Our Minister General, Michael Perry,OFM, spoke from the heart to Pope Francis when he visited the little chapel of San Damiano during his visit to Assisi.
Your Holiness, Our Dear Holy Father Francis,
May the Lord give you peace!
These simple words of Francis of Assisi flowed from his heart pierced by the sufferings of humanity fallen prey to a spider’s web of conflicts, wars, poverty and greed.
It was God who broke these chains of despair in the life of Francis through the embrace offered to him by Christ in the person of the leper and through Christ Crucified, who spoke to him three times from the San Damiano Cross , saying:
“Francis, go and repair my church which is in ruins.”
As Your Holiness already knows, Francis made a further step in his journey of faith by undertaking a project of rebuilding that would begin only with bricks and mortar which still surround this small chapel. The call to simplicity of life inspired by the Gospel – sine proprio – lived with and among the poor allowed Francis and his brothers to decide to live a deeper and more prophetic forma vitae. This also meant the spiritual renewal of the Church, a pilgrim people of God, and through it, the renewal of the mission to proclaim a message of healing, reconciliation, and absolute dignity of every person, because of what God is and what He does both for us and creation in and through Jesus
We, his little brothers of the Order of Friars Minor, still and always promise obedience to You, Holy Father, as we try to participate in the renewal of the Body of Christ which is the Church. We commit ourselves anew to live the evangelical counsels of poverty through a radical life in fraternity, chastity, and obedience to the Father and Lord of life. We also promise to “make noise” and try always to announce prophetically the mercy, love, and reconciling peace of God with courage and joy!
We ask your apostolic blessing for the brothers who live in this holy place of San Damiano as well as for the novices, the Province of the Seraphic Father Francis, the entire Order of Friars Minor, and Franciscan family. We, too, today would like to offer you a special blessing:
May the peace of Christ which surpasses all human understanding, illuminate your heart, mind, and soul as you lead the Church and discern the path of the pilgrim Body of Christ, called to be a sacramental sign of the eternal love of God and of hope for the world! May the same words that Francis of Assisi received from the Lord Jesus hanging on the Cross of San Damiano inspire you while it challenges each of us, fellow disciples of Jesus and members of the Church, to believe, live, and bear witness to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Francis, go and repair our church.”
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM