Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 - 1226) is probably the most popular Christian saint. His radiant spirit is a beacon for those seeking a life of meaning and service. It does no good to put him on a pedestal; rather we should walk with St. Francis on the path of peace, openness, mysticism, poverty, reverence for nature, and love of animals. There are plenty of spiritual resources on his remarkable life and his spiritual practices.
To Name This Day:
- Express your gratitude. Adopt St. Francis's words "My God and my all!" as a sacred prayer and repeat it often through the day.
- Find a church in your community that celebrates the Blessing of the Animals. Many churches will have a special time during the service on Sunday. Take your pets (or pictures of them) and remember St. Francis's love of all beings as you participate in the service. As an alternative, you can offer your own service and invite friends. Here is an example created by Bear Ride in 2019 for the Pilgrim Place community in Claremont, California.
- Spend some quality time in the company of an animal. Here's a story from Living the Wisdom of St. Francis about how St. Francis communed with a bird:
"Once when Saint Francis was about to eat with Brother Leo he was greatly delighted to hear a nightingale singing. So he suggested to his companion that they would also sing praise to God alternately with the bird. While Leo was pleading that he was no singer, Francis lifted up his voice and, phrase by phrase, sang his duet with the nightingale."
- Take a spiritual journey to see how the spirit of Francis of Assisi has the power to liberate our lives today through "The Spirituality of St. Francis," an e-course by Jon M. Sweeney.
Watch the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It depicts the early life of St. Francis.
- An inspiring overview of the life of St. Francis from Robert Ellsberg's All Saints.
- Living the Wisdom of St. Francis by Wayne Simsic. The author claims that the little poor man of Assisi offers us a new consciousness, a new practice, and a new vision. He explores St. Francis's spiritual practice of kindness which was based upon courtesy and reverence toward all beings.
- The Ecstasies of St. Francis: The Way of Lady Poverty by John Ryan Haule. The author notes how this saint called for a radical reversal of values to put the emphasis on generosity and dependence on God's grace. He also looks at St. Francis's wonderful connection with the natural world and his closeness with animals, who could sense his inward peace and kindness.
- A Model for Human Liberation by Leonardo Boff in which he calls this saint is called "an archetype of the human ideal: open to God, universal brother, and caretaker of nature and Mother Earth." In five sections, Boff covers his life and finds there a model of gentleness and care, his preferential option for the poor, his liberation through goodness and service of others, his creation of a popular church and his integration of the negative.
- Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety by Richard Rohr and John Bookser Feister where St. Francis is seen as a heroic saint whose life is one long lesson in rebuilding. One of his slogans was " Let us begin again for up until now we have done nothing."
- Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace: Living in the Spirit of the Prayer of Saint Francis by Kent Nerburn. Fourteen essays explore the themes of the 14 lines of the famous prayer attributed to the Middle Ages saint. Nerburn proclaims that he saw beauty and brightness everywhere and, if we are to follow in his footsteps, love must become a habit of our heart, an inclination of the Spirit.
- The Sun and Moon Over Assisi: A Personal Encounter with Francis and Clare by Gerard Thomas Straub in which he ponders the mysteries of prayer, poverty, silence, and solitude as reflected in the lives of St. Francis and his good friend St. Clare.
- The Passionate Troubadour: A Medieval Novel about Francis of Assisi by Edward Hays. It offers a radical, bold, and full-hearted salute to this saint of the margins. Hays envisions Francis as a forerunner of an inclusive, global spirituality that honors all those who walk with integrity on their own unique path.
- The St. Francis Prayer Book: A Guide to Deepen Your Spiritual Life by Jon M. Sweeney. Drawing from various sources, it helps us tap into the spirit of Francis's devotional life through a weekly liturgy with a different theme for each day, such as peace and care in human relationships and love for all creatures.
Here is one of the benedictions:
"Now, wherever we are,
and in every place,
and at every hour,
throughout each time of each day,
may all of us honestly and humbly believe,
holding in our hearts
to love, honor,
magnify, and give thanks
to the Most High and Eternal God,
Trinity and Unity.
This clip tells the story of how St. Francis helped the little Italian town of Gubbio deal with a wolf.
Photo Credit: Icon of St. Francis of Assisi by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM, available from Trinity Stores.