HOME THOUGHT ABROAD, 10
Evening Prayer and Adoration at San Damiano is always full, especially in summertime. There is a “side door” through which one enters the chapel, but there is also a main door which is typically thrown open when crowds for prayer are too big for the interior. This has been the situation every day I’ve been here this June—no surprise.
This evening, however, was different (other than triggering “Home Thoughts Abroad #9)—a painful noise kept coming into the chapel from outside. It sounded like someone hurt, then perhaps like someone in a fight. We (= I) didn’t know what to think. Then we (= I) guessed it was a man with multiple disabilities outside. At the end of Evening Prayer I was able to confirm that was the case. And that was and is WONDERFUL!!
The great turning point in St Francis’ life was his perceived call to minister to lepers. Later, he would write: “The Lord granted me, brother Francis, to begin doing penance in this way: When I was in my sins, just to see lepers was very bitter for me. And the Lord himself took me among them, and I showed mercy to them. And on leaving them, what seemed bitter to me had turned for me into sweetness of body and soul.”
Perhaps the mentally and physically handicapped are the modern equivalent, today, of lepers in the time of St Francis. And so to hear the moans and shouts of this man, at first startling, then annoying, then (somehow) reassuring, I came to see that everyone—EVERYONE—wants and needs to praise the Lord. This man was singing God’s glory along with everyone else: he just wasn’t keeping to the same tempo. Guess what? A lot of us inside (including me!) weren’t keeping the proper tempo either.
But we were all there for one reason, summarized in the prayer of St Francis: We adore you, most High Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches in the world, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
Does that man’s voice sound better to God than mine? I doubt it: the criterion isn’t quality—it’s love. Hopefully I’m the equal of this man, who poured his heart, soul, and body into his worship.