The decision to walk home late that night did not, at first, seem like a foolish one. It was only a mile to the lodge where I was staying, down a quiet rural road on a ridgetop outside of Assisi, Italy. There was no traffic at that hour, and there were no bad characters to fear. I had come to Assisi to “walk in the footsteps of St. Francis,” and while I didn’t know for sure that he had followed the path I was on, it was certain he had gone on foot around Assisi, as I was now doing.
For a while the reflected glow from the temple I had just left was enough to light my way. But the farther I walked, the darker it became. There were only a few houses in the area, and everyone seemed to have gone to bed. The sky was heavily overcast with no hint of moon or stars. Soon, I could just barely make out the line where the pavement met the gravel shoulder.
I began to feel nervous. To still my beating heart, I sang quietly to myself, “Sri Yogananda, guide to inner freedom, steal into my heart of hearts. Banish my delusions.”
Surrounded by that song I felt less anxious, until it occurred to me that in this blackness I wouldn’t be able to see the narrow driveway that led to the lodge. I could walk right past it and never know.
Just then, off to the right, I saw a firefly. I stopped to watch. I had never seen fireflies before arriving in Assisi a few days earlier. St. Francis had had a special reverence for God in Nature, so it seemed appropriate that I should meet these magical creatures for the first time here.
The firefly passed in front of me, and then hovered on my left. In the faint glow of his luminous body, I saw the entrance to the driveway. He stayed with me all the way to the door of the lodge, then flitted away.
Just as I stepped inside and closed the double doors behind me, a torrential rain began to fall.