14 May 2014

Sometimes it seems a book chooses you, rather than you it

This past weekend I returned to my beloved city of Assisi to join in the celebrations of Calendimaggio 2014, a medieval festival for which the City of Peace is known, in which the upper part of the city competes against the lower part of the city (I'll have a separate post on this later today or tomorrow).

As I was leaving the city late yesterday afternoon, I stopped in one of the local shops to have a look around and stayed much longer than I expected talking with the shopkeeper and arrived at the train station after my intended train departed. Since I had almost another two hours before the next train left for Rome, I took a little walk to visit the International Franciscan Bookstore in the piazza of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels build over the Portiuncula which has a very good selection of English books.

Browsing through the offerings, I told myself that I had enough "books to be read" sitting on my shelves as it was and that I did not need another book at this book. Still, as I was about to leave the store for a bite to eat as I awaited the train, the cover of one small little book caught my attention that I had earlier overlooked.

The cover of The Cross Was Their Book: Meditations on St. Francis' Prayer Before a Crucifix, by André Cirino, O.F.M. (Phoenix, Arizona: Tau Publishing, 2009), shows a photograph of a simple cross that stands at Mt. LaVerna where Saint Francis of Assisi received the stigmata in the year 1224.

I visited the holy mountain when I attended Quincy University in, I believe, 1998 while on a Franciscan Pilgrimage Experience and have been longing to return every since. However, the mountain is, as it were, off the beaten path.

The image caught my attention because I think I took the same picture those many years ago and because this weekend I will meet a group of alumni pilgrims from Quincy University in Assisi to go with them to Mount LaVerna. Thinking it might be good to read it before my little pilgrimage (it is only 78 pages, including the end notes), I sat down to read it yesterday and was very much impressed with it. Before I return to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois for a time this summer, I think I will use this book to make a private retreat in Assisi after I have taken my exams. You may find it helpful, as well.

In his introduction to the book, Father André explains the organization of the book:
This book centers on five themes found in this Prayer Before a Crucifix, namely, the themes of Light, Faith, Hope, Love and the Will of God. These themes animated Francis' prayer whenever he sat before a crucifix and they would have been for him a deep well from which to draw living water that nourished his meditation. So I have expanded each theme with one or more stories from the Franciscan sources which help illustrate the topic under consideration accompanied by my own reflection or meditation on each one (8).
Each of the five principle chapters concludes with suggested passages of Scripture to take to prayer and two questions for meditation.

Saint Francis' Prayer Before a Crucifix is one of my favorite prayers and I make use of it often. You might consider memorizing it, as well (it's very short):
Most high, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me right faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord,
that I may do
Your holy and true command.

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