Day 35 5th April Francis of Assisi
One of the great moments of my life was the opportunity that I had to visit Assisi and walk in the footsteps of Francis. To sit in the chapel of the Portiuncola, which Francis had restored, was a deep and moving spiritual experience – it is now in the centre of the great Basilica at St Marie de Angeli at the foot of Assisi.
The story of St Francis is well known. He was born into the wealthy family of a cloth merchant and his younger years were spent in frivolity and partying with friends. A number of spiritual experiences caused him to renounce wealth and to live the life of a poor Friar. He was soon joined by others and the Franciscan order was formed. His life was dedicated to being a troubadour for Christ and spreading the Gospel of love by both word and action. He became famous for openly embracing and caring for those who suffered with leprosy, though in his younger days he had found such people abhorrent; and also for his love of nature and wildlife. There are numerous stories of St Francis communing with the natural world, reasoning with wolves, preaching to birds, cultivating flowers outside his chapel. In contrast to earlier life he chose a life of poverty, but it was also a life of great joy also, as many accounts of his life show. He was a man of intense prayer, as well as action and knew how to find the right balance between the two. St Francis was also a writer of poetry and prayers. His “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” and “Canticle of the Creatures” have both been made into hymns we often sing.
It is very difficult to limit St Francis to one day in these reflections because there are so many stories and sayings I would love to share. But on this occasion I am going to focus on a famous saying of his that I believe is so important for today’s church. The saying is this:
“Do all you can to preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.”
On another occasion he said:
“The deeds you do today may well be the only sermon some might hear”.
There is great power in living lives of love, kindness and gentleness. The simple acts of caring, listening, empathising, understanding, Francis knew were far more potent sermons about the love of God than many eloquent words. A true evangelist is not one who preaches on street corners; it is one who follows Christs call to love. “There is no point in walking to preach if we do not preach as we walk” St Francis rightly said.
Canticles written by St Francis
You are the holy Lord God who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High.
You are the Almighty Father,
Holy King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, The Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.
You are love, charity; you are wisdom, You are humility.
You are patience, You are beauty, You are meekness.
You are security, You are rest.
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope, You are justice.
You are moderation, You are all our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness.
You are the protector, You are our custodian and defender.
You are strength, You are refreshment, You are our hope.
You are our faith, You are our charity.
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord, Almighty God, Merciful Saviour.
Praised be to You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Son,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
And bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the Stars,
In heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be to You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
And through the air, cloudy and serene,
And every kind of weather,
Through whom you give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
Who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be to You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom You light the night,
And he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be to You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
Who sustains and governs us,
And who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be to You, my Lord,
Through those who give pardon for your love,
And bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
For by you, Most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be to You, my Lord
Through our Sister Bodily Death,
From whom no one living can escape.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
And serve Him with great humility.