Bulletin Insert – October 1, 2017

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

On October 4, the Church celebrates the life and witness of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan and Clarissine Orders, advocate for the poor, and friend of the animals.

From Lambert de Hondt and Willem van Herp’s “St. Francis with the Animals”

Born in the late 12th century, Francis was the son of a wealthy merchant and his high-born wife. Despite living a life of general comfort and ease, he found himself called toward a life in pursuit of “Lady Poverty”. After a series of humbling interactions with the poor, Francis devoted himself to the care of the sick and poor, giving up his business interests and material possessions (much to his father’s chagrin). It could not have been easy, but Francis’ faith demanded that he trade in his fine clothes for sackcloth and financial security for scarcity. In the words of the prayer attributed to the saint, he found that “it is in giving that we receive.”

Francis founded the Order of Friars Minor, which demanded a strict vow of poverty, in the belief that worldly goods too often proved distractions from a sanctified life. With Clare of Assisi, he would form the Poor Clares, a religious order for women similarly dedicated to service. A Third Order would follow close behind, for those men and women who would live out Franciscan values in the context of everyday life. In Francis’ thought, to fully embrace one’s poverty was to embrace reliance on God alone; to physically suffer was to identify with Christ’s own suffering. According to Holy Women, Holy Men, this made Francis, “the most popular and admired [saint], but probably the least imitated” (p. 623).

We may perhaps remember St. Francis best for his devotion to nature and animals; in several hagiographies, or stories of the saints, Francis is depicted as preaching to and otherwise communicating with fish, birds, and even a wolf. He believed that the Creator is praised through all his creatures and, indeed, creation itself. It is in this spirit that many Episcopal churches offer blessings of pets and other animals each year on Francis’ feast day.

Collect for the Feast of St. Francis

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (HWHM, p. 623)

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