One day when St. Francis went out to meditate in the fields he was passing by the Church of San Damiano which was falling apart in disrepair. Prompted by the Spirit he went in to pray. Kneeling before the crucifix he heard a voice coming from it saying “Francis, go and repair my church as it is falling into ruin.”
Of course, Christ did not mean to rebuild San Damiano but to rebuild the whole Church which, at that time, was filled with great scandal and needed serious reform. With great fervor, St. Francis did as Christ asked, not only rebuilding San Damiano but the Catholic Church (in 1204ad) as well.
What can we learn from San Damiano? First, that Christ who is the heart of the Church was suffering. The Body of Christ, his Church, was suffering and wounded. He called out from his cross for renewal and healing. Francis knew that Jesus was the center of our faith and that he remains with us in the midst of trials as a loving source of renewal.
So today, we too, have our own San Damiano “call from the cross” to rebuild amid scandals of sexual abuse by clergy and cover ups by members of the hierarchy. Pope Benedict warned “that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but arises from sin inside the church.”
The main lesson that San Damiano teaches us is that Christ, who is the Church, remains with us in the midst of trials and tribulations. He is the source of our renewal just as he was for the Church in 1204ad. Just as he called out to Francis to rebuild his Church, he issues the same call to us to save his Church in 2018.
We, the laity, play a crucial role in asking for real reform but to ask for it with love just as Francis did. This is a crucial moment for us to answer Christ’s call to “rebuild my Church.” We can do no less than St. Francis.
Faithfully yours, Jeanne Leonardi