October 4 was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I wasn't able to do anything in particular in remembrance of it, beyond remembering it.
But I am thankful for his life, for what we know of it, and for how his influence has spread way beyond Assisi, way beyond the centuries he lived in (12th and early 13th), and way beyond the Roman Catholic Church he was a part of.
Five years ago I took these pictures in Assisi. This is the church of San Damiano, where Francis heard the call to "restore my church," which he did first by working to physically repair this church which was crumbling in disrepair. (It was later added on to; this is much more than the original church, of which you can see the outline.) Only later did he realize the call and the need were to work to restore the larger church itself, which was falling into spiritual disrepair through various struggles in those times.
Assisi is full of men in brown robes and white belts, dressing as Francis did and seeking to live their lives as he did, as is possible and appropriate in the century we live in. Obviously part of this man's vocation is to share the story of Francis and the various places people visit to learn about him.
No one stakes their lives on it, but they say this tree was there during Francis' lifetime and played a role in one of the popular stories of his life. Olive trees are known to live an average of 500-900 years, so there is no reason not to think that this could be the tree.
I came upon this in Villach, Austria, from the same trip five years ago.
And on the same trip I saw him on this building in Zagreb, Croatia. His influence really did spread amazingly far, especially in a time with no television, radio, or Internet. His teaching and example of radical poverty and returning to very basic church teachings had a profound effect in his lifetime and continues today.
This is one of my favorite photos from Assisi, the woods up on Mt. Subasio, where Francis and his friends used to go to pray. The trees are so gracefully wild, or wildly graceful, and I can just imagine how he loved to be up there away from the city.
From Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi--
". . . .we prefer saints to be either perfect in every way or so ordinary that they conform to our own stature and do not challenge our spiritual indolence. But saints are in fact heroically in love, and like lovers, they sometimes become eccentric, and even overstep themselves; holiness does not preclude humanity, after all. Above everything, however, saints keep God firmly in sight. They remain faithful, and that is why they are saints--not because they are invariably models of polite or even imitable conduct."
" How much more credible and moving are the truer accounts of those who endured daily struggles, to remain true to their beliefs--those who constantly had to battle temptations to discouragement and despair; those who suffered physically, emotionally and psychologically; those who felt betrayed and abandoned . . . .holiness is certainly (like conversion) a lifelong process, and genuine saints probably never think about it. Their energies are directed toward God, not toward a consideration of their own merits or excellence. Most of all, their lives proclaim to the world the existence of a reality that transcends it."