St Francis of Assisi lived from around 1182 to October 1226.In about 1205, he found himself praying the following before a crucifix:
“Most High, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly your holy will. Amen.”
After a further period of prayer he heard Jesus speak from the Cross:
“Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you can see, is falling into ruin.”
So Francis, taking this instruction literally, gathered some of his friends together and began to rebuild the crumbling church of San Damiano. Then they went out and began restoring other church buildings in the area of Assisi that were in need of repair. It gradually dawned on Francis that God was not calling on him to rebuild crumbling church buildings, but to reform the institution, to rebuild it by witnessing to the truth of the faith and calling people to renewed faithfulness to Christ and commitment to the mission given to the disciples, to Spread the Good News to every nation.
We recall the words of Jesus to Peter: ‘Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.’ (Matthew 16:18).
Whilst hearing Mass one day in 1208, the readings of the day included: ‘Don’t take any money in your money belts–no gold, silver, or even copper coins. Don’t carry a traveller’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed. Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town.’ (Matthew 10:9-11).
I commend the prayer of St Francis to all who read this in the hope that someone amongst us will hear a new call to ‘Rebuild My Church’.