Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4th)

4 Oct

St. Francis of Assisi

I wanted to be sure and not miss adding a post to mark this important feast. I haven’t had the time today to compose a regular entry as I would have wished. So what I decided to do is simply place here for your reflection and prayer two readings I have chosen as the focus of my own prayer and reflection today. It is my intent to follow this up with my own written reflection to share with you tomorrow.

Perhaps the fact that I couldn’t get around to writing a full-blown post is a good thing! I am inviting and encouraging each of you reading my blog to meditate on these readings and subsequently share with us your own personal reflections in the form of a comment here.

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), as you probably know, is not only honored as a saint by Christians everywhere, be they Roman Catholics [like myself] or Protestant, Anglican, or Orthodox, but he is likewise honored and embraced as a holy man by countless others beyond the boundaries of Christianity, including many Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and even atheists!

Thus, in his honor, I present to you these two readings for you to ponder, as  I believe that they each capture important elements of his spirit that I would like to emulate. Taken together, these readings provide us with windows into the soul of a mystic who, because of his spiritual poverty, lived in a continual state of spiritual wonder and joy, ever attuned to the closeness of God’s presence in creation around him:

READING #1: An excerpt from Thomas Celano’s “Life of Blessed Francis”

In every work of the artist

he praised the artist;

whatever he found in the things made

he referred to the Maker.

He rejoiced in all the works of the hands of the Lord

and saw behind things pleasant to behold their life-giving reason and cause.

In beautiful things, he saw Beauty itself;

all things were to him good.

“He who made us is the best,” they cried out to him.

Through his footprints impressed upon things

he followed the Beloved everywhere;

he made for himself from all things

a ladder by which to come even to his (i.e., God’s) throne

…for that original goodness

that will be one day all things in all,

already shown forth in this saint

– all things in all.

(Celano, CXXIV, 269-270)

READING #2: ST. FRANCIS’ PRAYER “CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES”:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

*Alternately, here is a marvelous video adaptation of St. Francis’ Canticle that you might find to be a good supplement to the above reading of the prayer . . .

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2 Responses to “Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4th)”

  1. Gregg Wandsneider October 5, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    I wonder what Selano meant when he said that “all things in all” were shown forth through this saint. Surely, God is the only person that can be “all things in all.” I am thinking of the Christian doctrine that says that God a lone is onmiscient.
    Regarding the prayer, Francis had, what we modern Christians would now call, a native American understanding of spirituality. That is, he labelled things like “brother fire,” and “sister mother Earth.” In fact, when he mentioned all the creatures who were giving praise to God, human beings were one of the last creatures mentioned. I think sometimes we take such an arrogant human-centered view of things thinking that human beings are the only ones who can truly praise God, because that’s what he has made us to do. I love the verse in Psalms where the Psalmist refers to the trees clapping there hands and giving praise to God.
    He even referred to “sister bodily death.” I am not sure how many Christians are comfortable with that terminology. We think of death as something to be feared, even scorned. He realizes that, for the person who has put their hope in God, death is simply more life! Both of these passages point out the goodness of God! n I believe this is similar to Augustinian thought.

  2. TexasTom46 October 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Hi, Gregg…What a wonderfully insightful comment! I loved the parallel you pointed out between Francis’ vision of creation and that found within Biblical theology. Francis recognized the intimate tie we have as humans and the rest of creation. In the symbolism of Genesis, we too are of the earth (“Adam” could be translated as “dirt clod”); thus Franciscan spirituality highlights the “imago dei” that is present not only in humans but in all of God’s “creatures” (animate and non-animate). Hence we find Francis relating to everything around him as part of the family of God. In any case, I thought your tying this to the scriptural imagery of creation making its own praise to God was excellent! (See, for example, Ps. 98:8 “The rivers shall clap their hands, the mountains shall rejoice together” and Is. 55:12 “…the mountains and hills will burst out into song, and all the trees in the countryside will clap their hands.”) St. Francis, being both a poet and a mystic, was able to (in a way most of us can hardly appreciate) see and hear the silent music of the Spirit that is ever-present in the world of nature around us. We moderns, especially, live in a world that is marked too much by noise and artificial diversions to be attuned to it. In fact, we are probably afraid of it!

    Finally, you are absolutely right about our modern aversion to death. I won’t even get started on this (I taught a course called “Life, Death, and Medical Ethics” for 15 years or more.) But we do need to come to terms with the naturalness and inevitability of death. Unfortunately, bad Christian exegesis of the story of the Fall in Genesis 2-3 has led many people to view physical death as somehow as a punishment for sin. In reality we should recognize that it is our FEAR of and AVOIDANCE of death that is a consequence of sin.

    Thanks for sharing your excellent thoughts! Keep them coming!

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