Comfort in the Space Between Failure and New Hope

By Catherine Juliano

Catherine Juliano is a math and political science major at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She is assisting our communications coordinator. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


“Blessed is the servant who does not consider himself any better when he is praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, simple, and looked down upon, for what a person is before God, that he is and no more”— St. Francis of Assisi (Admonition XIX)

Who today does not feel overwhelmed by the discord and the urgency of events occurring all around us? It’s a deluge of upsetting news, and many of us feel so besieged by it that we need to retreat. Indeed, the political situation in the United States can leave many of us feeling spiritually impoverished as if God is far away. We are worried and anxious, not confident and secure. We resist feeling this way, but perhaps the only way around it is through it.

It hearkens back to one of the times in St. Francis’ life when he was probably feeling defeated. After fighting the neighboring Perugians and being held as a prisoner of war for a year by them, Francis returned to Assisi, no doubt beset by trauma. As he was praying before a crucifix in the dilapidated Church of San Damiano, Francis heard the voice of God tell him to “Go…repair my house.” This revelation led Francis to go to his earthly father’s store, take fabric and a horse, and sell them in town. Afraid of his father’s wrath, Francis hid in a cave, and when he finally came out, gaunt and dirty, his father, Pietro Bernardone, was so angry that he beat his son and locked him in a closet. After being released by his mother, Francis was taken before the bishop in the piazza where he stripped off his own clothes and handed them to his earthly father, thereby aligning himself with his heavenly Father.

The sign of greatness isn’t the absence of difficulty in one’s life but rather the ability to come back from the difficulty even stronger. Great nations decline, but they also recover. Social institutions fail, but they also come back. Likewise, great people disappoint us, and they fall. We can only imagine that this was the perspective of Pietro about his son. But we don’t always see the whole picture. As long as people get up again, there is always hope. The space in between the fall and the comeback is where God does much of His work. It’s the place where we learn to trust, pray, and wait. Pietro couldn’t have anticipated the thousands of friars who would come to follow Francis in his own lifetime. Perhaps we need to get comfortable in the spaces in between.

The rapacious caterpillar, hung up and asleep, has a transformed blueprint for the future. He could never foresee that beyond death, his body melts down into an orange, yellow, and black butterfly. So it was for Christ, and for Francis after he received the stigmata and died. So it is for us as we wait in the uncomfortable spaces for God to work in and through us in our uncertain world.

Published in: on October 3, 2019 at 10:37 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. a wonderful story of how one of the preeminent saints of this world started on his journey of faith and service.


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