The feast of St. Francis of Assisi will be in a couple of days.
When I was an undergraduate, I took a class called the Medieval Experience. This was during a time when my faith eyes were being opened. A prompting of the Spirit can be blamed! Also playing a small role were my experiences with the “sweet leaf.” I realized what it felt to have one’s mind opened. But I’m in danger of digressing.
Our professor spoke about Francis and how he preached to the birds. My reaction was “what a waste of time.” Why preach the gospel to animals who don’t understand what you’re saying? Safe to say, I didn’t get the point of the sermon.
But in time, I became aware of creation spirituality and Francis’ role in it. His love of animals—and all of creation, including his enemies—made me recognize my previous misunderstanding.
One of my favorite hymns is “All Creatures of Our God and King,” which he wrote shortly before his death. Of course, there are the familiar verses. (The wording is slightly different, depending on the hymnal.) “All creatures of our God and King…” “Thou rushing wind that art so strong…” “Thou flowing water, pure and clear…”
Banu and I spent a year in Tennessee, staying with my mother who had some health issues. During that year, we mainly worshiped with Episcopalians. I discovered verse 6 in their hymnal:
“And even you, most gentle death, waiting to hush our final breath / O praise him, Alleluia! / You lead back home the child of God, for Christ our Lord that way has trod: / O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”
It seems Francis was both prescient and definitely embracing his mortality! He knew he was about to go the way of all creation, loving the path the Lord has trod.
We will be blessing the animals, who have no qualms about their own mortality.