Traditional Mass

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Continued . . .


40--What did St. Francis of Assisi think of the Mass?

"St. Francis was on fire with love for the Sacrament of the Lord's Body to the very marrow of his bones," wrote Celano. "And he was struck with amazement in the face of this mercy full of charity, and more especially before this so merciful charity."

Celano does not exaggerate. St. Francis, whose spirituality sprang from a penetrating gaze on the body of Christ, whose loving longing for our love led to a Cross, was bound to make "the Lord's most Sacred Body" the core of his devotion.

While still a pleasure-loving youth, St. Francis had purchased costly vestments and other objects for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and given them in secret to priests and poor churches. All his life he continued his pious ministry, sending his friars throughout the world with precious vases, with host irons, or with altar linens made by Clare or her daughters.

It was during the celebration of Mass on the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle (February 24, 1208), and through the voice of the priest explaining the Gospel, that Francis received special light from Heaven and an intimation of the necessity of a changed life, and dimly glimpsed the vocation that was to be his.

When prevented by illness or some other circumstance from going to a church or oratory to hear Mass, St. Francis would ask one of his brother priests--Friar Benedict or another--to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice for him in private; because "sick though he was, he always wanted to have or hear Mass said, whenever it was possible to do so." {Mirror of Perfection, 6:87.} If even this consolation was denied him, he would have someone read the Gospel of the day in a Gospel-Book that had been copied by his express order. And he would say: "When I do not hear Mass, I pray and adore the Body of Christ by the look of the heart; just as in the Mass I see and adore Him." {Note of Brother Leo in St. Francis' breviary, preserved in the Basilica of St. Clare. See also Mirror of Perfection, 12:117.}

Effortlessly, Francis poured out at the foot of the altar those effusions of love with which the memory of the Passion and death of Christ inspired him. He, more than all others, found in Holy Mass the authentic and official means of uniting his personal sacrifice to that of the beloved Master.

"Penetrated with the reverence that these dread mysteries deserve, he offered up all his members as a holocaust; and whenever he received the Immolated Lamb, he delivered his his spirit over to those flames with which the altar of his heart was ever aglow." {II Celano, 152.}

Thus, "to let a day pass without hearing at least one mass when one was able to do so, was in his eyes the proof of a grave indifference." {Idem.}

[From 'Your Mass and Your Life,' to be continued . . .]