LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, CHAPTER 9
HOW ST FRANCIS WOULD TEACH BROTHER LEO WHAT TO ANSWER, AND HOW THE
LATTER COULD NEVER SAY AUGHT BUT THE CONTRARY TO WHAT ST FRANCIS WISHED
Here's another great chapter to read very slowly and meditatively. I read an excellent suggestion for such passages once, in The Other Side of Silence, by Morton T. Kelsey, Paulist Press, 1976. (Sorry, almost all my library is from used book stores.) Father (?) Kelsey suggests we imagine ourselves as each of the characters in the story in turn.
In Brother Francis' position, I found it hard to make such requests of Brother Leo. I would think Brother Francis would be more aware that God's mercy is unconditional. The great Christian doctrines haven't changed between his time and ours, but we have the advantage of centuries of refinements in preaching which have gradually come to emphasize certain points, and God's unconditional mercy is one. I don't have quite as developped an impression of what Brother Leo might have been like as I have of Brother Francis, whose name is almost a household word. But, I'm sure I would have felt much more comfortable saying what he actually said than what Brother Francis requested him to say.
Maybe some of us have been in situations where we found ourselves saying something other than what we were expected to say. Some of the best sermons I have heard were when the preacher decided to set aside his prepared sermon and preach ad lib on a topic he felt called upon to preach instead. When we feel we deserve to be spoken to as Brother Francis requested of Brother Leo, may we hear instead more comforting words, such as Brother Leo received from a Higher Power. And more importantly, may we, when we're in Brother Leo's position, be open to that still small voice which might be directing us to refuse to be judgemental and instead speak in love.