I was in Assisi in 2004 on the very day that Pope Benedict was elected. It was early evening and my friend and I stepped into a bar to see if the white smoke had risen from the Sistine Chapel. Indeed it had, and the TV was just announcing that Cardinal Ratzinger, a German, was the new pope. The owners of the bar, husband and wife, looked disgusted, turned off the TV, and went about closing up for the night. On the street outside a little nun, all by herself in the middle of the street, clasped her hands in gratitude. She had a ‘papa’.
Although my daughter and I only spent twenty-four hours in Assisi, I find that with each visit I feel a closer affinity to this little town on the hill, this hometown of St. Francis, this town that calls out to us to care for the earth, the animals, the poor. I sense that everyone who visits here, everyone who lives here, loves St. Francis. Many are Roman Catholic and of course one sees many Franciscan monks and nuns. But there are also the rest of us who, with our own thoughts about saints, know that St. Francis energy can only benefit us and the world. It’s already affected Pope Francis.