Minute Meditations

Making Beautiful What Violence Deforms

Peace sign made out of leaves

In 1224 when Francis goes to La Verna two years before he dies, he takes the Sultan Malik-al-Kamil with him in his heart. He is grieving for al-Kamil and all those Christians and Muslims who will be involved in a new Crusade that Pope Honorius III and Emperor Frederick II are contemplating. The plan is to launch the Crusade in June of 1225. With these thoughts in his mind on La Verna, Francis composes his “Praises of God,” which echo Islam’s “Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God.” On the reverse side of the “Praises of God,” Francis blesses Brother Leo and then draws the head of a turbaned man out of whose mouth a large Tau cross emerges, the Tau being Francis’s sign of peace in contrast to its symbolism in the Church as the hilt of a Crusader sword. To take up the cross in the Crusade means to take up the sword against the infidels. Francis proposes the sign of the Tau as a peace symbol, thus once again pushing back against the accepted meaning of the Tau during the Fifth Crusade. Francis sees peace and peacemaking as a way to make beautiful what war and violence have deformed.

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis
by Murray Bodo, OFM

Surrounded by Love by Murray Bodo


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