FROM ASSISI TO ROME
Saint Francis of Assisi
Dear Rangers, dear Rovers,
St. Francis of Assisi is quite probably one of the best known and most beloved Saints in the Church’s history. Our eyes stare at his life as at a masterpiece of God’s grace, marked so deeply by the Lord’s love that even his flesh, for the very first time in history of mankind, got impressed with the signs of the passion of Christ himself.
Everybody’s attention is drawn on St. Francis not as much by his miracles and prodigies, even though they took place during his entire life, but more by his profound humanity, appreciated and respected by both believers and non-believers; a humanity which made him stand out and become a model for so many people.
Upsetting: so is his being radical, free and brave in giving up everything he owned, to embrace the utmost poverty, totally and solely trusting in God.
Fascinating: so is his ability to establish a true and profound relationship to anything surrounding him (the Lord, his brethren, animals and the entire creation).
Inspiring: so is his character of a happy man of freedom, able to elevate a hymn of praise for everything, even in the direst life straits, in moments of suffering and trials.
In Francis, God worked wonders, in Francis, God found such a docile heart to His grace and deeds, that his life itself is a call for conversion and rebirth to the Church and the people of his time (and not only).
Every man is a mystery. Every man enshrines in himself a secret, a treasure capable of making his life exceptional and unique, and I must confess that, standing before St. Francis, I have often questioned myself to realize what led the young Francis (a fortunate boy, in possession of what anybody, then just like nowadays, would crave for: money, any kind of opportunities, leisure and parties) to leave all of that and take the path to extreme poverty, to chastity, to humility and obedience, and live them all up in a radical and active way.
We haven’t got the keys to Francis’s heart, nevertheless we may be sure that one feature has made him such a great, special and unique person, namely his refusal to be a passive bystander to his own life! He always wanted, for better or for worse, to play the role of the main character. Francis was able to dream and to pursue his dreams. He constantly played hard with his life and never backed down before the consequences of his choic-es, always paying the bills that life put in his hand.
He knew how to endure the provocations set in his life’s occurrences, even when they caused distress and undermined his beliefs and convictions through questions and deep doubts.
Francis always desired and quested very much, even in wrong ways and wrong places, and the results were often far from being painless! The young Francis, in his pursuit of fame, fortune and glory, entered a time of crisis, went haywire, when confronted to real life… yet, the life loving God, in the middle of this dark and disheartening crisis, embraced Francis’s longing for fullness, as simple as it was, and came to sustain him.
In front of San Damiano cross, Francis prayed and taught his brethren a prayer that begins… “Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart…” Indeed real, black darkness wrapped Francis’s heart up for a certain period, because, when in the middle of a crisis, one’s heart is immersed in obscurity, still God’s light shone in that very obscurity, the power of His love affected Francis, purifying and bringing to fullness the true desire that dwelled in his heart.
Dear Ranger, dear Rover…
I don’t know the wishes and the dreams that dwell in your heart… I don’t know if you are actually trying to make them real, if you are playing hard with your life or not… I don’t know if (and how much) your life is provoking you with its questions and struggles… But this one thing I know: God works wonders on a good and docile person; from a big sinner He can bring out a big saint, while if “thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Ap 3,16).
May Francis help you kindle your heart and put yourself on the line as the main player, not as a bystander, all the way in the big game of life.
ENLIGHTEN THE DARKNESS OF MY HEART AND GIVE ME, LORD,
A CORRECT FAITH, A CERTAIN HOPE, A PERFECT CHARITY, SENSE AND KNOWLEDGE,
SO THAT I MAY CARRY OUT YOUR HOLY AND TRUE COMMAND.