After Mary he is perhaps the most beloved of all saints. Born to a wealthy Italian family, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone became first a soldier and then a monk. His lifestyle of poverty, embrace of those who were poor and diseased, and love for creation earned him the nickname, “The Mirror of Christ.”
In his influential book, St. Francis of Assisi, Chesterton wrote that for many, the character of Jesus is obscured by its distant, first-century Jewish context. But if we want to understand what He was like, His personality, we can look to St. Francis. He was like the moon that glows because it reflects the light of the sun. He was kind and generous and humble and inspiring and—let us not forget—hilarious.
Just like Jesus.
And he loved life. This is important. Sometimes I think I can worry too much about others who don’t love life. St. Francis set an example for me, and for them… just by the way he lived. The way he loved. For him the whole world radiated the glory of God. He saw God’s beauty in the lowliest, most disease-ridden beggar. One time a big wolf was harassing a village and the people were frightened. He went and found it. He said, “Brother Wolf, you go away and stop scaring people.”
And it left. Because he spoke to it with respect. The kind of respect he had for all living things.
So today, in honor of St. Francis, I give you the Canticle of St. Francis, the last lines of which were composed as he lay dying:
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.