My first encounter with St. Francis of Assisi in a meaningful way was through the 1972 Zeffirelli film “Brother Sun and Sister Moon“, I was in High School when I picked it up on a whim from blockbuster and it left a deep impression on me. For a while I carried around his famous poem in my bag hoping to become the words I read:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
Much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I loved the life of St. Clare as well who established her own order in Francis’ tradition. What good friends they were.
This song, from the movie, plays in my mind often.
My second encounter with St. Francis was through the pages of this book-
Written by Ian Morgan Cron – someone whom I would now very much like to meet. The book detailed parallel experiences that the main character had while taking a sabbatical in Italy. It dealt with the church’s all too eager assimilation of modernity and the coming to terms with what is now a post modern world; but does so through re-acquainting us with antiquity, and through the examination a life purely lived. The main character was all too relatable to me (he is so many people I know)- but gave me an idea of how a mind would process this shift. I was able to walk with St. Francis all over again.
One interesting concept from the book that I cannot stop thinking about, as it was something I never took time to make sense of before, was the sacredness of a space. I am a good evangelical christian& understand the principle that Buechner so beautifully articulated concerning all places/moments being holy and sacred.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
But simultaneously I can grasp this idea that the main character’s guide puts forth:
“Merton was a strong believer in pilgrimages and the spirituality of a place. he was drawn to sacred sites, not because he knew the places but because he believed the places knew him.” – Page 43
And I know that they don’t have to cancel each other out.
The book doesn’t solve every problem of the modern church, but I don’t think it set out to. I think Cron was able to help some people embrace their pilgrim status.
So here’s to living out our own spiritual pilgrimages because, like it or not, time is moving.
P.S. This could easily become one of those places for me…
P.P.S. I do miss liturgy.