St francis of assisi

St. Francis is probably the best known of all saints because of his association with the care of Creation, especially animals. Francis is most frequently associated with the blessing of animals in October, but Advent (the season leading up to Christmas) is also an excellent time to engage with the saint because of Francis’ enchantment with the miracles of Christmas.

In Francis’ time in the 13th Century, Christmas was celebrated mostly by going to church, where priests would tell the Christmas story in Latin, a language that ordinary people didn’t speak. Francis wanted to offer a fresh sense of wonder regarding Christmas, to make the extraordinary experiences of the first Christmas more accessible to ordinary people.

In 1223, Francis set up a recreation of the Nativity in a nearby cave, complete with a carved Baby Jesus, people posing as Mary and Joseph, and live animals. People loved it, and thus began the Christmas tradition of nativity scenes.

Francis’ love for animals is an expression of how Franciscan spirituality is characterized by an attitude of reverence for God in all things and a deep appreciation of the goodness of creation as a reflection of God’s love. All creatures are worthy of our respect as sisters and brothers.

Francis was born in Assisi in central Italy. His gradual conversion began in the spring of 1205. He gave generously to the poor and stressed absolute simplicity of life marked by poverty, humility, and contemplation of Christ. Others found his way of life admirable and healing, and they gathered around him. On February 24, 1209, the Order of Friars Minor (Fratres minores) was founded. The Second Order of St. Francis, known as the Poor Clares, was established for nuns in 1219. The Third Order for lay men and women was founded in 1221. People in the Third Order took vows similar to the monks and nuns, but remained in their families and continued to work and live in the world. 

Francis is especially remembered for his writing “The Canticle of Brother Sun.” The hymn “Lord make us servants of your peace” is based on a prayer attributed to Francis. Francis died in Assisi and is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of saints on October 4. Many churches offer the Blessing of Animals on or near that day in memory of Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I 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.

Francis of Assisi 

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