Today is the feast day of one of the greatest disciples of Jesus Christ, St. Francis of Assisi, the "little poor man". It so happens that Chris and I have been reading The Flowers of St. Francis while walking the streets. We take turns reading the chapters aloud, and delight at the often zany and wise adventures of Francis and his first companions. Last Sunday we were walking SE 122nd, and rested on some stones while Chris told of the time St. Francis preached to the birds. Afterwards we reflected on God's hidden hand in nature, and shared some stories. I told him of the time my wife believed she was pregnant (the test was positive) and then had some agonizing counter-signs of a miscarriage. I prayed to God full of anxiety and confusion while I drove to adoration at St. Agatha's Church. Then I was given a sign. A hundred yards in front of me, birds twirled and executed playful loops as in delightful celebration. I knew from a touch of the Holy Spirit that the birds were moved to play by the joy of Heaven at the conception of our daughter, Clara.
Chris and I continued on our journey, praying, and wondered whether there were signs all around us in nature that we miss by living in the city. We took up the book again, and just as we passed under the roof of a building we were met by the strikingly rich and pure chirping of baby birds. We turned in stunned silence as though Jesus himself had called to us. A mother pigeon was tending to her brood in a nest. She raised up and fluttered a wing at us, and I waved back. Chris and I continued on in laughter and wonderment. The birds had sounded so different than the usual background noise of busy birds. An atheist might chalk it up to a coincidence or "confirmation bias", but life is different for those who walk in faith. For us, the whole world is infused with the Spirit and laden with meanings both delightful and dark (earlier a pitbull had lunged over a fence to try to grab my tunic sleeve). Thanks be to God that He is always with us.
Chris and I have had a remarkable string of Spirit-filled encounters on the streets, including moments of real conversion by those we meet. I hope to share some of them in the coming weeks.