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Confirmation P1 March 24th or 26th

Tonight we reviewed our Franciscan roots by taking a closer look at the San Damiano Cross. Read  more about the cross, take a closer look (below) and then answer the questions. 

/cuteUploads/Confirmation/San_Damiano_Cross.pdf 

 You might say St. Mary's has two patron saints. Our parish is officially “Our Lady of the Assumption”. But being a Franciscan parish we also claim Saint Francis of Assisi as our patron saint (special protectors or guardians over areas of life) Saint Francis (1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was a Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the Franciscan Order, assisted in founding the woman’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Francis of Assisi is honored by the Catholic Church as the patron saint of animals and ecology. His father was a prosperous merchant, and Francis planned to follow him in his trade, although he also had dreams of being a knight. After attempts to go into war and resulting illness, he had a dream in which God called him to his service. He returned to Assisi and began to care for the sick. In 1206, he had a vision in which Christ called him to repair His Church. Francis interpreted this as a command to repair the church of San Damiano, near Assisi. He resolved to become a hermit, and devoted himself to repairing the church. His father, angry and embarrassed by Francis' behavior, imprisoned him and brought him before the bishop as disobedient. Francis abandoned all his rights and possessions, including his clothes. Two years later he felt himself called to preach, and was soon joined by companions. When they numbered eleven he gave them a short Rule and received approval from Pope Innocent III for the brotherhood, which Francis called the Friars Minor. Our pastor and priests are members of this order. On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX.

San Damiano Cross is the one before which St. Francis was praying when he received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church. The original cross presently hangs in the Basilica of Santa Chiarra (St.Clare) Church in Assisi, Italy. All Franciscans cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God. The cross is called an icon cross.

An unknown Umbrian artist painted the Crucifix Icon in the 12th Century. There is strong Syrian influence, and history tells us that there had been some Syrian monks in the area.
It is painted on wood (walnut) to which cloth had been glued. It is about 6 feet 2 inches high, 3 feet 11 inches wide and 4.7 inches thick. It is more than likely that it was painted for San Damiano church in order to hang it over the Altar as the Blessed Sacrament was not preserved in non-Parish Churches of those times. It was the case especially of those churches that had been abandoned and neglected as we know San Damiano had been. In 1257 the Poor Clares left San Damiano for San Giorgio and took the Crucifix with them. They have preserved the Cross carefully for 700 years. In the Holy Week of 1957, it was placed on public view for the first time over the new Altar in San Giorgio's Chapel in the Basilica of St Clare of Assisi.
The Crucifix contains the story of the death, resurrection and ascension into glory. It expresses the total and universal Paschal Mystery of Christ. This Crucifix in its serene majesty portrays the presentation of St. John's Gospel where Christ's death is presented in its salvific dimensions. It is not surprising that Saint Francis was attracted to this Icon and that the inspiration for his life came from this Christ who spoke to him "Go repair my Church ... “

 The Symbolism in the Cross

Francis began his mission as a penitent, that is, a person converted to the Lord. He adopted the garb and lifestyle of the penitents of his day and went about begging stones to rebuild San Damiano. Folks thought that the playboy merchant had become a madman, but to their taunts and mud slinging, Francis simply offered his thanks and a blessing. As he lugged stones down the steep hill to San Damiano, he would sing. His singing rang out as he repaired the decaying walls. He sang as he trudged uphill, back to Assisi, to beg more rocks and to meet with more verbal and physical mockery. Nothing destroyed his joy. Francis knew that a life of penance is a life of joy or else it is not worthy of the name "conversion."


Only with the passage of time did Francis slowly come to realize that the message to rebuild God's house went beyond the three Assisian chapels which Francis repaired. God was calling Francis to rebuilt the Church itself, by becoming a unique and radical witness for Christ, in poverty, simplicity, and humility. In the same vein, Christ calls all penitents to rebuild the Catholic Church. Rebuild it by witnessing to the truth of the faith, by living lives centered on God and devoted to neighbor, by being people of prayer and selflessness. Not easy goals but the San Damiano cross portrays pictorial guideposts on how to do these very things.

When one gazes at the Crucifix of San Damiano, one is immediately captured by the wide open eyes and serene face of the Lord. The eyes seem to gaze gently into the penitent's soul, beckoning, "Come, follow Me." The face pleads but does not cajole. The invitation to become the Lord's is made with love yet freedom. Christ calls, but He does not force assent.

