Saint Francis OF Assisi
“Francis, Go and Repair my House Which, as You See, Is Falling into Ruin”
“One day in 1205, a young man, son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, restless and searching for the real goal of his life, walked into the dilapidated church of San Damiano in the outskirts of the town. There occurred something that would radically change the course of his life, the life of the church, and to an extent even of the world. Here is one of the earliest accounts of what happened, from the celebrated biography Life of Francis by his disciple, Saint Bonaventure:
“One day when Francis went out to meditate in the fields, he was passing by the church of San Damiano, which was threatening to collapse because of extreme age. Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray.
Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervour and 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 the cross, telling him three times: “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.”
Trembling with fear, Francis was amazed at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church; and as he received in his heart the power of the divine words, he fell into a state of ecstasy. Returning finally to his senses, he prepared to put his whole heart into obeying the command he had received. He began zealously to repair the church materially, although the principal intention of the words referred to that Church which Christ purchased with his own blood, the Holy Spirit afterward made him realize.”
Deeply transformed by this mystical experience, Francis radically changed the course of his life. He began to spend long hours in prayer in empty caves and country chapels seeking to discern God’s will for him. He began to contemplate God’s beauty in nature where every flower, every blade of grass, every little bird, spoke to him of God’s infinite love and glory. He also began to care for the poor and needy people around him, particularly the lepers who lived as outcasts in the peripheries of the city. Soon he attracted many disciples. Together they initiated a gentle yet radical revolution in the church. Their arms were simple but incisive: evangelical poverty, simplicity, humility, and universal love.” (Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’)
The Living Chapel strives to bring the message and mission of Saint Francis into the 21st century. The first Living Chapel is architecturally inspired by Saint Francis in broad concept and in detail. It is envisioned as an open-air contemporary reinterpretation of the design of Saint Francis’s Porziuncola, the chapel he discovered in ruin in the woods and spent the end of his life meticulously rebuilding following his epiphanic calling to “go and repair [God’s] house”. The base dimensions of the Living Chapel’s walls exactly match those of Saint Francis’s Porziuncola, but they are arranged at different angles and curve as they reach upward, perhaps suggesting the contour of a flower or of a bird’s wing in flight. As they approach the Chapel, pilgrims are welcomed on a journey, drawn in through the open arms of the Chapel to the point where a cross-shaped entrance ushers them across the threshold and into the inner sanctum. This journey pays homage to St. Francis’s own life, where, at the foot of the San Damiano cross, he received his calling and was forever transformed.
To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan,
Reverence for Life: A Message for the Twenty-First Century.