Following my three days in Rome, I got on a train for three days in Assisi. Assisi is built on a hillside, much like our own church here in Castle Rock. The beautiful valley of Umbria reminded me of the gorgeous view that we have of the front range of the Rockies and the Palmer Divide right here.
I really wanted to visit our patron, Saint Francis, and bring your prayers to his tomb. So that was the first place that I went. So many of you gave me your prayer intentions in letters or emails. As soon as I arrived, I took them to pray there. I spent my first day at the Basilica of Saint Francis. I learned so much about our patron that I never knew before.
The second day I walked all around Assisi and visited the tomb of Saint Clare. She was a contemporary of Saint Francis and founded the Poor Clares, a monastic community of Sisters. She was as heroic and bold as Saint Francis! I also visited the tomb of Blessed Carlo Acutis. He was a young man who was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and spread devotion to Jesus through the internet. I placed two photos on his tomb and brought them back with me. He has been named patron for the upcoming National Eucharistic Revival here in our country beginning this Summer.
Praying before the San Damiano cross in 1206, St. Francis heard Jesus call to him: “Go repair my Church, which, as you see, is falling completely into ruin.” I spent time in prayer before this same cross. Similar to the call of St. Francis, I can see that we, the members of his parish in Castle Rock, are called by Jesus to renew His Church. All of us. Not just our new Bishop. Not just me, your new pastor, or Father Homero or Father Chance. Every one of us. As a family in faith, we must respond to His call to renew his Church.
At first, St. Francis took this to mean he was to repair the church building of San Damiano. However, he quickly realized that Jesus was calling him to rebuild the spiritual life and vitality of the people. Likewise, we must see that the future of our parish in Castle Rock is bigger than our church building. We know so many who have left us, and we need to invite them back. We need to heal the wounds caused by sin and division. We need to be peacemakers.
The Rule of Saint Francis asks the friars to do what the Gospel says, “In whatever house you enter, before entering you should say: Peace to this house!” This was the greeting he suggested to his friars from the beginning when he sent them into the world. In his Testament he writes, “The Lord revealed that we should use this greeting: ‘May the Lord give you peace!’”
Peace was for Saint Francis the greatest ideal, the highest aspiration at the center of his life and the life and mission of his friars in the world. “Peace” for Saint Francis is that “Peace” that Christ brought into the world at his birth and the “Peace” that he brings to his
disciples after his resurrection: “He stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” I pray that we can be full of this peace and share it with others. Our community, our nation, our world, so desperately need the Peace that Christ alone can give!
The icon of Jesus on the cross of San Damiano can also help us focus on peace and the renewal of our parish. We have a replica of this beautiful icon here in our church. I encourage you to come close and meditate on its message to you: 1. The cross of San Damiano portrays Jesus speaking to us even though he is dying, which serves as a reminder that we need not be afraid to take up this work even if it costs us something, for Jesus is with us always.
2. The cross of San Damiano portrays Jesus surrounded by others, highlighting the fact that, as we take up the challenge of renewal, our unity should not be diminished but strengthened by joining together with others.
3. The cross of San Damiano portrays Jesus as the Risen One at the top of the cross – a sign of hope to us that in this renewal Jesus is offering us new life and vitality for the future.
Allow the image of St. Francis hearing Christ call to him from the San Damiano cross to guide your own prayers as you take up the work of renewal with me. I’m so happy to be named your new Pastor. May the Lord give you peace! Rev. Mark Zacker
The valley below Assisi
The tomb of Saint Francis
The Basilica of Saint Francis
The original cross of San Damiano
The tomb of Saint Clare
Painting of Saint Clare confronting an attack on Assisi with the Blessed Sacrament
The tomb of Blessed Carlo Acutis