Of all the saints, perhaps Francis is the most popular and well known. His joyous faith is found in many of his writings. In a little town in Italy, nearly eight hundred years ago, Francis of Assisi renounced everything he owned to follow Christ with passionate and single-minded abandon. Even today, centuries later, this simple saint draws people around the world to Francis’ story of living in humility, love, and joy.
Perhaps his most familiar writings are:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (A Prayer attributed to St. Francis, BCP 833).
Canticle of the Sun
Be praised, my God, for all your creatures, and first for brother sun, who makes the day bright and luminous. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor, he is the image of you, Most High.
Be praised, my God, for sister moon and the stars, in the sky you have made them brilliant and precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my God, for brother wind and for the air both cloudy and serene and every kind of weather, through which you give nourishment to your creatures.
Be praised, my God, for sister water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Be praised, my God, for brother fire, through whom you illuminate the night. And he is beautiful and joyous and robust and strong.
Be praised, my God, for our sister, mother earth, who . . . watches over us and brings forth various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my God, for our sister, bodily death, from who no living thing can escape. Blessed are htose whom she finds doing your most holy will . . .
Praise and bless my God and give thanks to God and serve God with great humility. One instant is eternity; eternity is the now. When you see through this one instant, you see through the one who sees.
Many churches relate Francis to his love of nature and animals and hold services in which people bring their pets for a blessing. Perhaps our reflection on the simple things such as the unconditional love of a pet that is so dependent on its master is a good metaphor as to how Francis would have us depend on God for all that we need.
- Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone by Susan Pitchford. Ms. Pitchford tells her own story of the Franciscan life, as a member of the Third Order, founded by Francis himself so that people from all walks of life can follow the saint’s ideal, without leaving their homes or their occupations. Pitchford learned that the Franciscan tradition isn’t the exclusive possession of monks cloistered in a monastery, but a spiritual path for ordinary people living in the twenty-first century. Organized around the Rule of St. Francis, this book – a wonderful resource for private devotion or group study – shows readers what it means to live out the Christian life with a Franciscan accent.
- The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare offers links and resources for animal blessings, liturgies for the loss of animal companions, and other information.
- Blessing of Animals liturgy from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in a ready-to-use bulletin format.
- Lessons about St. Francis from the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi.
- The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC) offers many links and ideas for animal blessings.
- The Franciscan Archive, a website devoted to sharing information about St. Francis and the Order of Franciscans.
- Readings and biography of St. Francis for October 4th
- Homily given by The Rev. Dr. Ellen Davis at Duke Divinity School Chapel on the Blessing of Animals in 2004.