Yesterday was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is one of my most favorite saints for many reasons. I know he is a well-beloved saint by many, even those who are not Catholic. He is the patron saint of animals and ecology as he considered all living creatures his “brother” and “sister.” Francis has helped me to be more aware of the animals in my life and in this world. They are all creatures created by our Good God.
However, the main reason I love Francis is because of his connection to the unborn baby I lost 20 years ago this week. My husband was away on business when I went to the doctor for a regular check-up. On a whim, I asked him to check to see if I was pregnant because I had a “feeling” that something was going on inside my body. When I got the results, I cried out, “You were supposed to say that I was wrong!” Needless to say, it was not one of my most gracious moments in life.
I was terrified that I was going to have a baby as I didn’t feel like I knew what I would need to do (like anyone else ever does!). But after he gave me some time alone to calm down, I actually got excited about the new life growing inside of me, the life that somehow I just “knew” had been there even before any confirmation from the doctor. I went home and called my husband the news. He was overjoyed! That made me feel more comfortable with the idea and gave me more joy.
The date was October 1st when I found out I was pregnant. On the feast of St. Francis, I got such a sense that this baby wanted to be called Francis, after Francis of Assisi. I can’t explain why; I just know. However, it was only a few short days later that I lost the baby. I was seven weeks pregnant and was devastated. My husband came home early and we both cried and mourned our unborn son. We had decided to name our baby Giovanni Francesco as we both love anything and everything Italian. That was in 1999.
When we visited Assisi in 2007, we were asked by our tour guide if we knew what Francis’ real name was. The question was asked in Spanish, but since we were in Italy, I said, “Francesco” – Francis in Italian. After looking at me like I was being some smarty pants kid, she said, “His father wanted to call him Giovanni, but his mother wanted to call him Francesco, so his real name was Giovanni Francesco.” At this point I burst into tears. It felt so much like a confirmation of my son and Francis’ presence with us during this holy time.
Since then, every year I especially remember my Giovanni Francesco on October 4th, his patron saint’s feast day. I know that they are both helping me and accompanying my husband and me in this life, waiting for the time when we will meet face to face on the other side of this life. And I am so grateful for both of their presence in our lives.