By Sister Joan Tuberty
The Franciscan Tradition preserves a ritual of remembrance of the deaths of both St. Francis and St. Clare. It is held on the eve, prior to the celebration of their lives on their feast days. ThIs is called THE TRANSITUS, the remembrance of their having made peace with death and dying. Joseph Campbell in his writing, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, highlights the significance of the last act of a hero as expressed in his death. He says that the hero would be no hero at all if death held him in terror, if there was no reconciliation with the grave, for it is in this moment that the whole sense of one’s life is epitomized. Much is recorded about our saint and hero, St. Francis of Assisi, in his last days and final hour.
Francis died at age 42, surrounded by his Franciscan brothers. You are encouraged to join with others in a Transitus Ritual or to create your own. In this prayerful remembrance, Francis continues to teach us in the 21st Century how to make peace with death. As he lay dying he prayed Ps. 142 and requested the reading aloud of St. John’s Gospel, chapter 13. We continue to treasure his final words. “I am on my way to God and I commend you to His favor. I have done what is mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours to do!” “Welcome, my Sister, bodily death.” With this profound and final surrender he fell asleep in God.