November 17th we’re going to visit Assisi.
When I think of Francis of Assisi, I think of that large statue of him facing the Lateran Basilica in Rome. His arms are outstretched and if you look at the statue in a certain way it seems he is holding up the basilica in arms.
That’s what it’s meant to say.
According to some stories, Francis approached Pope Innocent III at the Lateran early in the 13th century requesting permission to found a new order in the church. The times were bad then, and according to one story, the pope in a dream saw the Lateran church falling down, but being held up by Francis and his new community.
I’m not sure the pope was so taken by the Franciscans then, or saw them as a reforming movement in the church. From what we know of Innocent III he was interested in papal power more than charismatic power.
But I think Francis’ statue gets it right. There will always be a charismatic element in the church working for its reform and reinvigorization.
Here’s something the Franciscan Leonardo Boff wrote about Francis:
“Francis is more than a saint of the Catholic Church and founder of the Franciscan family. He is the purest figure of Western history, of the dreams, the utopias, and of the way of relating panfraternally that we are all searching for today. He speaks to the most archaic depths of the modern soul, because there is a Francis hidden within each of us, struggling to emerge and expand freely among the moles of the modern age.”