Repair My House
Particularly dear to Francis was an ancient chapel long allowed virtually to fall into ruins, dedicated to San Damiano. In it hung a Byzantine wooden crucifix, painted in red, gold, and blue. It did not represent the tortured Christ of later art; but the large, open, dark eyes of the Crucified looked down with a haunting vividness. It was a striking example of the early painted crucifixes, and it is strange that it should have survived the neglect of the chapel.
Before it, Francis loved to pray for the light which would shine through the darkness of his mind. As he looked up one day, he saw the lips of the Christ move, and he heard the words, “Francis, you see that my house is falling down; go and repair it for me.”
And Francis answered simply, “Willingly, Lord.”
A Literal Repair
How far Francis was from any notion of purifying or reforming the Church is clear from his reaction. His literal mind understood the words in their most literal sense. He was in a crumbling church, and God was simply asking him to repair it. His thoughts must have flashed back to his boyhood when he had learned the technique of building walls around his hometown.
The overpowering thing for him at that moment was that Christ — above all, the majestic, yet so human, figure of the Crucified in brilliant colors surrounded by saints — had spoken to him. He had obscurely known and heard God’s voice within him before, and it had given him the strength to kiss the leper. But in Francis’s mind, there was a whole world of difference between inner promptings, however certain, and what in daylight one could see, hear, and touch.
Here at last was the authentic confirmation that God was with him, instructing him about what here and now he should do. Others of different makeup might not need this outward sign. Francis, of all people, did.
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