The solemnity of St Francis of Assisi is celebrated every year with special joy by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. After the novena to St Francis, the friars gathered at St Saviour’s Convent in Jerusalem, the heart of the Custody, on Sunday 3 and Monday 4 October.
The feast day of the founder saint started with the first vespers on 3 October, presided by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton. In his homily, the Custos dwelled on some chapters of the “Regula non bullata”, of which this year is its eighth centenary. “For St Francis, all our life has to be a liturgy of praise, “holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship,” as St Paul would say in Chapter XII of the “Letter to the Romans” (cf. Rm 12,1), Fr. Patton said. “St Francis can also live earthly death as part of this living liturgy through which we give glory to a God who is one and three, a relationship of love, the source of life of every person and every creature, destination and point of arrival, through the experience of death lived as the Paschal passage, “the door of life” in God (cf. 2 Cel 217: FS 810)”.
Fr. Francesco Patton then recalled that following the teachings and in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ is not reserved only for friars or consecrated people, but it is for every person who wants to live the meaning and content of their baptism.
On the same day, nineteen young friars renewed their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and the Custos addressed them with the words: “I wish you success in living this way of life of ours, this walking of ours in the footsteps of Jesus, in praise and in glory of the Trinity and as a continuous growing inside this relation of love with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
An important moment of the celebration was the reading of the Transit of St Francis, the passage taken from the Franciscan Sources, which describes the last moments of the Saint’s life, during which only the candles of the faithful lit up the church.
The solemn mass or St Francis of Assisi
On Monday 4 October, the day of the solemnity of St Francis, Franciscan friars, the faithful and authorities gathered in the church of St Saviour in Jerusalem. The mass w presided by the prior of the convent of St Stephen, the Dominican Fr. Martin Staszak, a tradition which is a sign of communion between the two orders, which is also repeated on the feast-day of their founder, St Dominic.
“Tommaso da Celano has taught us that joy was one of the characteristics of the life of St Francis,” Fr. Martin Staszak said in his homily. “We could object that poverty and privation were also part of his life, but when we speak about the joy of St Francis we are not referring to fun. Perhaps we should change our concept of joy, because the joy of St Francis was not useful, he did not aim to entertain people”. The Canticle of the Creatures is evidence of the joy of St Francis, in which we see that, according to the Saint, “even death belongs to life, it is not an enemy, but a sister.” The Dominican explained that St Francis’ joy could seem a contradiction, if we look at his poverty and the suffering he underwent. “The life of St Francis is the life of a saint who is a new creation in Christ and the live of each and every one of us should have the same objective: it is not having superficial enjoyment but you have the dignity of new creation, to reach a joy that the world cannot give.”
The religious and civil authorities present
A number of authorities were present, that Custos of the Holy Land wanted to thank individually. The religious authorities included His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; His Excellence, Mons. Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo; His Excellency Yasser Ayash, the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarch and His Excellency Mar Yacoub Ephrem Semaan, Syro-Catholic Patriarchal Exarch of Jerusalem.
Mons. Mauro Lalli, chargé d’affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Jordan and Don Natale Albino, Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Israel also took part in the solemnity of St Francis of Assisi. The Custos of the Holy Land also thanked the Consuls General present: René Troccaz, Consul General of France; Giuseppe Fedele, Consul General of Italy; Alfonso Lucini Mateo, Consul General of Spain; Wilfried Pfeffer, Consul General of Belgium; Evangelos Vlioras, Consul General of Greece and Diane Corner, Consul General of the United Kingdom.