On the cross, Christ is both crucified and glorified, showing that the penitential life of joyful and voluntary self surrender for the sake of others is a humble self emptying that leads to our eternal glory. A small figure of a cock, alongside Christ's lower legs, recalls Peter's denial of Christ, a bitter reminder to penitents of our own sinfulness, which we offer to God as part of our own self-emptying. "Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinner." On the opposite side, is a very faint creature almost impossible to see. The figure, intentionally nearly invisible, is that of a cat or a fox, both symbols of secretive, sly acts of treachery and deceit. The towering, glowing figure of Christ overshadows both the rooster and the fox/cat. Christ has overcome both public sins like that of Peter and private, hidden sins that lurk in the dens of our souls. We can be forgiven of all if we gaze into the eyes of that Crucified God-Man and call out, "I believe. Forgive me. I give myself to You."

Behind Christ's outstretched arms is a long, black band that represents the empty tomb. Above Him radiate the glories of heaven. The Father's Hand at the top of the icon blesses us who venerate the image as well as the Ascended Christ who enters glory, surrounded by welcoming angels and saints. The Father's two extended fingers, in granting the blessing, grant the Holy Spirit as well, coming from the Father to be with us forever. Thus we have hope that, because of our voluntary giving of self to God and to neighbor, we, too, will overcome eternal death and enter eternal life, won for us by the Sinless One Who took our sins upon Himself and Who died voluntarily for us so that we might live for Him.

Christ stands on a solid black mass which represents the Rock of the Catholic Church. On the foundation of the Church, which, in the Pope and Magisterium support Christ, we penitents can feel secure.

Below this Rock, almost obliterated by thousands of kisses placed at the foot of this cross, are haloed saints whom we cannot identify. Scholars postulate that these may be patron saints of the churches of Assisi: Saints Damian, Rufinus, Michael, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul. However, no one is certain who these saints are. Because we cannot identify them, these saints remind us of the unknown multitudes who were washed in the Blood of Christ, who remained solidly within the Church, and who reign with Christ in heaven. They are humbly placed beneath the feet of Christ for they recognize that He is their Lord and Master. So must we realize the same.

Around the cross are clustered holy followers of Christ who are models for penitents. First stands Our Lady, the sinless Virgin whose only response to God's Will was always a "yes." To her, the Confraternity and all its members are dedicated. May we honor her daily as she intercedes for us.

Next to her, sharing a smile for they know that Our Lord lives, is St. John the Evangelist, Christ's beloved apostle who spoke so eloquently of the divinity and of the love of Christ. It's wise for penitents to read his Gospel frequently and to meditate well on it. The blood from Christ's pierced heart is spurting on John, who is representative of all humanity. We are all bathed in the living, ever flowing sacrificial love of Christ, a love so profoundly intense that it led to His incarnation, life on earth, Passion, and death.

On the opposite side of the Crucifix stands Mary Magdalene, she who loved the Lord so sincerely that she would not even abandon Him at His grave. Her hand is to her mouth, as is Our Lady's Hand. The two women, who loved Christ best, are sharing the deepest feelings of their hearts with those who listen to them. What can these two women teach us about a pure and total love of the Lord? If only we could hear what they are saying! Perhaps if we pray, the Holy Spirit will grant our hearts insights into their selfless and pure love.

Listening intently to Mary Magdalene is Mary Clopas, another woman who came to the tomb with Mary Magdalene, to anoint the dead body of the Lord. These two women typify the intense and courageous devotion which penitents ought to have for Christ, a devotion that persists no matter how difficult life may become.

Last in line, is a figure who may represent either of two men. Perhaps this red robed gentleman without a halo represents the centurion who was captured by Christ at the very hour of our Lord's death. The bearded figure is oblivious to the crowd. His gaze is fixed on Christ, just as was the gaze of that centurion whose conversion came about because he witnessed the crucifixion. The wood which he holds in his hand could be symbolic of his role in erecting the cross or in fastening the inscription over it which reads "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." The centurion is holding up three fingers which indicate the Trinity. He now knows, "Truly this man was the Son of God." As the circumstances of the centurion's conversion point out, the past makes no difference and the future does not count where conversion is concerned. The right time for conversion is always now.

Behind the centurion are the heads of many others. These may be those multitudes who witnessed the crucifixion. The only figure whose face is visible is the one in front and he is frowning. This figure may represent those who mocked Christ, taunting Him to come down from the cross and save Himself. The grumpy looking man and the heads behind him remind us that we have a choice--we can believe and smile as the other major figures are doing, or we can reject Christ and be devoid of spiritual happiness.

