Thursday, October 3, 2013

A visit to Assisi

     Pope Francis tweeted on June 2nd "The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love."  Tomorrow, on the feast of his namesake Francis, Pope Francis will travel to the beautiful Umbrian town of Assisi, to visit with Francis and Clare at their place of burial, to pray at what have become powerful sights of inspiration, and to bear witness that what he said in the tweet above, which is the essence of the spirit of the young man from Assisi, is as needed in the Church today as it was in Francis' time.

     After the transformational encounter of Francesco di Bernardine with Christ, this wealthy and expectant son of a prosperous merchant family laid all of the success, power and money aside, standing literally naked before his father and the town, renouncing his heritage and embracing the new wealth that was found in Christ.  It was the Church, through the action of the bishop, who covered him, clothed him in radical love rather than fine clothes.  Francis became the radical challenge to the status quo.  He embraced Lady Poverty, accepted service as his mission and love as his passion.  He was feared, hated, loved, envied and embraced.

     Early on, while praying in a crumbling old church called San Damiano on the outskirts of town, he heard the voice of Christ come to him from the iconic image of Christ on the crucifix.  The voice called him to "rebuild my church".  He at first thought the voice meant the Church of San Damiano, but he soon realized that Christ meant "the" Church.  At that time the Church was stuck, complacent, ineffective, satisfied, centered on itself.  It was in need of a transforming Springtime, a new breath of fresh air, a new vision centered on service and love and humility and simplicity.  Francis accepted that challenge, and began a revolution that brought great blessings to the Church.

     Fifty years ago a jovial, rotund (given my size I can't say heavy) and visionary man named John XXIII said the same thing as he called for an Ecumenical Council to take place

     Since his election this Spring, another man named Francis seems to be doing exactly the same thing.  Of late his words are really challenging, calling us to simplicity and service and of seeing Christ in our sisters and brothers, especially those most in need.
May God protect and inspire him on his trip tomorrow and in his continued task as our teacher and Holy Father.

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