I am sitting at Stardust Cafe in Orlando reflecting on this saint, happy to have met his acquaintance though it seems like too long a time had passed before I stumbled upon him in my search. I got up early this morning to journey down to my church, Emmanuel Episcopal, for the Blessing of the Animals. In the courtyard of Emmanuel about a dozen cats, dogs, and birds meowed, barked, or twittered as Father Malcolm took us through a short service, which included singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” a prayer for all of creation and especially our “animal companions,” and the Prayer of St. Francis. He doused us all with Holy Water, wishing goodwill and peace to pets and people alike.
It was a pleasant reminder of our need to care and protect, honor and worship God and His creation.
I can think of no better sum up of St. Francis and what he was about than quote G.K. Chesterton:
“Now for St. Francis nothing was ever in the background,” he wrote. “We might say that his mind had no background, except perhaps that divine darkness out of which the divine love had called up every coloured creature one by one. He saw everything as dramatic, distinct from its setting, not all of a piece like a picture but in action like a play. A bird went by him like an arrow; something with a story and a purpose, though it was a purpose of life and not a purpose of death. A bush could stop him like a brigand; and indeed he was as ready to welcome the brigand as the bush.
“In a word, we talk about a man who cannot see the wood for the trees. St. Francis was a man who did not want to see the wood for the trees. He wanted to see each tree as a separate and almost a sacred thing, being a child of God and therefore a brother or sister of man.”
Though Francis lived and died around the 13th Century, his life still resonates to us in the 21st. I think he would have stopped to ask us “Why do you frantically build, instead of build up?” Our current environmental issues need the guidance and inspiration of a saint like Francis.
But rather than point fingers and prop Francis up as an example contrary to our culture’s shortcomings, let us rather take his example and time today to look into the eyes of a fellow creature here on earth, human or otherwise, and see light of God in all.
Please click on the link to donate to: the SPCA of Central Florida