Have to admit I was a bit surprised by how moved I got this morning walking over to Celebrate Mass at Basilica di St. Chiara (St. Claire of Assisi’s burial place). Getting things set up and vested, I was walking out of the Sacristy when I realized the chapel just off to the side had this:
Francis of Assisi –
Possibly one of the most revered Saints – both in and out of Christianity.
If we were to simply say his name, and ask people what comes to mind — no doubt people would agree on a number of words that are associated with Francesco, who hails from this beautiful place.
Lover of Poverty
Man of Peace,
Friend of Animals,
All of those are wonderful dimensions of Francis’ life and mission. But any of them individually are somewhat lacking and could leave him in the ranks of other like minded individuals passionate about all those causes.
What makes Francis – Saint Francis of Assisi, such a giant in the Catholic Faith, is that at a moment of real crisis in the Church – this simple, humble man has an encounter with Christ – and his devotion and dedication to that changed the world — not just His world, but the world. Hearing Jesus say “Rebuild my Church” caught him by surprise. And in his youthfulness he simply starts picking up stones and doing physical labor. In time, in prayer, in humility, he comes to recognize Jesus calling out to Francis – no Francesco – not the physical Church in Assisi – rebuild my Church.
Providentially we’re celebrating this Mass here on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. And in the Gospel we see the same thing – in one of the biggest moments of crisis for the Church – Jesus’ passion, his gruesome death and being buried kind of was a horrendous time for the whole Church as the apostles scattered living in fear of what was to happen next. And in that moment, when fear and doubt and confusion covered all their eyes, this simple, humble woman, Mary Magdalene, encounters Christ, the Risen Christ – who entrusts to her the important, amazing task of proclaiming his resurrection to Peter, and the others. The world simply has never been the same since that good news spread that first Easter morning. Mary Magdalene’s love and devotion to Christ throughout his life prepared her to play this instrumental part to be a pivotal part of the Easter Story.
Francis, Claire, Mary Magdalene – over and over again, they and countless other men and women, these Saints, capture our hearts and imagination – hundreds, even thousands of years since they walked this earth. And over and over again, they remind us quite simply that when you and I encounter Christ – if we too are attentive to what he says to us, obedient to his word – Jesus Christ can use us to change the world once again. We too can become Saints.