Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.

Monday, October 4, 2010

St. Francis in Assisi

On our about this date, churches all over the world are blessing animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Surely he is one of the best known and most beloved of all the saints in the calendar, and not just with Catholics.

Not surprisingly, the saint's hometown of Assisi is a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists. Three years ago we saw a group of Korean Catholics celebrating Mass in a side chapel of the Basilica of St. Francis. Some Baptist friends of ours visited years before we did and were overwhelmed by the holiness of the place.

It is inexpressibly moving to see the church of San Damiano, where Jesus spoke to St. Francis from the Cross, as well as the tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare, the basilicas built in their honor, the basilica of San Rufino where they were both baptized, and the former cattle stall where tradition says St. Francis was born.

We spent several days in Assisi in 2007, but our first visit was three years before that when we took a day trip as part of two weeks in Rome. I wrote down my impressions at the time:

Our last high point of the day was to visit the last resting place of St. Francis.

Some visitors, I know, have found it ironic that this huge basilica adorned with priceless art was named for St. Francis. But I do not find it at all inappropriate. The magnificence of the church honors the glory of God working through the humble Francis. As we saw, he and St. Clare were baptized in huge and beautiful churches.

In every church we have been in, including today, the visitors have been noisy. That was not true at the crypt of St. Francis, however. There we experienced a hushed and holy silence in honor of a man dead almost 800 years now.

It occurred to me, not for the first time, that the values of St. Francis were so different from those of most of us that he must have been crazy -- or we are.

If the life of St. Francis doesn't challenge us to re-examine our own lives, maybe we're missing his point.

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