grace of St Francis

The morning before leaving Rishikesh I went for a walk in the early morning, near the River Ganges.  There were some benches installed in a quiet area and I was walking slowly towards one when a man who was sitting made room and invited me to come.
I sat and no sooner was I there that he pulled his feet up and showed me and said “See, I have leprosy”.  I was shocked.
I had never seen it so close. Most of his toes were eaten away and just stumps remained. Some were definitely open wounds.I remembered what St Francis said
:“This is how the Lord gave me, brother Francis, the power to do penance. When I was in sin the sight of lepers was too bitter for me. And the Lord himself led me among them, and I pitied and helped them. And when I left them I discovered that what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness in my soul and body. And shortly afterward I rose and left the world.”and in Mark1 40-45 it says:
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”But I was not Jesus and unfortunately could not heal this man. And I was not St Francis but I thought that maybe I could speak with him and console him and so I began by asking how was he enduring this illness and he, noticing that I did not run away, he drew out from his pocket, a piece of paper, a prescription, indicating he needed sulphur drugs and he needed money to purchase it.
He said “I need 450 rupees for an operation”!

I was devastated as I really had no money on me and at my place I did have enough for my return bus and train to South India. I only cashed out limited amounts at a time. I could really not help him financially. He was definitely annoyed and would not answer any questions concerning his spiritual feelings towards this evident trail.  And so I left him with my heart feeling very sad.

Later on, Fr. George explained to me that the Divine Life Society under the guidance of Swami Chidananda had a dispensary and were distributing medication and also food and they were well taken care of. Swami Chidananda had a reputation himself of personally, like St Francis, taking care of them.

On my way back to the house, I met Krishnanand (who found the cave for me) and also Vishnadas and they told me they were sorry to see me leave.  They escorted me to the train station to see if I could purchase a ticket and we stopped for tea in a ‘green restaurant’.

A man came up to me and said  “Sir, this is Kali Yuga and big changes coming! Be careful of the weather, Constellations are lining up!”  (Reading this now, makes me smile as I have heard almost similar recently!).

I went back to Fr. George’s place to get my bags and say good bye and he suggested I take a shared cab to Dera Dhun. They charged 10 rupees which was great! I left, and sat watching and taking in the last scenes of the Ganga.

The road to Dera Dhun was through a forest with eucalyptus trees and flowering bourganvillas.
My plan was to leave Dera Dhun on the train, Varnasi Express. I was told that it was the best route.

It was said

“Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands.

Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine,

The cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Hope, one feels once more happy.

The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood…

A journey in fact appeals to the imagination, to Memory, to Hope- the three sister Graces of our moral being!
( Burton, Zanzibar (London, 1872), vol. 1, pp. 16-17)


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