Many people know the story of St. Francis of Assisi. He was the son of somewhat well-to-do cloth merchants in a small Umbrian village in the 12th century. He was a spoiled young man when he went off to seek glory in battle, but while away was “called” by God to shed his earthly possessions and follow a simple path of devotion and prayer.
But that wasn’t the only time that God spoke directly to St. Francis. In 1205AD Francis was passing by San Damiano (at that time a small, run-down church on the hill below Assisi) when he felt a sudden urge to go inside and pray. Above the tiny altar was an iconic crucifix, probably painted by a Syrian monk in the 12th century. Christ is painted onto the cross surrounded by witnesses: the Virgin Mary, his apostles, Mary Magdalene, and a series of angels and saints welcoming him into heaven.
While Francis was praying before the cross, Christ’s lips began to move and he spoke to Francis: “Francis, go repair my house which as you see is falling into ruin.”
Francis took Christ’s words literally at first and began to rebuild San Damiano, founding the Franciscan order in the process. Today there is still a small monastery there which you can walk through, but the cross was taken by the Poor Clares, the Franciscan order founded by St. Francis’s closest female disciple, to the Church of St. Clare within Assisi’s walls in 1257AD. You can still view it there, say a prayer and wait for Christ to speak to you… though you may not want to wait till his lips actually move.
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