“Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is all being destroyed.”
This mandate was spoken to our seraphic father, St. Francis when he was a young man searching for his true vocation in life. He had been praying in the dilapidated church of San Damiano when he heard these words coming to him from a large crucifix. Even though this event happened some 800 years ago, we can still hear those same words echoed down through the centuries to our very own day. When St. Francis heard those words, he took them quite literally and immediately began to actually repair the crumbling church of San Damiano one stone at a time. Once he had patched up San Damiano, he began working on other churches that were also in need of repair. He continued in this fashion until he realized that Christ was speaking of another church, the interior church that is sheltered within the walls of our hearts. This church was desperately in need of repair. Now another, different type of work would commence as St. Francis began to ply the trade of construction to the interior heart and soul of his fellow man and woman. His blueprints and construction equipment are still being used today. The most prominent instruments found within his toolbox are: humility, poverty, purity of heart, obedience, fraternity, ministry, and prayer.
For one day when Francis went out to meditate in the fields, he walked near the church of San Damiano which was threatening to collapse because of age. Impelled by the Spirit, he went inside to pray. Prostrate before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with no little consolation as he prayed. While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord’s cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from that cross, telling him three times . . . . . . .
A few months ago, seventeen young men answered the call to rebuild my house and knocked upon the door of the Novitiate seeking admittance. Now begins their training in church construction. They have come from different cities and states, from diverse backgrounds and histories, but they all hold one thing in common — they wish to become Capuchin friars!
Their instruction will help them to build a life of Gospel witness on a solid foundation that will stand the test of wind and storm. Their preparation will teach them to fashion words and form actions that will build up and never tear down. They will experience the serene waters of contemplation along with the apostolic zeal of a vocation charged with God’s grace. Equipped with such skills and charisms, these young men shall venture forth into a world sorely in need of their message. At times, the weight of evil and oppression may seem unbearable, and the reservoir of optimism run dangerously low, for our modern world is littered with crumbling churches. Yet it is precisely in these broken down churches that these men are called to proclaim the Good News! We must once again call to mind those words previously heard from a rustic crucifix in a dilapidated church and realize that courageous and generous people are still answering that call today—Go and rebuild My church! Let us join our prayers and best wishes for these seventeen young men who have answered the call to go forth and rebuild His Church, the church found within every human heart.