“Go rebuild My Church for as you can see it is falling down.” These are the words St. Francis of Assisi heard while praying at the run-down San Damiano chapel in Assisi, Italy. That experience launched his spiritual journey which began with rebuilding the chapel and ultimately rebuilding a corrupt Church that had lost its original purpose: radiating the light of Christ, especially through service to the poor, oppressed, and outcast.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Christ’s Church today is also falling down through scandal, politics, internal divisions, indifference, secularism, and a multitude of other evils. But we shouldn’t give up hope. Even during St. Francis’s time these things existed and did not disappear after he died. The Church continually needs rebuilding and we all receive the same call to rebuild it regardless of our state in life, health, or mental condition. St. Francis believed this and told us exactly what to do: “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Let me apply these words for you who struggle with physical, mental, or situational difficulties. Doing what is necessary begins with acknowledging your difficulties and doing something about them. Doing what is possible means working towards health, recovery, and resolution all the while praying and keeping the faith even if you feel abandoned by those who profess it. Despite wrong turns and setbacks persevering will eventually lead to what seems impossible—recovery, healing, and yes, resolution. This may or may not occur physically, mentally, or with the difficult situation you experience but it will most certainly occur spiritually. Ask St. Francis, who experienced all the things I’ve just mentioned.
From our struggles, we learn humility and from there perseverance, compassion, kindness, and a sense of justice. In essence, we learn to love more—ourselves, our families, the world and the people in it. That is how the Church has always been rebuilt, holy love born of listening to Christ in our lives, struggling to do what we know is right, and making the necessary internal changes and external course corrections along the way. This is how St. Francis of Assisi and every other saint, known and unknown, has done it throughout history. It’s your turn. Do what is necessary and possible and God will do the rebuilding first in you, then through you in ways you will likely never know in this life.
St. Francis of Assisi, on this your feast day, pray for us.
Photo of Cross of San Damiano is mine. It is the cross I received from the Franciscans in Tiffin, Ohio, USA when I was a postulant there. It hangs directly in front of me when I sit at my desk.