St. Francis and a Family Reunion of Cosmic Proportions

Francis and the Wolf at Gubbio
Detail from the Life of Francis Windows (photo: Ron Ross)

October 4 is the Church’s official day for commemorating St. Francis of Assisi.  At All Souls we will honor Francis with Evening Prayer and the Blessing of Animals on Saturday, October 6.  Parishioners, neighbors, and friends of several species will gather in the front garden of the church at 3 p.m.   On Sunday, October 7, some of our music and prayers in Mass will also reflect a Franciscan spirit.

Especially in the “Canticle of the Creatures,” Francis personalizes creation.  He sings of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, and Sister Water.  Fire is his brother, the earth his mother, and even death itself is a sister who will one day embrace him with love and welcome. At first glance, such words can seem sweet and romantic.

But Franciscan scholar Leonardo Boff points out that Francis is anything but a romantic.  Contemporary romanticism involves projecting feelings onto and into creation, to imagine the created order being the way we want or desire it to be.  Boff argues that Francis does something very different.  Francis listens for the message that arises out of nature itself.  Francis lives out his Canticle in such a way as to make it less about himself than about being brother and sister with all created things and their Maker.  This includes all people, as well:  rich and poor, local and foreign, Christians and non-Christians.        

Before Francis, the creation was understood in hierarchical terms, especially by the Church.  God was on top, then came humanity as “lord of creation,” establishing a vertical arrangement of power and authority.  Francis, according to Boff, invites us into a horizontal dimension: “If all are children of God, all are brothers and sisters to one another.  All live in the same Great House of the Father.  All acquire a deep intimacy with all things” (Francis of Assisi: A Model for Human Liberation, 33). 

Remembering St. Francis, reflecting on his life, and listening to his challenging words invites us to regard all creation as our family.  For that reason, St. Francis Day is a good time for a family reunion of a cosmic order. 

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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