Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross

St Francis of Assisi
St Francis of Assisi

On the train from Victoria he sits opposite me in his brown Franciscan habit and sandals. He is balding at the crown but wears a long beard. Forty-three years of age, pale blue eyes, slim and just under six foot, I estimate.

Life is a horizontal fall, a slow motion stampede dustwards.

From a rucksack he takes a packet of chocolate-covered raisins and tips five into his left hand: one by one he devours them, a half-decade.

Sensitive appetite is the passive power by which one is moved to some immediate response presented by the senses.

A professional-looking, large-beaded rosary hangs clipped from his rope belt and the wooden cross sways as he returns the remains of the raisins to his bag.

By the monastery path, the brittle leaves crushed underfoot. Time drops in decay.

From a bottle of water he takes a short sip, consults his mobile, which is not a smart phone and looks nervously around the carriage.

In the monastery garden, everywhere visible, time’s disfiguring touch.

Next he produces a paperback, Carlo Caretto’s Love is for living; reads a paragraph, marks his place with a label, closes the book and closes his eyes, raising a clenched fist to his breastbone.

Intellectual appetite: the passive power by which one is moved to a more reasoned response to particular objects as presented by the intellect.

He is still for several minutes, quite motionless, lost in his meditation. His eyes open. Signs of a visible sadness, a loneliness, a tangible longing.

It is not happiness but the divine will that grounds moral norms.

He reads again, now grasping and tightly twisting his beard, as though he wished to wrench it from his face. Then eyes closed, clenched fist once more at his breastbone, a deep sigh.

We need to have the power to restrain the natural appetite for happiness so that we can will as He would have us will.

The minutes pass.

Time and the world and all things dwindle.

Now he returns the book to his rucksack and sits with eyes shut and an inner focus on the heavens, and on his sacrifice.

Frost will paint the pines in winter and snow will settle on the simple wooden crosses that mark where they lie.

Down from Victoria, counting the twelve stations, the daily cross he bears, on his way back to Our Lady of the Angels.

Prayer cannot detain the torrent of descending time but one can pray for a light footfall.

Upon arrival he is the first to dismount, and as he leaves the station he halts to glance back over his shoulder at the shadow that has been following him, shadowing him throughout his journey, shadowing him throughout his life.

These are the shadows of dreams, the shadows, doubtless, of unborn time.

But he sees no one, and so he hurries off, burying himself in the distance, in the echoless darkness.

11 October 2015