Read My Lips….Franciscan Pilgrimage Part 1

January 9, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Fr Packiaraj SJ recommended that I go to Assisi.  He is the pastor of a Jesuit parish in South India.  It was 2013-14 and I was on the verge of retiring.  A new chapter in my life was approaching and I want to be a disciple of Jesus who is open to his guidance :”Speak Lord, your servant listens.”  Perhaps I should add “hopefully.”  Given my outsized ego that hopes to do great things for God, I should add ” Give me ears to hear or I may miss what I am called to do because it appears small and ordinary.”  While I make an effort to be attentive daily by listening for God’s voice in others and can often see God’s hand in the events of life, I agreed that a pilgrimage to Assisi could help the process of discernment. 

Like so many of our saints, Francis had a clear vision and an auditory experience of God’s direction.  While my faith or perhaps it would be better described as my unbelief would not provide the Lord such an opportunity to speak so distinctly, I still was filled with great anticipation as we went to visit San Damiano and later the Cross of San Damiano in the Clare’s Basilica.  It was while meditating and praying in front of this cross that Francis heard his call to “Rebuild My Church.”    Francis then literally started to restore and rebuild the San Damiano chapel.  He took the message literally.  Later he understood the message more fully.  Soon thousands of brothers joined him in the Umbrian Valley below Assisi.

Still I was highly skeptical  that Jesus, suspended in majesty on the cross of San Damiano,  would actually speak to me in the same way.  In other words, I would not see his lips move as he tells me to “Rebuild My Church” or “Minister to those in prison” or “Sit at the bedside of those who are dying” or “Write” or ” Be a confidant or ” Lighten Up! Don’t take yourself so seriously!” Or “ Enough already.  Get out of your lazy boy and get busy.  The laborers are few. “  

I agree that for most of us, finding our way in the Lord is a process rather than an experience such as Francis’ or getting knocked off a horse and blinded like Paul.  I believe that we have a lot of freedom.  We sit at a banquet with a variety of delicious choices in front of us.  All are blessed.  All are signs of God’s love and caring which is greater than we can even imagine.  The choice is ours.  Our hands will be in Her hands.   

Yet, I sit and wait for clarity and direction.  After all, I am as one friend said, a procrastinating perfectionist. I sit and wait for clear sense of what to do while realizing He would likely tell me to act on a desire that is already in my heart.  I should pay attention to my yearnings. 

After visiting San Damiano twice and the Cross of San Damiano at Clare’s Basilica twice, I asked my wife Kathleen:  “Did you see Jesus’ lips move?  Did Jesus talk to you as He did to Francis?”  Kathleen was a bit taken aback and an expression mixing concern and disbelief crossed her face as she answered “No!”  Then after pausing a moment, she asked  ” Did you?”  I smiled and said “Yes.  Jesus told me,   ‘Love Your Wife.'”