Blessed by Saint Francis

*This is a repost that was accidentally lost and deleted*

I am amused but not surprised that today, October 4th, is the day we celebrate the work and ministry of Saint Francis. It’s so divine and synchronistic considering that I’ve been feeling imbibed by his spirit since my return from Italy and Assisi a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t even know it was the day of his feast until I happened to come across the notice in someone else’s feed. When I did, I knew that I have been struck by grace once again.

Let me share a little of my one day in Assisi. Nothing dramatic actually happened in Italy, but ever since, my heart has been broken wide open by the presence and power of this saint. I never knew! I’m not even a practicing Catholic, which is why it has struck me so. I’ve learned that no matter your religion, race or creed, if you open your self to the grace of the great mystics, saints and sages you will be touched.

I went to Italy purely for vacation, with no mission but to simply visit and explore. Little did I know that I would have one of the most mystical and profound experiences of grace that was no part of a plan besides that of the divine. When we arrived in Assisi, the first evening we explored and settled in. I wasn’t allowed to enter the Basilica of Saint Francis because the shorts I was wearing were too short. The next day, more properly attired, I entered the Basilica alone without the rest of my family. Wasn’t planned this way, it just worked out that way. I went down to the lower level where lie his remains and felt a sublime invitation to go kneel beside his tomb. With no intent or prayer in mind, I knelt. Then came a very strong vibrational feeling of his presence. It was then that I realized I was in a supremely Holy and Sacred space. After kneeling for a little while in quiet, I felt like I should pray something so of course what comes to mind is the Prayer of Saint Francis. I recite to myself a few time “Let me be an instrument of thy peace.”
That was it and apparently that was the only invitation I had to give for him to come in and blow my heart wide open. After I left his tomb, I felt all hot, sweaty and strange inside. Instantly I knew I was in for a ride.  I said to myself, “Uh Oh, what did I just do.”

To dig it in deeper (not on purpose), later that day my family and I visited the Basilica of Saint Chiara who worked very closely with Saint Francis during his time. I also felt very strongly her presence down near her tomb. Within one of her sanctuaries is the original crucifix of San Damiano that St. Francis and St. Chiara would pray to. As I was approaching the crucifix, on a table to the side was a brochure that said at the very top “PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS BEFORE THE CRUCIFIX OF SAN DAMIANO.” Of course, this I could not resist, so I sat before the crucifix repeating whole heartedly the prayer several times,  and to add to the mood it was storming outside with the lights flickering on and off the entire time. With that prayer, not necessarily intentionally, I had sealed the deal. I knew instantly after I was done that I had opened myself to something much bigger. These are the words to the prayer:

” O most High and glorious God,
   enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith,
certain hope,
perfect love
and deep humility.
O Lord, give me sense and discernment
.in order to carry out your true and holy will.”

We capped off our time in Assisi by visiting the beautiful location where St. Francis went to retire in the wilderness.  The next day we left Assisi and continued through Florence and Venice before eventually coming home. It wasn’t until arriving home that I would begin to feel the exhaustion, movement and agitation stirred from the trip and “initiation”… days of confusion & fog, followed by brief moments of clarity & understanding… granted the jet lag didn’t help at all. I craved solitude while loud places aggravated the hell out of me. We had some work done on our house while we were gone, so when we returned, our home was in disorder with everything misplaced and a lot of our stuff, including junk pulled out of the closets. The state of our home mirrored the state of my insides, as if everything had been brought to the surface from the deep closets of my subconscious. I spent the next few days clearing and reorganizing physically, mentally and emotionally. Moments of unhealed, heartbreak would come flooding to the surface and the release, even though painful, felt so sweet, nourishing and healing. I could see how I was contributing to my own feelings of disappointment through my thoughts, actions and behaviors.

Then P E A C E.. sweet, beautiful, peace that needed absolutely nothing from me to exist, swept through.  It would come and it would go. During one of  my hikes, when I would look down at my feet to see where I was stepping , through my mind’s eye I would see sandals and a robe stepping with me as if they were also my feet. It was strange,  yet very comforting in affirming that I was not walking alone. I could feel the essence of contentment and peace… pure grace in motion. Through out the days, more agitations would surface, then peace. Peace was definitely a theme. Then  just a couple of days ago, while on one of my hikes, I was in a place of  significant self doubt, when I had an encounter with a sweet little bird on the top of a mountain. I saw it and felt it begin to get unusually close for a wild bird. It must have been attracted to the rubies in my ring because it came to my hand and pecked at the stones! The encounter continued for about 5 minutes as it climbed on my shoes, pecked some more on my ring, stood on top of my phone (because I just had to record) and looked straight at me turning its head side to side and eventually flying away. I was divinely kissed.

I knew that one of the symbols of Saint Francis was birds as he is also considered the patron of animals and the environment; and birds have also always been greatly significant to me as symbols of my own freedom and power. As I settled down that evening, I read somewhere on line that for Saint Francis, birds symbolized spiritual freedom and growth. That the birds were a message from the Divine to keep on, to keep preaching and to not give up on his path of ministry and service.

The message became suddenly clear! My self doubt didn’t matter. We keep on anyway.. not for glory, fame, success, accomplishments or validation.. not because we are striving or trying to achieve a goal. We keep on simply for ourselves and for the liberation of our own truth as an instrument of Thy peace. A couple of days later, after that sweet encounter, is today, the day of Saint Francis. How divine it truly all is!