I have always loved the quote by Woody Allen from Hannah and her sisters, “If Jesus Christ were to return today and see everything being done in His name, He would never stop throwing up...” I am sure the same would be true of Saint Francis, in fact it was partly true even near the end of his life. This man was incredible- he changed a church, and the world, he hung out with the poor, he lived simply, he cared for creation, he loved Jesus and all people around him. Sadly, the city where he began his spiritual revolution is awash with tourism and tacky religious junk. Yet when you look past the human capacity to make a profit on anything- there is still something of the humble, simple man who stood the world on it’s ear.
Very quickly after Francis died, huge churches popped up to house the order and the pilgrims coming to visit. The church of St. Mary and the angels is built around the small humble church that Francis rebuilt (and the outer church is not humble at all as it is the 10th largest church in the world). The Basilica of St. Francis is full of some of the most ground breaking and stunning art, the final being 28 panels by Giotto of the saint’s life. But much has not changed. We saw the baptismal that Francis and Clare were baptized in, with the Christian eating lion in the front. We saw the humble St. Stephano where the bells miraculously rung the night Francis died. We even saw the blood drains from the Roman temple still underneath the church of Minerva.
Yet Francis’s blessing lives on in this beautiful city. The things he stood for, Jesus, peace, ecumenism, the created order, simplicity, they still shimmer around here and 8 centuries later, they are still needed... The story of his ministry begins when a young and confused Francis was praying to a crucifix (it is still there at St. Clare’s church in Assisi) and Jesus told him- Rebuild my church. 8 centuries later and he is still having an impact. Let us pray and hope for all who continue that work.
Here is a great message from Francis to chew on...
The Canticle Of The Sun
O most high, almighty, good Lord God, to Thee belong praise, glory, honor, and all blessing!
Praised be my Lord God with all His creatures, and specially our brother the sun, who brings us the day and who brings us the light; fair is he and shines with a very great splendor: O Lord he signifies to us Thee!
Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon, and for the stars, the which He has set clear and lovely in heaven.
Praised be my Lord for our brother the wind and for air and cloud, calms and all weather by the which Thou upholdest life in all creatures.
Praised be my Lord for our sister water, who is very serviceable unto us and humble and precious and clean.
Praised be my Lord for our brother fire, through whom Thou givest us light in the darkness; and he is bright and pleasant and very mighty and strong.
Praised be my Lord for our mother the earth, the which doth sustain us and keep us, and bringeth forth divers fruits and flowers of many colors, and grass.
Praised be my Lord for all those who pardon one another for His love’s sake, and who endure weakness and tribulation; blessed are they who peaceably shall endure, for Thou, O most Highest, shalt give them a crown.
Praised be my Lord for our sister, the death of the body, from which no man escapeth. Woe to him who dieth in mortal sin! Blessed are they who are found walking by the most holy will, for the second death shall have no power to do them harm.
Praise ye and bless the Lord, and give thanks unto Him and serve Him with great humility.
Amen Brother Francis- Amen...