I flew to Italy on St. Kevin’s Day this year (June 3). He is another in a long line of “saints” who have shown me the beauty of doing the opposite of what the domination system demands. For more about the “domination system,” here is a summary of Walter Wink.
Kevin and King O’Toole’s goose
Kevin lived through the entire 500’s in Ireland, it appears [see this old post for more]. But, of course, people were less concerned with scientific precision at that point, so who knows exactly what happened? Regardless, Kevin’s legacy is still happening, and most people you know named Kevin are, ultimately, named after him. He wandered off into the mountains south of what was not yet Dublin and found a remote cave, an old bronze age tomb, overlooking the upper lake of the beautiful valley of Glendalough. There he entered his hermitage to be with God and his beloved creatures.
However, people found Kevin and wanted to be near him. The story goes he decided to establish a monastery. But the pagan King O’Toole who ruled Glendalough would not allow it. Here we go.
As the story continues, it happened that the king had a much beloved pet goose, which was quite old. As time passed, the goose became so weak it was unable to fly. The king was very upset, for he loved the goose very much. Hearing of Kevin’s sanctity and power, the king sent for him, and asked him to make his beloved goose young. Kevin asked for a payment of whatever land the goose would fly over. As the goose could no longer take flight, O’Toole agreed. When Kevin touched the bird, it grew young, and flew over the entire valley of Glendalough, and on that site his monastery was established, as well as a settlement that was famous for a 1000 years after Kevin died, the ruins of which can still be visited.
However it happened, the aristocrat, Kevin, having given up all he owned and the prerogatives of his class, made a deal with the domination system on his radical new terms, which included miracle and audacity.
Juniper and the pig
Likewise, Francis of Assisi, about 600 years later, rediscovered the joy of returning to Caesar what he thinks belongs to him touched with the glory of God (things like a dying goose). So often the “render to Caesar” account is used to justify the division of the world into sacred and secular and paying one’s taxes on time. But Jesus isn’t even carrying a denarius with which to make his point. And when the system kills him, he makes his point about rendering big time with his resurrection.
Francis and the other children of the budding middle class of Assisi, whose parents were inventing capitalism, got the Lord’s point. It scared people mightily when the returning crusader, Benardo de Quintivalle sold off his extensive estate and gave it all away. The bishop of Assisi told Francis, “Your life seems hard to me; it must be burdensome not to have any earthly possession.” Francis answered, “My Lord, if we wanted to possess anything, then we would also need arms to defend ourselves. That is how all the quarrels and conflicts get started, and they are obstacles to love. For this reason we can possess nothing.” He did not convince the bishop, and the church has been presiding over battles and blessing big business ever since. Lately some evangelicals have even embraced the godless Trump with just such power in mind.
Like Kevin, Francis brazenly confronted people with their excess by begging for it. One gave him his hermitage site on Mt. Subasio, where I had this revelation. Another donated the little chapel in the woods of Porziuncola that became Franciscan headquarters.
The story of Brother Juniper and the pig demonstrates a mentality that flourished among the brothers of Francis before the domination system tamed them all again. This is how it goes.
One of the brothers was sick and Juniper asked him what he might like to eat to make him feel better. The man answered, “A pig’s foot.” So Juniper went over to a herd fattening on acorns nearby and cut the leg off a pig. He cooked it up and served it to the man as he joyfully told the story of his attack.
The swineherds who had witnessed the deed, furiously marched up to Francis and insulted their settlement as a bunch of thieves. Francis apologized, saying he knew nothing of the incident they reported. Vowing revenge the men headed for Assisi.
This was a serious matter — the good name of the brothers would be history. So Francis found Juniper and casually asked him if he had cut off the foot of a pig recently. “Si, naturalmente.” With satisfaction he told him all about his charitable deed. Francis was not so satisfied. He said, “Go find the man, throw yourself at his feet, and promise complete restoration.” Juniper was astounded that someone would get excited about his good deed. “I’ll give the man satisfaction, “he said, “but I can’t understand the fuss over a pig. It belongs to God, anyway, not to the man, and may as well be put to good use.”
When Juniper caught up with the incensed owner, he tried to make him understand how he came to cut off the pig’s foot. He was full of zeal and enthusiasm and acted as if he had done the man a great service. The man flew into a rage. But Juniper just persisted in trying to be heard. He finally threw himself around the man’s neck, kissed him and assured him him he had done it all out of love. Then he asked for the rest of the pig.
This audacity resulted in the miracle. Juniper’s simplicity and sincerity were so credible the man’s assumptions began to crumble. With tears in his eyes, he confessed he had done the brothers wrong. He went and got the maimed pig, slaughtered it, roasted it, and with great emotion carried it to the brother’s table to make up for the injustice he had done them.
Follow the goose and the pig
As opponents try to undo the deceptions and corruption of the Trump regime, they often say, “Follow the money.” That’s exactly what Kevin and Francis, and their many followers, refused to do. They were more likely to follow the goose and the pig, to rely on the Spirit and the work of love rather than stay on the treadmill of acquisition and self-defense – the rule of law, some call it. In Kevin’s day, the Roman Empire was caput. 600 years later in Francis’ day, feudal economics was coming to an end. In our day the American empire, as we’ve known it, and the Enlightenment experiment in general, may be coming to an end. We’ll see. But what is a Jesus follower to do?
The point of goose and pig stories in every era is that God has ways that do not depend on capitalism or power. Jesus demonstrated that in full. His followers have always found ways to make their own demonstration again and again. The formation and constant reinvention of Circle of Hope is a miracle story of people finding more than they bargained for and sharing their pigs in great quantities. We’ve asked and received. Maybe we are afraid sometimes to squat the king’s land or ask for the owner’s pig, to rely on the miracle and act out of love. But many times we aren’t afraid, too.