"Francis, go and rebuild my, house, which, as you can see, is totally in ruin."

Many times we, here at St. Francis Parish, have heard this story of St. Francis when, kneeling in the Church of San Damiano he audibly heard a voice say these words. St. Francis was so moved by them that he set about rebuilding the Church of San Damiano, the house of God that just a few years later St. Clare would make her permanent home.

This act eventually led to his fallout with his own father: having sold a bolt of cloth and a horse from his father's business, he offered the money to the pastor of San Damiano. The pastor, however, knowing Francis' father's temper and avarice, refused the money. This led to such a confrontation between Francis and his father that the bishop of Assisi had to intervene. In a fit of anger, and with a demand for justice, Francis' father, Bernadino, demanded all his possessions back. This was the tipping point for Francis, for two years he had been dealing with the call to poverty, the desire to serve the lowest of the lowly, and the wish to claim the Fatherhood of God above overall Fatherhood. So, knowing that even the clothes on his back were purchased by his earthly Father, Francis stripped himself bear in the city square and declared, "Lord Bishop, I give back everything my earthly father has given me: not only the money he has given me but even the clothes he has given me. Until now I have called you, Pietro di Bernardone, my father, but from now on I have only one Father - our Father who art in heaven… Naked, I will follow the naked cross!"

"The separation between Francis and his father here marked the moment when Francis definitively broke from the stability and security of his old life, choosing the embrace a life of penance and poverty dedicated to the poor, crucified Christ" (p. 74).

Then, clothed in the garments of poor pilgrims with a Tau (T) on it, Francis lived the rest of his life serving God and his church in the radicalness of the Gospel. He perfectly lived the passage, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Matt 19:21). This passage became the formal principle of Francis' life.

Francis did not, at first, intend to form an order. In fact, he went on to rebuild two other Churches, San Pietro of Spina, and St. Mary of the Angels, and even while he traveled, he would carry a broom with him to clean the Church's he visited. This last church, became known as the Portiuncula, was his most beloved and is the current heart of the Franciscan order. But his radical commitment to the Gospel, his passion in preaching the word, and his total embrace of poverty inspired men and women from all over the world to imitate him even as he imitated Christ. This is what then turned from the physical rebuilding of Church's to the reshaping of Catholic piety. Within five years, starting with Bernard, a wealthy lawyer who sold everything and became Francis' first follower, then with Clare, his first female follower, Francis' way of life was imitated by over 5000 men and women, which then renewed the heart and soul of the Catholic Church.

Poverty. Penance. Passion. Obedience. Love. St. Francis reformed the identity of Christian living in the image of Christ who himself was poor, chaste, and obedient. He simply wanted one thing: to be faithful to the Christ who was faithful to him!

And so, on that day in San Damiano Church, when Francis received his orders to rebuild God's church, he also formulated this prayer at the foot of that same cross:

"Most High glorious God, 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. Amen."

As I recommended a few weeks ago for you to read the book Saint Clare of Assisi: Light From the Cloister by Bret Thoman, OFS. I now recommend to you St. Francis of Assisi: Passion, Poverty, and the Man who Transformed the Catholic Church by the same author. I pray that it does for you what it did for me: help me to learn from a man who simply loved the Lord with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength! Peace.

Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor