For over 50 years, Father Murray Bodo, OFM, and I have been close friends, confreres, and admirers of St. Francis of Assisi. We met as fellow students in 1951 at St. Francis Minor Seminary, located on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. Murray, whose name was Louis at the time, had boarded a Greyhound Bus in his hometown of Gallup, New Mexico, and headed east some 1,500 miles on a ribbon of highway. He arrived in Cincinnati two days later.
I had entered the seminary the previous year. By the time we were ordained Franciscan priests in 1963 and 1964, respectively, we had actually lived for nine years in the same Franciscan places of study—St. Francis Seminary (Cincinnati, Ohio), Duns Scotus College (Detroit, Michigan), and St. Leonard College (near Dayton, Ohio). We studied together, recreated together, and engaged in literary activities ranging from Shakespeare dramas to comedy skits during recreation. After our ordinations, we both went to Xavier University in Cincinnati and received master’s degrees in literature in 1966. We were both on our way to becoming writers.
Murray went on to teach literature and writing to a new generation of students at St. Francis Seminary, while I taught literature at various Franciscan high schools and then at a Franciscan college-seminary near Manila in the Philippines.
In Murray’s case—jumping ahead many years—he had the opportunity to go to Assisi in 1972 and write his first best-selling book, a popular life of St. Francis called Francis: The Journey and the Dream. That same year, I came back to Cincinnati as a journalist and writer for our province’s national Catholic magazine, St. Anthony Messenger. Meanwhile, a new, expanded, 40th anniversary hardbound edition of Murray’s The Journey and the Dream was published by Franciscan Media in Cincinnati. It will no doubt be a best-seller as well.
In late January of 2013, moreover, Murray’s newest book from Franciscan Media—Francis and Jesus—will begin showing up in bookstores. The cover is a Giotto fresco in dramatic color depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata. The book may well be another best-seller! In the introduction to the book, Murray describes how St. Francis, on Mount La Verna, “received the sacred stigmata of Christ that sealed him as a visible image of the Crucified Christ.” Murray thus saw Francis as “Christ’s Lovescape,” that is, as the very image, reflection, and personification of Christ.
For the last 33 years, Murray and I—as well as four other friars—have lived together in the same community in an old, three-story building, known as Pleasant Street Friary, in Cincinnati’s inner city. We hope the good Lord allows us many more years of friendship on this good earth. And may the joy of writing continue for both of us!
Featured photo by Jack Wintz