Peace and goodness be with you! The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi makes my heart sing. The pilgrimage I took in 2014 marked me. The pieces of the puzzle began to fall further into place during the journey and time in Assisi, as I sat in front of the San Damien cross, stood in front of St. Clare’s tomb, and read the words Go rebuild my church at the Cathedral of St. Francis. I have returned to these moments again and again.
I carried with me the prayers of many to the holy cross in the Basilica of St. Clare. These needs were placed lovingly before the Divine Creator as promised. They had been raised along the way in Paris, Taize, and Rome. Now they were given to God. Some have born beautiful fruit while others had surprise endings. My own prayers to help rebuild my parish community are slowly taking shape two years later. We sometimes do not know what we ask for but we trust for good outcomes nonetheless.
St. Francis was a man whose conversion was complete. He gave up his old ways and surrendered to God. His life took on a drastically different trajectory. God had plans for this young man that were unlike those others had for him. When Francis heard the call, he embraced it and the world has never been the same. Born in 1182 to a wealthy cloth dealer, not unlike St. Ignatius, Francis dreamed of a life of grandeur and adventure. He left all of these romantic ideas and became radically poor and simple. His messages of love, service, interfaith healing, and care of the earth are still relevant today. The fact that Pope Francis took his name shows that he too feels called to rebuild the Church, using some of the same basic principles that Francis professed. Francis bore the Stigmata–or marks of Christ’s crucifixion. This man knew the cross well. Francis experienced Jesus in disguise as a leper; we too must look for Christ in those among us.
I hold my experience in Assisi as a mystical enlightenment that is slowly revealing itself to me. My life looks different than it did in 2014. My body has a new liver that is sustaining me. My career within the government has ended. Instead I try to see how best to serve God in other ways. My address is about to change too, but unlike Francis, I will be living in more extravagant surroundings. However, this may limit what I can do. My faith is growing in new ways that I have not yet been able to articulate even to myself. I know that God is ever present to me. I have always known that but this is different now. I wonder how Francis noticed the subtle inner changes. I have always struggled to know what my true vocation is….and that remains. What now, Creator? How do you want me to love, honour and serve you now?
Francis seemed to desire peace and goodness for others and that is what is on my own heart tonight. Whatever is to come must be for the glory of God and for the greater good. I have some major decisions to make about my life in the next few months and I long to stay close to God in my discernment. As I did before the cross, I will bring each of you with me, praying for those who pray for me.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Can you pray before the cross with an open heart?
Creator, I come before the cross and lift up the prayers of all those in need, myself included. Here with blood running down the wood, I remember the great cost of following you. I long to live more simply and to follow you more closely. Give me eyes to see the modern-day lepers who need my love. Change my heart so that I desire nothing but you. Amen.