I ask You for three gifts
Brother Francis entered the dusky church and once his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness he knelt reverently at the foot of the altar and stared at the Byzantine-style crucifix. He looked at it for a long time. It was a very distinct crucifix : it did not express pain, nor did it arouse pity. The figure had wide black eyes in which one saw the glory of God and all eternity. A strange combination of sweetness and majesty sheathed the entire figure which inspired trust and devotion.
Francis remained motionless, drawn by its expression of calm and peace. Love had a definite name, a definite figure and a passionate history: Jesus Christ on the Cross, giving his life for his friends. The image of the Crucified Christ penetrated Brother Francis’ soul like a flash of lightning, engraved itself by fire on his raw spirit, and time never healed the wound. Presumably, here is where the pilgrimage began which would end on the rocks of Mt. Alvernia, where his consummation would be complete.
This experience served as the key to the Franciscan rule, shaping its original character and spirit. From this moment on, according to St. Bonaventure, whenever Francis thought of the crucified Christ, only with great difficulty could he manage to hold back his tears.
Tradition has helped preserve Brother Francis’ prayer that morning. With his eyes fixed firmly on the majesty of the Byzantine Christ, he said:
“Glory be to God, my Lord Jesus Christ! You are the light of the world. Shine your light on the dark recesses of my spirit. Give me three gifts: faith, firm as a sword; hope, as wide as the world; love, as deep as the ocean. Further-more, my dear Lord, I ask one other favor: every morning at daybreak may your most holy will be known to me like the rising of the sun before my eyes, so that I might always walk in your light. And have pity on me, Jesus.”
Extracted from the book “ Brother Francis of Assisi” by Fr. Ignacio Larrañaga.