Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This Sunday, October 4th is the Feast Day of one of my favorite saints, St. Francis of Assisi. I feel that poor
Francis sometimes gets pigeonholed for being the patron saint of animals and pets. The reality is that the
founder of the Franciscan Order accomplished much in his time here on Earth and has much to offer us in both
his example and in his teaching.
There is an incident from his early conversion back to God that I would like to highlight in my letter this week.
Francis, as a young man, had a mystical experience in which Jesus spoke to him from a now famous Crucifix
and instructed him, “Rebuild my church!” It was a foundational moment in the life of faith for him and he set
out immediately to fulfill this command.
Perhaps it’s a bit comical, but Francis took Christ quite literally and began to repair an abandoned church
building about a mile and a half in the woods surrounding the medieval town of Assisi. To call it a church is
rather silly; the structure was little bigger than the gazebo found in our prayer garden. But that did not deter
the young man and he continued his work of rebuilding the church known as the Portiuncula. This small chapel
would go on to serve as an important and central location for the Franciscans in the years and centuries to
From this small but important event in the life of St. Francis, we can learn much. Charged with a huge task of
rebuilding the whole faith, the Church with a capital C, Francis elected to start at a very local level. He saw an
immediate need and began to take care of it, rather than fretting about what the message of Christ really meant
or taking years to develop a comprehensive plan to address the various issues of his day. In his time, there were
wide-spread diseases throughout the continent of Europe, there was political unrest, and there were internal
governance issues within the Church and a general lack of faith on the part of many people. These same or
similar exist in our own day. But instead of getting overwhelmed by how many or how big these issues seem to
be, there are always things that can be done more locally and more individually to make the world around us
I’ve had the great honor of visiting the Portiuncula in Assisi. It is quite small, humble. But there is a unique
thing that has happened to help preserve this important piece of Franciscan heritage. As you approach the
place where this little chapel stands, you first must enter a much larger, magnificently built church that holds
the church that Francis rebuilt. A church built over and around another church. It serves as a beautiful visual
reminder that from small beginnings and humble efforts, the Church can continue to grow and expand through
our actions and ministry.
Peace and Goodness,