One winter day St. Francis and Leo were walking together to their abbey. As they continued on their way, Francis would quiz his brother Leo:
"If I spoke with a silver tongue and sang like an angel, would that be pure joy, Leo?"
Uncertain how to reply, Leo echoed the question back: "Would that be pure joy?"
Francis answered his own question firmly:
"No?" asked Leo.
Next, Francis asked Leo,
"I don't know, Brother Francis. Would it?" came Leo's reply.
"No!" said Francis, more strongly than before.
Again, Francis queried Brother Leo,
"If I converted all the crowned heads of Christendom to our cause, Leo, would that be pure joy?"
"No?" asked Leo.
St. Francis nearly shouted his answer:
Timidly, Brother Leo asked Francis, "What, dear brother, then is pure joy?"
"If we were to arrive at our beloved abbey and, when we knocked on the door hungry and covered in sleet, the doorkeeper stared us in the face and said, 'I do not recognize you. Begone, liars, thieves, and murderers,' then beat us and threw us into a ditch full of freezing slush, that would be pure joy."
The elder who told me this story paused for effect. In fact, she stopped altogether. That was the end of her story. Encountering trials is such a common experience to those who follow the path of Jesus that nearly anyone in such an audience would be able to make an application of this story to their own lives. I loved this story and re-told it several times over the next few weeks, although I didn't show the elder's restraint when I encountered blank stares. In a few instances I couldn't help but suggest interpretations to those I told it to, because many find it confusing or harsh.
Without interpretation, though, the story sinks in deeply and we work on it like a puzzle that remains unsolved. I think it's really better that way.