It's hard to imagine how he must have felt. Francis was old and crippled, nearly blind and he had received the stigmata. Every movement must have been a trial, but still he traveled. Still he offered himself for Christ's church. Still he helped build it, just as he had been asked. And still the stones, the living stones, fell...
He was met at the edge of town by the villagers. It's easier to imagine how they felt: hurt, betrayed, angry, and confused. They knew that their only priest was deep in sin. They poured out their hearts to this living saint until one of them, the natural leader of the group, quieted the rest and told the story, simply and passionately. Please, you can help us. Please, make it right.
And it's far too easy to imagine how the village priest felt when he heard the knock on his door and looked out to see the crippled man who had made his way to the cottage. His hands shook as he pulled open the door, his face flushed as he stood with more defiance than he felt in the presence of such holiness, preparing himself to defy chastisement, preparing to offer excuses. He'd invented many over the years and in the long nights when his conscience worried him.
The old man fell to his knees, his face raised to the man above him and he felt for the priest's hands until he found them. The village priest let his hands be drawn into the firm and gentle grasp, and felt the raw wound in the saint's palm on the back of his own hand. The old man bent his head and touched his lips to the cool, upturned palms. The priest’s hands grew damp from tears.
At length, the old man let them fall, and spoke. Was it more to himself than to the people who had brought him to this place? Either way, his quiet words echo down to us today.
"All I know, and all I need to know, is that these hands bring me Jesus." Francis returned another living stone to its proper place.
Our priests make Christ present to us in many ways, some liturgical and some not. Like Francis, they bring living stones into their rightful place.
This work is offered in thanksgiving for the wonderful gift of the Catholic Church and the unique and precious men who are our Bishops and our Priests.