As the trees begin to change colors and their leaves begin to fall, the cooler temperatures and shorter days forecast harvests and freezing temperatures. It’s a time when many animals, wild or otherwise, are seeking their nests or a place to hibernate. It’s also the time for remembering St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. This saint’s day is celebrated on Oct. 4 each year.
St. Francis lived from 1182-1226, and while being a carefree youth, from his later encounters with beggars and lepers he decided to observe a life of poverty devoted to serving those in need. He’s probably the most popular and admired of the many saints, but likely the “least imitated; few have attained to his total identification with the poverty and suffering of Christ.” We know very few of his writings, but “…his spirit of joyous faith comes through most truly in his ‘Canticle of the Sun,’ which begins:
Most High, omnipotent, good Lord,
To thee be ceaseless praise outpoured,
And blessing without measure.
Let creatures all give thanks to thee
And serve in great humility.
Not long before his death, Francis received the marks of the Lord’s wounds, the stigmata, in his own hands, feet and side. The Pope canonized him in 1228 and soon after, the building of the great basilica in Assisi was begun where Francis is buried.
As stewards of the Earth, we’re charged by God with the care and preservation of God’s creations here. What does that call to stewardship of the Earth mean for us? Does it mean leaving an environment that our children and grandchildren and their children may continue to enjoy? No matter what the cause, it seems we face changes to our environment that haven’t been seen for thousands of years. What steps must we take to preserve ourselves and God’s other creations if the ice around the world continues to melt?
This week we keep animals in our prayers, especially those domesticated animals that depend on us for their food, shelter and health. October 4 is also traditionally a time for a “Blessing of the Animals.”
I close with a prayer offered for St. Francis in the tradition of the Episcopal Church:
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.
The Rev. David Kendall-Sperry is the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 45 W. Winter St., Delaware, and can be reached at 740-369-3175. A graduate of Bexley Hall Seminary, he’s a member of the Delaware Ministerial Association, and a life member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, an Episcopal ministry to men and boys. He’s married and has three adult children and two grandchildren.