The Transitus of St Francis is a Franciscan ritual celebrated each year on October 3.
The Transitus or celebration of the passing of St Francis from this life to eternal life has become an important moment of celebration in the communal life of Franciscans everywhere. Although the celebration of a Transitus does not belong to Franciscans exclusively, (1) it is a time when Franciscans stop, breathe, remember and honor the Saint who is so responsible for our life, lifestyle and vision. More important, it helps us mark a time in St. Francis’ life that reminds us of his humanity, frailty, faults and glory.
For the first friars, and especially those who were with him as he prepared to die, it was a time to grieve, to let go, to weep and feel the pain of his loss. Anyone who has had the privilege of helping another die, especially a family member, knows the importance of this time. Bitter memories can be recalled and gently released. Powerful moments of transformation can be remembered with gratitude. And the key moments of our faith life and journey can be revisited in order that they become the memories we rely upon when we feel lost or empty.
I remember the last time I saw my father alive with great clarity. He had been moved to a nursing home not of our family's choosing because he was a Medicaid patient who had to accept whatever Medicaid allowed. Though not terrible, it was a dark place and stuffy with the heat of September. Dad had been unable to speak after suffering a debilitating stroke in early July, but he could squeeze your hand and open his eyes in recognition of your presence. I was about to leave him for the final time and return to New York but God gave me the grace to tell him goodbye and that I did not expect to see him alive again. He squeezed my hand in what I took to be acceptance. I kissed him and left in tears, but also with a great peace. Dad had been hanging on for months and it was time for him to let go and receive the rewards of his gentle life. Saying goodbye is painful but important and God had allowed me this gift.
Today, pray to let go of anything that holds you back from living an authentic gospel life.
How do think Christians ought to think about and celebrate death?