And the Pilgrims Came…

This was written while on retreat in Assisi, Italy.

And the Pilgrims Came…

One by one, they came.
Walking, shuffling, crawling, running.
To you, St. Francis…to you.

Faces wreathed in wonder at your tomb, prayerful, reverential, respectful.
The young girl’s smile widened, the older woman’s face smoothed, the man’s countenance glowed.

To that Holy Place, that Sacred Ground, that Place of Silent Wonder.
A communion of souls, a self-made gentling of our armor, a slowing of our racing lives.

One by one, they came.
Walking, shuffling, crawling, running.
To you, St. Francis…to you.

The hiss of lighted candles, the crack of knees bent in homage, the murmurs of prayer.
A gathering, a fellowship, a commonality of simplicity.

The Prayer of St. Francis. Canticle of the Creatures.
Brother Sun, Sister Moon and the stars. Lady Poverty.

One by one, they came.
Walking, shuffling, crawling, running.
To you, St. Francis…to you.

One small man, bleeding the wounds of Christ, staunching our bruised souls with your love.
One small voice, deep in the wooded forest, ringing across the world to humanity.

A patched, threadbare tunic, a hair shirt, leg coverings for your stigmata,
worn sandals that flapped against the ground, mapping your mission for all to hear.

One by one, they came.
Walking, shuffling, crawling, running.
To you, St. Francis…to you.

The bells, calling us to prayer, to weep, to rejoice, to reflect.
Their echoes tolling for the souls of the lost, and for those who are found.

And the Pilgrims came…



My Journey with St. Francis, the Jesuits & Pope Francis – Part I

St. Francis  by Jose de Ribera

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your 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, and
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;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Habemus Papam Franciscum

We have Pope Francis.

As I watched the breaking news, I put my head down and smiled, tracing the bracelet on my wrist. I wear the Möbius bracelet, engraved with the Prayer of St. Francis, to remind myself of my purpose.

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

The Poor Man of Assisi became a living prayer. St. Francis, who by embracing the poor and the marginalized of the world, affirms the light that is within each of us.

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Those marginalized human beings who I journey with as a counselor or as a volunteer – the lonely, the poor, the dying, the mentally ill, the abused, the ostracized, the forgotten. Seeing with the eyes of the heart. Where I look, in a sense, my heart sees unconditional acceptance and positive regard. Difficult? Sometimes. Necessary? Always.

Remember one of my previous posts, “She Who Hears the Cries of the World?” St. Francis knew of that light within each of us. Chaplain Susan knew. And with St. Francis’ help, so will I.

“Where there is darkness, light.”

Rev. Murray Bodo, O.F.M., in his book, “The Threefold Way of St. Francis,” (Paulist Press, 2000) reminds us, “The world’s greatest lovers have not been Don Juans and Casanovas, but Schweitzers, Gandhis, Helen Kellers and such saints as Francis of Assisi… True love…is free from jealousy, boastfulness, arrogance and rudeness; that it can bear all things, hope, and endure.” (p. 7)

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

When we embrace the poor and the rejected with compassion, we are actually ‘suffering with’ that person and in community with all human beings. And when we embrace them (…wings?…), we are, together, a living prayer. ‘I am one, but I am many.’

Later this year, I am blessed to take part in a week-long healthcare renewal retreat called “The Art of Presence.” It promises ‘renewal, respite and reflection’ as I am reminded of the sacredness of my calling in the giving of compassionate presence as a counselor. I so need this discernment for the next part of my journey, and I have no doubt that it will be shown to me.

Especially since the retreat will be held in a place called Assisi. Assisi, Italy. St. Francis’ birthplace. St. Francis’ place of burial, in the crypt of the Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

My pilgrimage.

My journey that will take me onto the same cobblestone streets where St. Francis walked, prayed and healed. Where I can best offer my gratitude for all blessings received (and they are many) in this life, and where I can best humbly ask for guidance, strength and wisdom in providing compassionate presence to those most in need.

This  wayfarer – this pilgrim – this journeyer – seeks the essence of St. Francis in the place where his sacred work began.  Even though I carry St. Francis inside my soul, my heart wants to see his birthplace.  Perhaps it will be my birthplace as well.

“Make me an instrument of Your peace…”

Pax vobiscum. May peace be with you.