He was a normal teenager.
A bit flighty, perhaps, caught up in the materialism of the day. He loved to party and, although he was not a good student, he was fairly competent as a business- man. That made his father glad! He was very much a person of the times: dream- ing of glory, caught up with things, inter- ested in becoming rich. The church was the furthest thing from his mind. It was pretty corrupt, he thought, more inter- ested in gaining property than gaining souls. And the divisions in the church!
Wow! Theology, the understanding of God, was up for grabs. On top of that, nobody paid any attention to the priests, they were uneducated goofs.
No his life would be one of fun, free and easy.
All that would all change with the vision.
This is the part that gets a bit strange. Of all things, a crucifix spoke to him. Jesus told him to repair the church… in which he was sitting, San Damiano. When he returned home, he renounced his wealth, his patrimony, his life. Daddy was not happy. In truth, he was outraged. He saw his son out in the streets begging for food. He looked like a fool. So he grabbed him and dragged him in front of the bishop. “Make him deny his vision!” the father demanded. “I have given him everything from his birth and he repays me by being a laughingstock and a fool.
I gave him his life, his food, his clothes. Make him stop.”
With that Francisco Bernadone, did an- other foolish thing. He quietly and calmly began to take off all of his clothes and he laid them at his father’s feet. He stood there in front of the whole town and the bishop stark naked. He would not, he could not deny the vision. The bishop would take off his ornate liturgical cope and would wrap it around the young man. A new life was begun, and indeed, the church began to be re- paired, not just the modest little building of San Damiano, but the whole church, even to this day.
All because of the vision, the vision of Francis of Assisi.
This week we will celebrate the Feast of St. Francis. He was known to commune with nature and especially animals. With that in mind, we will celebrate his life with the Blessing of the Pets. It is one of my all-time favorite things to do as a priest. So bring whatever creature you love (snakes will be blessed from afar) to the parking lot on Monday night at 6:15 pm. It is a lot of fun and re- minds us about how we are all connected as God’s creation.