22 Jan In the footsteps of St. Francis – Provincial Ministers in Greccio and Fonte Colombo
The new Provincial Ministers who are currently meeting in Rome went on a pilgrimage to Greccio and Fonte Colombo on Saturday, 20 January 2018. The day began with Mass at the General Curia presided by Br. Cesare Vaiani, General Secretary for Formation and Studies. In his homily, Br. Cesare shared that
“In Greccio, Francis did something new and original, that some might judge a bit ‘crazy.’ In it we find a creative madness, which leads to daring to try new things and perhaps to defy the judgement of people. Greccio invites us to rediscover the creative ability to remember the life of Jesus in today’s world, in a new and concrete way … Greccio invites us to fall in love a bit more with the poverty of the child of Bethlehem and to manifest it in our lives.”
The day concluded at Fonte Colombo, the place where St. Francis wrote the Rule.
Here is the complete text of the homily:
Fr. Cesare Vaiani, ofm, 20.01.2018
Gospel: Mark 3:20-21
Today’s gospel gives us a singular image of Jesus, who is judged to be “out of his mind” by his own family. It is the fate of the prophets, already before Jesus, and it is also often the fate of the Saints, who are judged insane for their radical choices.
Today, ministers you will go on pilgrimage in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, who was often judged to be “out of his mind” by his contemporaries. He also explicitly attributed the title of “Madman” to himself.
We find an episode in the Compilatio Assisiensis in which Francis addresses the ministers and Cardinal Ugolino, who invited him to be a little more reasonable, to “follow the advice of the learned friars and to allow himself to be guided by them sometimes.” Francis declares: “Friars, my brothers, God has called me to walk the path of simplicity and has revealed it to me. I, therefore do not want you to speak to me of any other rules, neither that of Saint Augustine, nor that of Saint Bernard or of St. Benedict. The Lord has revealed to me his wish that I be a madman in the world: this is the science to which God wants us to dedicate ourselves!”
This evangelical folly should be a characteristic of our form of life, of that “life and rule of the Friars minor which is to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own and in chastity.” If we take these words seriously, then even we will be declared “insane.” And we will be proud to be seen as such.
Today your pilgrimage in the footsteps of that madman named Francesco will begin in Greccio, the shrine of the Nativity scene (creche). We have recently concluded the liturgical season of Christmas and carry in our hearts a meditation of the mystery of the Incarnation. According to Thomas of Celano, Francis in Greccio wanted to “remember the child born in Bethlehem and somehow see with the eyes of the body the hardships in which he found himself because of the lack of things necessary to a newborn, as he lay in a crib and how he lay on the hay between the ox and the ass.” In Greccio, Francis did something new and original, that some might judge a bit “crazy.” In it we find a creative madness, which leads to daring to try new things and perhaps to defy the judgement of people. Greccio invites us to rediscover the creative ability to remember the life of Jesus in today’s world, in a new and concrete way. Greccio invites us to be capable of gestures that make the Gospel visible. Greccio invites us to use all the means available to us to reveal to all the mystery of Jesus’s poverty, both in the signs and in the reality of our lives. Greccio invites us to fall in love a bit more with the poverty of the child of Bethlehem and to manifest it in our lives.
As an example of evangelical folly, I have mentioned the opening words of our Rule earlier. Today you will conclude your pilgrimage by going to Fonte Colombo where, according to tradition, Francis has written our Rule, and where you will have the opportunity to read it again personally. It is important for us to return every now and again to the text of the Rule, which is the code of our covenant with the Lord and brings us back to the foundation of our choice. It is the Rule that we professed at the beginning of our Franciscan life and that we still want to observe today, as then. It will be for everyone a return to the wellsprings of your adventure as crazy Franciscans. It will be a refreshing the youthfulness and vitality of your commitment. And it will be important to find the words that once made us quiver, so many years ago, and ask ourselves what we have done about them.
May the Lord accompany your pilgrimage, so that your life can also be, like that of Jesus and like that of Francis, animated by passion for the Gospel and may your life manifest that “holy operation of the Spirit of the Lord” that in the Rule, Francis invites us to desire above all things.