I am sure that there are people in the world who wonder why we make such a fuss about a feast such as the one that we celebrate today. We recall the day on which the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, was first dedicated and consecrated.
Those who are familiar with the basilica know that it is actually three different churches built one on top of the other. As devotion to the Poor Man of Assisi developed, the site of his burial became more and more popular as a pilgrimage site. The body of Francis was first buried in the church of his baptism. Now it rests below the two basilicas built in his honor. One has to be able to climb up and down a steep staircase to visit his tomb.
In remembering this day, we do not concern ourselves with the actual structure. This is a day to give thanks to God for the gift that Francis was to the world as well as for the gift of our own Franciscan vocation. Francis is one of those rare saints who attracts people from all walks of life and from different faiths. So many claim him as their special patron: animal rights activists, environmentalists, those who work for peace, advocates for the poor, even the Cub scouts.
The readings today point out that our God is distinguished by the choice to live among us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is not only transcendent; God is also imminent. Through God’s creative power, our world has been renewed by the life-giving gift of the Spirit who dwells with us and binds us together in the human family. The Gospel for today reminds us that we have the gift of eternal life, bestowed upon all who participate in the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator