Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I've always been fond of the story of St. Francis and his complete devotion to the spiritual ideals of Christ. At this time last year, my Rare One and I were in Tuscany. We drove to Assisi in neighbouring Umbria for an afternoon. Assisi is a magnificent hill town, beautifully restored and maintained. How evocative it was to wander the same streets as St. Francis and his followers!
The one thing I wanted most to see in Assisi was Giotto's frescos of the saint's life in the Basilica of St. Francis. It was like a dream come true to see those famous medieval paintings. When we entered the Basilica, a Franciscan monk determined what language we spoke and then gave each of us a small holy card. The front featured Giotto's painting of St. Francis preaching to the birds. On the back was printed the beautiful and profound prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred . . . . let me sow love.
Where there is injury . . . . pardon.
Where there is discord . . . . unity.
Where there is doubt . . . . faith.
Where there is error . . . . truth.
Where there is despair . . . . hope.
Where there is sadness . . . . joy.
Where there is darkness . . . . light.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled . . . . as to console.
To be understood . . . . as to understand.
To be loved . . . . as to love.
For it is in giving . . . . that we receive.
It is in pardoning . . . . that we are pardoned.
It is in dying . . . . that we are born to eternal life.
I think that glossy little card was the most meaningful and valuable thing I brought back from Italy. Now, I'm not a big collector of holy cards. I'm not even a Christian. I think it touched me so much because the card was a simple but sincere little gift of welcome, offered to commemorate an important spiritual experience. And it did precisely that.