Wandering the hillsides near his home, he found a small abandoned chapel and knelt in prayer before a painted wooden crucifix. So deep and sincere were his prayers that the image of Christ became a living reality and spoke to him: “Rebuild my church,” Jesus said, “which has fallen into ruin.” The year was 1205, and that man is known today as St. Francis of Assisi.
For the past month we’ve been visiting our community near Assisi, and a few days ago we went to San Damiano, the little chapel where St. Francis heard Christ speak and began his mission. We, too, prayed here, and although eight hundred years have passed since Christ appeared to Francis, the deep interiorized power of his experience still lingers.
As Paramhansa Yogananda explains, the Christ consciousness, the conscious presence of God in creation, exists everywhere at all times. But when we call to Him with deep intensity and devotion, God speaks to us in the form we worship.
A friend living at Ananda Assisi shared with us a story, similar to that of St. Francis, of how God spoke to her. The experience took place when she was fifteen years old and living in the town of Calabria in southern Italy. Every year on a certain date there is a procession in which a large statue of the Madonna is carried through the streets of the town, and then returned to the church. At the end of the procession, our friend knelt before the Madonna, who became a living presence and spoke to her, saying “You are the only one who has come to see Me.” “But, Holy Mother,” she replied, “the church is filled with people.” “Yes, My child,” the Madonna said, “but you are the only one who has come to see Me. The others have come to be seen.” The Divine Mother then asked her to build a shrine in a specific area outside of town, which, after much difficulty and several miracles, she was able to do.
God speaks when we converse in His language: utter, selfless love.
In his poem, “Breathe in Me,” Yoganandaji wrote:
You may hide behind the ocean,
You may hide behind delusion,
You may hide behind life, . . .
But you cannot hide behind my love,
For in the mirroring light of my love
You are revealed.
May we all know such love,