A Parable Inspired by the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi originally written in a hotel in Rome (2011).
One day, a good saint traveled the Italian countryside with one of his young followers. They came upon a fork in the road, one with many prongs, and they decided that they must stop and rest. They ate a meager meal, as it was about midday, and then took a brief afternoon nap before rising to the road again. Now, the road broke in many directions, all as difficult as the next. Indeed, the road behind was as difficult as the road ahead. One road led to Florence, another to Sienna, one to Arezzo, and yet another went as far south as Rome. The pilgrims had no specific business in any of these places, so the young man was more than slightly confused. As far as he knew, you might as well just role the dice.
“Father,” he asked, “which way are we to go?”
“Whatever God wills, my child,” the saint replied.
“But how do we know which of these roads God wills us to take?” he asked. “There are troubles enough in all of these places.”
The saint smiled knowingly at his words, giving him a look that told him: “You still have much to learn.”
The young man turned back to the road, looking in vain for some sort of sign to lead him. Unsatisfied, he looked back at the saint, ready to ask again.
“Let this be a sign to you,” his master said. “Spin around and when I bid you to stop, you shall. Whichever direction you face, that is the direction in which we shall go. This will show you the will of God.”
Obedient, the young man began to spin as a child might. After a few rounds, he tripped slightly but righted himself with a look of indignation at the childlike activity. “How is spinning like a child to do me any good at all?” he asked perplexed.
“I think you know the answer yourself if you recall what you have been told,” the saint explain, a specific story in mind. “Now, spin a bit more.”
After a few more rounds and more than a little dizziness, the saint bade the young man to cease. His body facing Sienna, they resolved to travel in this direction. Indeed, upon arrival, they set to work. They fed the poor, healed the sick, and clothed the naked. In this, they did the will of God.