Pope Francis has frequently spoken of St Francis and how his life and message are particularly relevant to the Church of our time.
During World Youth Day in Rio, at the Prayer Vigil, in which some 2 million youth participated, the Pope recalled the invitation from Christ that changed the life of Francis of Assisi. Praying before the Cross in the little ruined chapel of San Damiano he heard the invitation: 'Francis, go and rebuild my house!'
As part of the vigil a group constructed a 'church' on the huge stage - a symbol of our task to work with the Lord in constantly renewing his House, his People!
Pope Francis said: 'We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: "Francis, go, rebuild my house". The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house.'
However St Francis had to learn the deeper meaning of Christ’s invitation.
'But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.'
The Pope reminded the youth that this call of Christ was also given to them:
'Tonight, let us answer Christ: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!
Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world.'
And as he so often stresses - this sacred space we help rebuild must be 'roomy' enough for the whole world. Pope Francis has no time for an inward looking Church, caught up in itself.
'In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone!'