The calling of St Francis

800 years ago, a young man called Francesco (or ‘Francis’ in English) was called in a very special way by God. He had once held ambitions to be a knight; but an experience of imprisonment and subsequent illness had served to set his life on a different course. For one thing, he had started ministering to the lepers – the most rejected members of medieval society. Passing by the run-down church of San Damiano, he felt impelled to go in and pray. Kneeling before an image of Christ Crucified, he was deeply moved by the Holy Spirit, and heard a voice coming from the cross: “Francis, go and repair My house, which is all being destroyed.” Not yet understanding the deeper meaning of this command, Francis at once set about repairing that wayside church, giving up his earthly property and the favour of his earthly father in the process.

The Lord spoke to Francis a second time, through the words of the Gospel. For as he was attending Mass one day, the Gospel was read in which Jesus sends out His disciples to preach. Upon hearing that they were not to have money, not to carry a wallet, nor have two tunics, nor shoes, nor staff, Francis said, “This is what I want, this is what I desire with all my heart.” He dispensed with his shoes, his staff, and his little money, and even replaced his leather belt with a simple cord. Then in accordance with Christ’s words he went out to preach peace and repentance.