This past weekend was a glorious time for all those who have dedicated their lives to following Our Lord through the example of St. Francis of Assisi. Every year the universal Church remembers St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th and so the previous few days have been filled with very "Franciscan" images for me.
Those images of St. Francis of Assisi are interesting in and of themselves. His legacy is filled with both elements are real and historical as well as those which were created in the minds of persons who wanted to convey the powerful influence this blessed Saint had in their lives.
It has been a good weekend for me to bring to mind the things that are real in my faith journey as well as those things I've added on over the years.
There is a beautiful tradition that the Franciscan hold during this time of year. The evening of October 3rd they will gather, as we did this with members of the Conventual Friars, having been invited to join the Poor Clare Sisters for the celebration of the "Transitus." This is a remembrance of St. Francis' passing (which is where the term comes from) from this life to Eternal Life. There are solemn songs sung, prayers and readings from the writings of Thomas Di Celano (the most important biographer of the Saint), as well as the blessing of bread (a commemoration of an action St. Francis took the day he passed to remind his Brothers that they his true companions.
You see the word, "companion" literally means, "with bread." In doing this simple action of blessing bread and sharing one to another the Franciscan remember, as we all should, that we are companions with Christ. He called us to be people of the "Bread that comes down from Heaven."
Fr. Tom Washburn, the Vocations Director for the Immaculate Conception Province of the Order of Friars Minor, began his remarks by quoting from Br. Elias, who said, "Before I begin to speak, I sigh." These words began the letter that Br. Elias, who had been one of the earliest followers of St. Francis and had succeeded him as the head of the Order, sent to the Franciscans of the time to announce the passing of their founder and spiritual father.
As Fr. Tom spoke these words, they struck me. "Before I begin, I sigh." How simple and yet, shouldn't that be our spiritual position at all times. If only we, like St. Francis or St. Clare or Br. Elias, took the time to breathe in the moment.
I recall the words of St. Augustine from his Confessions, "Lord, I have breathed You in and I long to breathe You in again." How beautiful of an image... an image that should be real.
There are few things in our lives that are more real and necessary than our breath. And we should remind ourselves to allow our hearts to "Transitus," pass from the things that keep us from the falsehoods that the world can offer and breath in, sigh, if you will, to such a degree that we fill ourselves with the Divine Presence.
So as companions, I ask you to pray for each other today, offer the bread of your lives to one another, and share a true and honest sigh with someone who needs to breathe in Our Lord.
I end this segment with a quote from the Rule of St. Francis, as it is found in the celebration of the "Transitus:"
In memory of Francis' love for his brothers and sisters, let us greet one another with a sign of love and peace. And let us remember the words of Francis who tells us if a mother loves and cares for her child in the flesh, how much more should we, as brothers and sisters in the spirit, show our love for one another. (Rule of 1226, 6)