St Francis had a mystical vision of Christ crucified saying to him, “Francis, go and repair my church which, as you see, is all in ruins!” Francis answered God’s call. He rebuilt the church in Assisi one brick at a time. While Francis was building the outside of the church, God was rebuilding the inside of Francis’s heart. Francis’ heart was set on God alone.
God is calling His people once again with those same words. Can you hear Him whisper deep in your soul? “Go and repair my church which, as you see is falling in ruins.” Those who hear God’s plea are asking the question, “What shall I do?”
What did Francis do? Hearing God’s call Francis embraced a life of poverty, chastity, and devotion to Jesus Christ, dedicating much of his time to prayer and meditation. Gradually, his godly example began to attract a band of brothers to join him.
Francis felt a calling by God to begin a new religious order. He decided to make a pilgrimage to the Vatican in Rome to try and gain an audience with the Pope. Much to everyone’s surprise, Francis succeeded in meeting the Pope. However Francis’ request to approve the new Order was first declined. The Pope later had a dream that changed his heart. St. Francis waited and God intervened, so the Order was approved. With patience and humility St. Francis answered God’s call. He completed the work God had called Him to do. The Franciscan Order still is bearing the fruit which Francis planted.
Where sin abounds, grace abounds. God raises up people during troubled times in the Church, and gives them the grace to rebuild. Now is one of those times. As a Church we have been shaken at our very foundation. It is not a time to throw stones, but a time to repair. We must begin to seek the Lord fervently in prayer with humble hearts. Then begin as Francis did with a new vision, new purpose and a love for Christ and what God calls us to do.
God always begins His work on the inside. St Bernard says, “It begins in prayer and it ends in prayer.” As in any work of God, prayer is essential for repairing our Catholic Church. As Catholic mothers and wives we have a very important work to do. It is the work of forming the next generation and training them to be soldiers for Christ. Our virtuous example as Godly wives and mothers speaks volumes to this world and draws souls to Jesus.
What is God asking you to do?
The “Prayer of St. Francis” is one of my favorites. I recite it often. In fact, one time my prayer partner, Judy Hartney, and I decided to pray this prayer as a 365-day novena, instead of the usual nine days. We began on St. Francis’ feast day and prayed an entire year. Our intention was specific: that a special mom would be invited to her daughter’s wedding. I would love to tell you that our prayer was answered, all was good and she was at the wedding as the mother of the bride. It was not God’s answer. I know that God never fails. His answer instead was, “wait.” It takes time for people’s hearts to change. Slowly but surely, their relationship is being mended. God heard our prayers but God allows all to have free will. Instead, at the end of the novena, 365 days later, God answered another long-awaited prayer: Our home sold.
Many of my prayer partners say the “Prayer of St. Francis” daily. Some of us use it as a guide to aid us along the path of righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is also a great examination of conscience before confession. The “Prayer of St. Francis” is a perfect prayer to help us and our children grow in virtue.
In honor of St. Francis, I offer this family challenge! I challenge you to read the prayer at the dinner table each night. Then take one line of the prayer each week to put into action as a family. The first week, I challenge you to be instruments of peace. You can keep it simple by applauding and saying encouraging words to the peaceful participants. You can be extravagant like me by giving prizes or a crown for those who did an outstanding job as a peacemaker that week.
Then the next week it is a time for a new challenge. This week, let love replace hate. Dinner-table conversation can be centered on questions like, “What is love?” Maybe seek out some library books about prejudice and the civil war. Then have a family discussion about how hate hurts hearts deeply. Ask the question, “Has anyone hurt your heart?” At the end of the sharing, pray for Jesus to heal the hurts. Then ask, “Have you ever hurt someone’s heart?” Pray for those who were hurt and talk about confession. Finally, share some ideas on how to repair a broken relationship. Talk about how love heals people on the inside. After the discussion, ask your children what they will do to put love into action during the coming week.
As you continue on as a family, week by week you will be growing in virtue: peace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope, and generosity. This family challenge will teach your child how to live out the Gospel as St. Francis did. What about you and your husband? It would not be a family challenge if you were not participating too. Be the good example. Follow St. Francis as He followed Jesus.
St Francis became an inspiration of someone who closely imitated the life of Christ in words, deeds, and the spirit of the Gospel. St Francis had a deep love for Christ. He and those God chose to follow him embraced poverty, chastity and a simple life of humility.
What will you become in Christ? What will the fruit of your family be?
Be sensitive to the fact that the shaking of our Church’s foundation has hurt many of the parishioners in the pews among us. Sadly some have left the Church over it. Pray for those who have left. Be a good example and call them back with Christ’s love. Some have become puffed up in pride and begun judging and complaining instead of repairing. Correct them in love. Many are disappointed and disillusioned and feel empty; pray that God will fill them with His love.
Francis could have let the ruins of the church cause him to give up, run away, judge or complain. Instead he began to build the church one brick at a time. As Francis built on the outside, He worked with the Holy Spirit to build on the inside. St. Francis lived the prayer and became an example to us all. He still bears fruit from the strong foundation he laid.
God is calling us to “Go and repair my church which, as you see, is falling in ruins.”
Who will repair the Church? Francis did. I challenge you to go and do the same!
“Prayer of St. Francis”
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;
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;
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.
Copyright 2018 Ellen Mongan