‘Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth,
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust,
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace,
May peace fill our hearts; our world, our universe,
Peace, peace, peace.’
The Transitus of Saint Francis
On the evening of 3rd October, Franciscans and their friends all over the world celebrate what we call Francis’ passing from death to life, which took place on 3rd October 1226. ‘Transitus’ is a Latin word which means crossing over. Francis had followed the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ so closely that at the end of his earthly life he had a certain hope of crossing over with Christ from mortality to everlasting life. In the confidence of this faith, he felt moved even to welcome death as his Sister and to praise God for her. Francis’ holy death on 3rd October 1226 remains to this day an inspiration to Franciscans worldwide. Our commemoration of his passing represents for us the reason for the hope that we hold in following Jesus Christ. It reminds us that if, like Francis, we model our lives on the Gospel, receiving everything from God with gratitude and holding back nothing that we can give of ourselves, we too can face death without fear. Sister Death becomes simply the completion of the gift of our earthly lives back to God. With Francis, we can then look forward to passing over with Christ into the joy of eternal life with God.
St. Bonaventure, inspired by the Transitus of his founder St. Francis, writes:
‘So it is that, though Francis, God invites all truly spiritual persons to this sort of passing over, more by example than by words.’
Let us die, then, and enter into this darkness. Let us silence all our cares, our desires, and our imaginings. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ ‘from this world to the Father’, so that when the Father has been shown to us, we may say with Philip: ‘“It is enough for us.”’ Let us hear with Paul: ‘”My grace is sufficient for you”’ (Jn 13:1; 14:8; 2Cor 12:9); and let us exult with David, saying: ‘My flesh and my heart waste away; you are the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever. Blessed be the Lord forever, and let all the people say: “let it be, let it be. Amen (Pss 73:26; 106:48).”’
Cirino, A. and J. Raischl, The Journey Into God: A Forty Day Retreat with Bonaventure, Francis and Clare (St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, 2002) p. 400.
Ibid. p. 402.