Dr. David Allen
Frank was a spoilt child and his proud father hoped that, in the fullness of time, the lad would take over the family textile business. It was a very lucrative trade; and the father travelled far and wide buying luxury bales and rolls of cloth for resale to the growing middle class of the town and region.
Frank became a wild young man who led a bunch of other youths who got drunk and enjoyed pranks around the town to the annoyance of the more staid citizenry. Later on he and others got in deeper trouble when skirmishes arose between them and a neighbouring city. Frank was kidnapped, spent some time in their local jail and eventually fell ill. Once released and returned home, he began taking stock of his life. In his introspection he felt a deep lack of hope and satisfaction and, in his inner darkness, he began to pray. Frank underwent a transformation and, one day soon after, he heard Jesus speaking to him: “Frank, build my church!” Then he started to do just that by beginning to repair a little crumbling chapel nearby and then approached a priest to resume the services there. His father was not amused and told him not to waste his time but set to work in the business. And, to make it worse, Frank heard the same request he had heard before, “Build my church!”. Perhaps the Lord was not pleased either! So what should he do? Was he to begin a whole new career of church rebuilding?
Eventually the truth dawned on him: the church to be built was not of stone, wood or tiles but of men and women transformed by preaching the Gospel. That was the true building the Lord required of him in the very same way the first disciples had. The Church is not a building but Christian people built together to worship, to work for God and serve the needs of others! Frank’s example attracted a number of others and soon the numbers swelled. Preaching in the vernacular and helping the sick, lame and poor, the brethren spread near and far, in the region and beyond. When entering a village Frank would greet the folk with a cheery “Good morning, good people!”
By this time you will have surely noticed that Frank’s story is, of course, that of St Francis of Assisi, founder of a movement which transformed the mediaeval Church. And their abiding message to us is this: an authentic Christian is one who is not only a person of faith but also someone who is useful, helpful and cheerful. Such people change whole communities!