Last Sunday, in the atrium for the oldest children of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we talked of the life and vocation of St. Francis of Assisi in anticipation of his feast day. We read the Canticle of the Sun and sang the Prayer of St. Francis. There was much curiosity and interest expressed by the children. “Could he really talk with the animals?” I chuckled when I remembered that a former rector used to lament that St. Francis had been reduced to and remembered as the patron Saint of yard ornaments, despite his rich theology, church reform and life’s work of sacrificial love.
On Sunday at 5:00 p.m., we will honor St. Francis at our annual Blessing of the Animals. Almost 800 years after his death, St. Francis remains an important figure and symbol in our church life. Pope John Paul II wrote on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 1990, Saint Francis of Assisi offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation … As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.
Given the stories and history of St. Francis’ life, perhaps he would not mind being the patron saint of yard ornaments. After all, the yard provides a sense of place; a place of joy, of rest, of beauty, a place of restoration, and a home for plants and animals.
You and your pet are invited to attend the Blessing of the Animals on Sunday. (Stuffed animals are welcome as well!) Perhaps you might want to visit the newly restored statue of St. Francis, located in the churchyard near Discovery Place.
Anna Hurdle, Director of Children’s Formation