By Anthony Russo ‘17
We have been in the season of Lent for a number of weeks already and St. Francis is a great example of how to take Lent seriously. St. Francis loved Lent so much that he observed two more periods of penance each year: the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday and later the 40 days before the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. Francis sometimes observed these periods of prayer at LaVerna, a isolated mountain. Francis lived Lent year-round. Lent was a period for Francis to try to love more like Christ and to act more like Christ.
There are two examples from Francis’ life that challenged him to put Christ at the center of his life. The first was in the crumbling San Damiano church, while Francis was praying, the crucified Christ spoke to Francis: "Francis, Rebuild my church, which, as you can see, is falling into ruin." Francis listened and followed this call from God and it changed him. This experience must have stayed at the center of Francis’ mind. The second example from Francis’ life occurred towards the end of his life. While meditating on Mount LaVerna, Francis wanted to know two things: the love of Jesus on the Cross and the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. It was at this time that Francis received the stigmata, the marks of Christ's wounds, by which he was able to identify with Christ very closely.
St. Francis’ example inspires and challenges me to try to make Jesus the center of everything I do, especially during Lent. Lent is meant to help us prepare for Easter. There can’t be an Easter without Good Friday and St. Francis shows that being connected to Jesus each day is necessary, and that Jesus is with us especially in difficult times.