Assisi & The Complexity of Simplicity
Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
St. Francis never would have wanted it this way. Like Jesus, his life had been devoted to simplicity, chastity, poverty, and service to all of God’s creation. Now, however, in his simple village of Assisi, there stands a commanding Gothic structure towering over the quiet countryside. The lovely town bustles with summertime activity; shops and stands sell every imaginable ware and trinket even remotely connected to Italy’s famous patron saint. Crowds from all over the world push and pull and sway through the bustling, echoing church.
The structure, with its three separate chapels and the gorgeous surroundings of green, rolling hills dotted with homes and punctuated with tall, straight cedars beckon the visitor to faith, mystery, and a deeper love for God. And yet, in spite of the hopeful creativity that lies behind this sacred place, there remains a strange paradox: somewhere between his life and his death, the beautiful simplicity of St. Francis and his ministry got lost.
Around the year 1200 A.D., Francis, a popular, wealthy, and athletic young aristocrat, became a prisoner of war. While in captivity, and sick with a fever, Francis began to review his life and priorities. Slowly, an inner spiritual transformation began to motivate an outer change in all that he stood for.
After seasons of struggle, a dramatic reorientation in his faith ushered in a lifestyle concerned for the poor and ostracized, centered on the goodness of God, and rejoicing in the beauty of God’s creation. He sought to purify a corrupt church, energize a disillusioned people, and personify the life of Jesus on behalf of the poor.
In some ways, the condition of Assisi seems sadly indicative of our human condition: too much noise and too many distractions. Something in us appears incapable of allowing the treasure of calm holiness to simply be. We institutionalize to glorify what St. Francis and Jesus sought gently and in simplicity. We make noise even though God intends for us to be reflective and quietly spiritual.
PRAYER FOR THE WEEK: Calm us down, Lord. Open our eyes to the ever-present glories of your world. Thank you for the simple things: the curious eyes of children, the joy of music, the warmth of a summer evening, the flowers that color your world, the taste, texture, and wonder of summer fruit and vegetables, the gift of companions, the treasure of friendship, and the reassurance of your love for now and forever. Calm us, Lord. Let us be still and know. Amen.