You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

Interviewing Father Bruno is like interviewing a brick wall. He’s closed off and offers very little of himself for the public eye to view. He’s a bundle of contradictions – a priest with immense sex appeal, an artist with a reverse superiority that the black Sharpie pen is the king of mediums, and a man of a thousand friends who nobody really knows. When someone asks him to say a prayer at the top of a hike, he quickly commands everyone to thank the hills, the mountains, and the birds. When asked to bless the meal or a house, he barely gives it any time. It is quick, almost dismissive.

He’s a master at group dynamics, seeing the little weaknesses or chinks in the armor that people wear. He’ll find that Achille’s heel and protect it with a compliment or a task that hides it away. He edifies the weak and confronts the proud with a joke. One of my favorite things about him is that he is just as comfortable with serving as being served. He allows people to do favors for him but will also buy your drink, make you dinner, or give you his seat. I watched him move among us 12 women, smoothing out wrinkles, covering up holes, patching up hurts all with such a naturalness that perhaps he doesn’t even know all he does.

St. Francis is Father Bruno’s favorite saint and going to Asissi with him was a matter of comparing a modern day spiritual journey with a medieval one. Many of the same issues apply – a powerful institution gone stale needing the fresh breeze of revolutionary living. Learning about the lesser brothers, the humble, carefree way of living, was food for the soul. You can see the affinity Bruno feels for St. Francis — a man who shunned the riches of the world for the simplicity of depending on God for food and bread and the freedom of having nothing and nowhere to lay your head. And it is easy to see why St. Francis gathered followers. Just the lifestyle challenges you and all your tightly held notions. You try to make judgments about people and someone who has thrown aside the conventions of the day for simplicity makes your judgments seem petty and silly, which they are.

Giotto’s frescoes were lovely: St. Francis speaking to the birds, St. Francis holding up the church, and St. Francis lifting his arms to the crucified Lord. And Assissi was a city on a hill proclaiming the good news that should not be hidden. Pilgrims wandered the streets — nuns and priests, bride and groom, Father Bruno and the twelve women who have followed him all over Italy.

My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you… you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore… always seek to praise God.

St. Francis

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