Silent Retreat Center in Assisi
For us, the presence of St. Claire (Chiara) is as important as Francesco´s. The Sisters of St. Claire live in their monastery on the east side of town. They live in enclosure, mostly in silence and gather for prayer several times a day. Each day they sing in the basilica di Santa Chiara the morning prayer. It is such a serene and quiet gathering attented by a hundred people or so, all sitting in silence…
The Basilica di San Francesco lies on the west side of town. As much as the feminine energy of the Sisters of Saint Claire goes inwardly, the Franciscan monks expand. It´s an impressive big church and monastery! And yet, when entering the lower crypt where the remains of San Francesco lie, surrounded by four of his closest disciples, all of the outer grandeur disappears and a sincere simplicity unfolds…
When attending a Silent Retreat we together will visit these places, as well as the original church and monastery of both Chiara and Francesco (which are not the same as the basilicas built after their passing away).
Osho´s talk on Saint Francis illustrates the joy and lightness of the energyfield here in Assisi…
Saint Francis of Assisi lay on his deathbed. He was singing, and singing so loudly that the whole neighborhood was aware. Brother Elias, a pompous but prominent member of the Franciscan order, came close to Saint Francis and said, ‘Father, there are people standing in the street outside your window.’ Many had come. Fearing that the last moment of Francis’ life had come, many who loved him had gathered together around the house.
Said this brother Elias, “I am afraid nothing we might do could prevent them from hearing you singing. The lack of restraint at so grave an hour might embarrass the order, Father. It might lower the esteem in which you yourself are so justly held. Perhaps in your extremity you have lost sight of your obligation to the many who have come to regard you as a saint. Would it not be more edifying for them if you would, er, die with more Christian dignity?”
“Please excuse me, Brother,” Saint Francis said, “but I feel so much joy in my heart that I really can’t help myself. I must sing!”
And he died singing. In the whole Christian history, he’s the only one who has died singing. Many Zen people have died singing, but they don’t belong to Christianity. He is the only Zen master amongst Christian saints. He didn’t care a bit about Christian dignity.
Saint Francis has a different vision — he is just ordinary. He says, “Please excuse me, Brother, but I feel so much joy in my heart that I really can’t help myself. I must sing!” In fact, it is not that Francis is singing, Francis has become the song. That’s why he cannot help, he cannot control. There is nobody left to control it. If the song is happening it is happening. It is not within control, it can’t be, because the controller has disappeared. The self, the ego, no more exists. Saint Francis does not exist as an individual. There is absolute silence inside. Out of that silence this song is born. What can Francis do? That’s why he says, “I can’t help it. I must sing!”
And he died singing. And there can be no other better death. If you can die singing, that proves that you lived singing, that your life was a joy and death became the crescendo of it, the culmination.
Saint Francis is a Buddha. The characteristic of a Buddha is that he is ordinary, that he has no ideas about himself of how he should be, that he simply is spontaneous, that whatsoever happens, happens. He lives on the spur of the moment, that is his authenticity. You can call it his characteristic, but what kind of characteristic is this? It is simply that he has no character, he has no strait-jacket of a character around himself, he has no armor, he does not live from the past, that he does not know what Christian dignity is. He lives in the moment like a child.
From The Diamond Sutra, Chapter Seven
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