The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis of Assisi
Produced, written and directed by Gerard Thomas Straub
My encounter with St. Francis of Assisi changed my life. I once was a network television producer…and a committed atheist. St. Francis, by God’s grace, changed all that. In this film, I will return to the place where my life was transformed, where I went from an atheist to a pilgrim, from denying God to wanting to experience more and more of God. I think of the film as homecoming celebration and a visual love poem to Francis. But more than that, the film hopes to probe the deeper meaning of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, and what that life has to say to my life, and hopefully to the lives of the viewers.
The Loneliness and Longing of St. Francis of Assisi, besides being an impressionistic pilgrimage diary “written” as I journey to churches in Rome, the Rieti Valley, Assisi and La Verna, will trace my interior steps as I attempt to journey deeper into contemplation and the spiritual awakening that took place in an empty church in Rome in March of 1995, an experience which led to the writing of a book on St. Francis, which in turn led me to many of the worst slums of on earth. The film will be a “video scrapbook” of a 28 day trip beginning in September of 2008 and ending just after the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th, and five subsequent and shorter trips in the following year. Art, creativity, prayer and spirituality will fill every frame. The film will progress on two levels: the physical journey through the land of St. Francis of Assisi and the spiritual journey as I try to go deeper into the heart of God.
Each of us is, ultimately, alone on our journey through life. Each of us longs for something beyond what can be found on earth. Within each of us there is a loneliness and a longing. St. Francis of Assisi longed for God beyond all measure. And his intense longing took him to places few had traveled to, places deep within himself and places far from Assisi. On his journey to God he traveled down a very lonely road. The loneliness and longing within each us is a very basic way for each of us to connect with St. Francis.
The film’s theme reflects the heart of Franciscan spirituality, which understands that while finding God in the world, in pain and suffering is essential, we must always remember that social action needs to be tempered and nurtured by contemplation. The “spiritual journey” narration will acknowledge my own personal struggles with prayer and periods of spiritual dryness. We will travel via train and bus to various towns that played important roles in the life and journey of St. Francis.
St. Francis belongs to all humanity, and the film hopes to reintroduce the saint to a world sorely in need of his insights, insights garnered from a life of prayer and poverty. Francis had only one desire: the reconciliation of humanity with God, itself and nature. Bathed in the brilliance of the golden Umbrian sunlight, the film will take us on a journey to the heart of Francis so we may share in his dream.