Monday, October 5, 2009

Homily: St. Francis (Afternoon at the Blessing of Animals)

On this St. Francis Day – I want us to take a moment on this beautiful green, amongst these beautiful trees and consider a couple of stories about St. Francis and the birds. These stories come from Thomas of Celano*, a member of Francis' religious order who knew the saint personally and wrote about him. He reveals in his book how Francis' love for animals and his conviction that his faith and care for God's creatures go hand-in-hand. Here are the stories and consider what Francis is telling us today:
“One time as Francis was passing through the Spoleto valley, he came upon a place near Bevagna, in which a great multitude of birds of various kinds had assembled. When the holy one of God saw them, because of the outstanding love of the Creator with which he loved all creatures, he ran swiftly to the place. He greeted them in his usual way, as if they shared in reason. As the birds did not take flight, he went to them, going to and fro among them, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.”

"Meanwhile his joy and wonder increased as he carefully admonished them to listen to the Word of God: 'My brother birds, you should greatly praise your Creator and love Him always. He clothed you with feathers and gave you wings for flying. Among all His creatures He made you free and gave you the purity of the air. You neither sow nor reap, He nevertheless governs you without your least care.'

"At these words, the birds gestured a great deal, in their own way. They stretched their necks, spread their wings, opened their beaks and looked at him. They did not leave the place until, having made the sign of the cross, he blessed them and gave them permission. On returning to the brothers he began to accuse himself of negligence because he had not preached to the birds before. From that day on, he carefully exhorted birds and beasts and even insensible creatures to praise and love the Creator.”

"Once he went to a village called Alviano to preach. The people gathered and he called for silence. But some swallows nesting there were shrieking so much that he could not be heard at all. In the hearing of all, he spoke to them: 'My sister swallows, now it is time for me also to speak, since you have already said enough. Hear the word of God and stay quiet until the word of the Lord is completed.' As if capable of reason, they immediately fell silent, and did not leave from the place until the whole sermon was over. All who saw this were filled with amazement and gave glory to God.”
May we have that same joy and wonder in all of God’s creation – in the birds & animals, and our pets, just as St. Francis had. And may we have the same care for all of our animals both domestic and wild as St. Francis did in his time. Amen.

St. Francis Celebration – 10/4/09

*From Thomas of Celano, The Treatise on the Miracle of Saint Francis, (1250-1252), ed. Regis J. Armstorng, OFM Cap, J.A. Wayne Hellmoann, OFM Cov, William J. Short, OFM, The Francis Trilogy of Thomas of Celano (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2004), 329-330.

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