In this interview with ZENIT, Father Enzo Fortunato, who is also a professor at the Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure in Rome, explains that the saint, known for ecology, peace and poverty, was also a great promoter of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Q: What was the meaning of the Eucharist for St. Francis?
Father Fortunato: In Franciscan spirituality, discernment is very important, which St. Francis presented in relation with the Eucharist.
Discernment affects man's most important appointments before God, when he must make decisions. In Francis' writings, in the testament, in the letter he addressed to the whole order, and in the letter to all the faithful, the word discernment appears in relation with the Eucharist.
Francis presented the Eucharist as central for the life of each one, in his relationship with God, in his relationships with other brothers.
To encourage discernment before the Eucharist, it is as if St. Francis was saying to each one of us: When there are significant moments in your life and you must make decisions, stay before the Eucharist, and try to reason with faith, as faith leads us to discern and to see in the piece of bread and in the wine the presence of Christ. Francis wanted this reasoning, suffused with faith, to be applied to all decisions.
Q: What do the "Admonitions" say about the Eucharist?
Father Fortunato: Francis wrote the "Admonitions," exhortations for the different circumstances of life, all of them very brief.
The first one, however, is longer, and is dedicated almost entirely to the Eucharist. The text says: "Sublime humility and humble sublimity! That the lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, should humble himself to the point of hiding for our salvation in a piece of bread."
This passage of the admonition shows us that Francis is emotionally involved before the Eucharistic mystery. In this language we perceive a relevant aspect of our identity as Friars Minor. The central character of the Eucharist in the action of discernment gives value to decisions of minority and fraternity that characterizes St. Francis and the Franciscans.
Q: Francis' most famous writing is perhaps the Canticle of the Creatures. How is this Eucharistic vision of life present in that composition?
Father Fortunato: The Eucharist is the source of that thanksgiving that Francis gives vent to in the Canticle of the Creatures, as element of praise of existence.
In the canticle is perceived all God's goodness for man. Animate and inanimate nature is a gift of the Lord, and Francis matures his first gratitude before the Eucharist.