There was a time at the very beginning when Francis and his brothers lived at a place near Assisi called Rivo Torto...At Rivo Torto they fasted and did penance with all the enthusiasm and sometimes the imprudence of novices in the life of the Spirit, as the following story shows.
One night, as they all lay sleeping soundly, a loud cry broke into their dreams:
"I am dying! I am dying! Help me!"
And the brothers, startled for their sleep, saw St. Francis already at the side of the terrified brother.
"What is it, brother? Tell me."
And though he was now embarrassed, the brother overcame shame and said:
"Forgive me, Father Francis; but I am dying of hunger."
Then St. Francis immediately ordered the brothers to light a torch and go out and gather some herbs and vegetables and whatever else they could find for all of them to have a good, nourishing meal. He said this so that the poor brother would not have to be humiliated by eating alone. And so all the brothers set themselves eagerly to the task of preparing a meal and then they all sat down with the hungry brother and ate a midnight supper.
Lesson: Distinguish between moderation and excess. We mature in God when we let him come and go as he wills and not try to force him to stay by exaggerated penance.
Murray Bodo, O.F.M., is a Franciscan priest and author of numerous books, including the widely read Francis: The Journey and the Dream, Clare: A Light in the Garden, Sing Pilgrimage and Exile, Song of the Sparrow: Meditations and Poems to Pray By, and The Way of St. Francis. He is on staff of St. Anthony Messenger Press, writes many articles, and travels extensively, giving talks and conducting workshops and retreats. Father Bodo lives and works in the United States of America.