Andrew Tran is a participant the Franciscan At-One-Ment Mission Project—a summer discernment internship which includes living with the Friars while studying in Rome about “Ecumenical and Interreligious Movements from a Catholic Perspective.”
“Hey Andrew, do you see that little town on top of that mountain? That’s Assisi.” said Father Jim.
I slid onto the edge of my seat of the train to get a better view. That’s it! That’s the town of the great, little Saint of poverty and where it all started. I couldn’t believe I would be able to walk in the footsteps of the man who I always admired. How is it possible that one man started with nothing from that mountain and now has been known all over the world for his pure joy for the gospel? I was so eager to not only learn about him, but to live like him by seeing what he saw, feeling what he felt, and knowing what he knew.
One day we finally visited the Basilica of St. Francis. For such a large abode, it actually was quite comforting with the simple brick walls, wooden designs, and intricate frescos. I always thought that the basilicas in Rome were too overwhelming with the majestic statues and the royal architecture, but in the Basilica of St. Francis the walls told a narrative of his life that allowed us to walk in his level.
When we visited the saint’s tomb, we all knelt before his sepulcher and prayed in reverence. I remember slowing walking to the stone walls and thinking, “Wow, this is the man. That’s really him.” I knelt and slowly grasped the metal bar on the outer surface. Suddenly, within the depths of my soul, I heard a cheerful, hearty laugh.
“Take it easy, bud. You’re doing fine. There’s such a joy, huh? Always rejoice. It’s going to be painful but don’t forget to laugh and make a good story out of it. Now get up and do something great! Hahahaha…”
I smiled. All my life I thought that I was crazy for always having a constant rhythm in my heart that makes me want to move and sensing a presence so beautiful all around me yet I did not know what it is. But Francis knew, Francis understood, Francis embraced it. And I felt such consolation in knowing that there was something so eternal in this simple joy for life by acknowledging it as a gift. I stood up from my prayer and quietly nodded. Thanks, Brother Francis, I guess I’m not that crazy after all.