Finding Saint Francis

As part of our vacation in Italy, Suzanna and I spent several days looking for Saint Francis. In his day, Francis was a revolutionary monk who shook up the Catholic church, pushing it to return to its roots, to divest of opulence and excess, live simply, and act more Christian, that is, like Jesus. Francis’ effect on the church is felt even today: so much so that Pope Francis took his name and began his ecological encyclical with words from Saint Francis canticle:

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

Crucifix of San Damiano, originally located in the Church of San Damiano, but now found in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi

In Assisi, we prayed at the Crucifix of San Damiano, where God asked Francis to rebuild his church. We also said a prayer at Francis’ tomb located in the Basilica of Saint Francis. Probably most consequential for me was visiting the Eremo delle Carceri hermitage built into the slopes of Mount Subasio where Saint Francis and his followers would retreat. It was in these humble surroundings that Francis famously preached to the birds because nobody was really listening. 

Tree where Francis preached to the birds, in Eremo delle Carceri, outside of Assisi

The words of Saint Francis are easy to grasp, which after all, are just a reminder of the teachings of Jesus: be humble and live simply, treat people and animals and all of nature with reverence and respect since God created it all. Easy to grasp, but difficult to follow. If this trip taught me one thing, it is that I need to try even harder.

Saint Francis is everywhere in Italy. In Sorrento, we found this lovely statue of him with a bird and the beginning of his famous canticle carved into the base of his statue

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

%d bloggers like this: