The Celebration of St. Francis

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings – Galatians 6: 14-18, Psalm 121, & Matthew 11: 25-30

In the tradition of St. Francis, the twelfth-century saint, there are three elements that are crucial.

First, to know God, we just need to step into nature and soak in all the beauty, the majesty, and the glory.

Second, everything in creation is alive, everything has a spirit.

Third, we are all related, we are all connected – the plant world, the animal world, the sea world, the weather world, and the human world.

The best-known articulation of these elements is in St. Francis’ canticle, “Brother Son and Sister Moon”.

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, 
     all glory, all honor and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal
     lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
     especially Sir Brother Sun,
     Who is the day through whom You give us light.
     And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
     Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
     In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
     And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
     by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
     So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
     through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and 
          playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth
     who sustains and governs us,
          producing varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You
     and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, 
     By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
     from whom no-one living can escape. 
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm. 
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
     And serve Him with great humility.

It is more than interesting that at the continuing education conference last week we learned about several pillars of the indigenous people of this continent. They were long ago misnamed, “Indians”, by the explorers who were seeking a trade route to India by sailing west rather than east. The people native to this land were grounded in the natural world. They believed that every living thing had a spirit. They believed that we are all connected. Sounds similar, doesn’t it?

Two other beliefs that they hold I think are more important to our life of the People of God, People of the Great Spirit. One, there is nothing original about sin. We are not born into sin. Rather, sin is how we live our lives, filled with virtue or filled with anti-virtue. Two, our faith is demonstrated by how we live in the community each and every day. Sounds very similar to the hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love”.

This conference was titled, “Doctrine of Discovery” and made a strong case for replacing Columbus Day with the celebration of the indigenous peoples. The Doctrine of Discovery was promoted by popes and monarchs, including King Henry III of England. The Doctrine of Discovery gave authority to the explorers to enslave and exterminate people native to Africa and the Americas in order to enrich the papacy, the monarchs, and the explorers themselves.

Let’s return to St. Francis.  Born into wealth, he spent it all to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless.  He embraced all as his sisters and brothers. While he himself lived a life of poverty.  This is why he is called the most admired saint, and also the least followed saint.  Rather than living to subdue the earth, he lived to care for all of the creation, well before the debates about climate change and conservation and environmentalism.

As we care for our environment,                                                                                               as we care for our gardens,                                                                                                            as we care for our pets,                                                                                                               as we care for our wildlife,                                                                                                          and as we care for our neighbors just like we care for yourselves,                                       we are following in the footsteps of St. Francis.                                                                   And in the footsteps of the natives of this land, too.

As I frequently state, may we richly bless others as we have been richly blessed.

Blessed be Brother Sun;
Blessed be Sister Moon;
Blessed be Brother Wind and Air;
Blessed be Sister Water;
Blessed be Brother Fire;
Blessed be Mother Earth.


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