Today is the feast day for that most beloved of saints, St. Francis of Assisi, who was inspiration to countless painters, composers, authors, not to mention men and women around the world who devote their lives to God.
For Brother Sun, whose brightness makes the light by which we see.
For Sister Moon, whose beams were formed to shine so clear and bright.
For Brother Wind, whose clouds and breezes blow across the land.
For Sister Water, so precious, humble, lowly, chaste and pure.
For Brother Fire, whose flames and light illuminate the night.
For Sister Earth, for grass and plants and flowers and all our food.
The Canticle of Brother Sun is St. Francis’s almost child-like praise of God’s creation. Perhaps his words will lead you in your own exuberant appreciation of God’s handiwork.
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This probably never happens to you, but very often I find myself talking to the apparently unlistening. Sometimes they truly aren’t listening, but sometimes I’m happily surprised to find that my words were in fact heard. There is a charming legend in which St. Francis famously preached to the birds. While I’m no St. Francis, I have often thought that nearby birds sing more whenever I’m practicing at home with the windows open. I think they’re really listening, and contributing to the conversation.
A lesson in love for the natural world is certainly one of Francis’s gifts to us, but his visit to Egypt in 1219, during one of the Crusades, may have even more to say to us today. Francis went to Egypt with intentions to convert the Sultan, and found himself instead in dialogue with the Sultan, who himself was surrounded by Coptic Christians advisors. It would be the Franciscans, of all Catholics, who would be allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and who are still recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as “custodians of the holy land.”
A lesson in listening might be Francis’s greatest gift of all – whether to birds or to those following other paths to God.