There is an alternative symbolism for the bearded, red robed man and the small figures behind him. Perhaps this man represents the centurion whose story is told in the Gospels of Luke (7:1-10) and Matthew (8:5-13). Luke's story reveals that this centurion was a supportive of the Jewish community and had built for them a synagogue, represented by the wood which this figure holds. The centurion had asked Jesus to cure his servant but did not feel it was necessary for Christ to enter his house to do so. "I am not worthy to have you come under my roof," the centurion said. "Just say the word and my servant will be healed." The words recall what Catholics profess at every Mass before the reception of the Eucharist. The man's gaze so fixed on Christ admonishes us to see Him in the Eucharistic Presence and to adore Him as this man is doing.

In this interpretation, the small head behind the centurion is the cured servant and the heads behind him the members of the centurion's household, all of who came to believe in Christ because of the miracle of the servant's cure. We are reminded that God's workings in our lives are expansive. What He does for one can bring many others to Him.

Two small Roman figures are on either side of the cross as well. One seems to signify the soldier who offered Jesus a taste of sour wine. The other could possibly be the centurion who pierced the side of Christ with a lance. These men are sad symbols of those who are just "doing their jobs," without regarding the moral nature of their work. As penitents we need to beware of engaging in any activity that is not morally sound.

In the red border around the cross are scrolls that recall tendrils of vines. They bring to mind Christ's admonition that He is the vine while we are but branches. To bear fruit, we must remain in Him. A life of penance, conversion, must be rooted in Christ.

The Crucifix is bordered with golden scallop shells, ancient symbols of baptism. In baptism, we are made new, our sins removed by the grace of the God-Man Who died for us in agony. Penitents must daily renew their baptismal promises to reject satan and embrace the fullness of the faith. This we do by twice daily praying both the Apostle's Creed and Psalm 51.

The wounds of Christ are spurting blood which pours down upon the figures of the cross and upon us. The crucifixion is not something that happened once and can be thought of as a past event. The crucifixion is timeless in the mind of God to Whom all time is now. Christ's agony is real and immediate. He suffers now for our sins and for the sins of all. His fresh and flowing wounds call us to give our life blood for the sake of others, as He did, in loving service to all.

The loincloth that girds the figure is white for purity and chastity, virtues to which all penitents are called, yet bordered in gold, the garb of a king. The cloth is tied with three knots, reflecting the purity and kingly nature of the Trinity. The cloth reminds us that pure and holy lives are the only lives worthy of penitents, and the only lives that will lead to glory.

The hair that cascades down Christ's shoulders plaits into three locks on His left shoulder and three on His right, with Christ's head in the center. The six locks of hair recall the six days of Creation, while the head of Christ indicates the Lord of that creation and the Commandment that He be honored on the seventh day. Penitents are to honor the Solemnity of the Sabbath and keep it holy for the Lord and, likewise, to keep holy all other Solemnities of the Church.

The halo behind Christ's head is radiant and huge. It portrays a cross, too, yet a glorified one, reminding us that holiness is possible only through embracing of the cross of Christ. The way of the cross leads to glory.

The primary colors of the crucifix are black, gold, and red. Black for sin and penance, red for sacrifice and love, and gold for glory. The colors alone are a sermon on conversion. May we repent of our sins, be willing to sacrifice for and love others and the Lord, and be rewarded with eternal glory.
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Confirmation P1 Makeup March 24th Or 26th
Your full name*
Your regular meeting day/time (Sunday 6:00 or Sunday 7:45 or Tuesday 7:00*
Can you find the rooster that symbolizes Peter's denial of Christ? If so, where was it?*
Look at Jesus' garment. What do you think the white symbolizes? The gold trim? The 3 knots?*
Find the out stretched hand of God. What is God doing?*
Find the long black band behing Jesus' arems. What do you thing that symbolizes?*
There are 2 large figures to the left of Jesus. Who are they?*
There are 3 large figures to the right of Jesus. Who are they?*
The man in the red cloak is holding up 3 fingers. What does that represent? Who is the small face peeking over his shoulder?*
Who do you think the smaller figures at their feet are?*
Find the black mass at the feet of Jesus. It represents a rock. What do you think the rock represents?*
Jesus has 6 locks or curls of hair on his shoulders. What did God do in 6 days? *
There is Latin writing above Jesus' head. What does it say?*
Above the writing we see a smaller Jesus breaking out of a circle. Who are the people waiting for him and where are they?*
who are the singed figures below Jesus' hand?*
Who are the two women at Jesus' right and left hands?*
Who are the blurred people below Jesus' feet?*
Your email address*