremists. It may be that our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to sow the seeds of freedom and democracy is beginning to have the same impact on the average Fulan 6-pack in Baghdad as Francis' words and actions had on that sultan half a millennium ago.