Posted by The Vegan Bear
Today, October 4th we celebrate the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi (1881/1882 – 1226). St. Francis was a Catholic friar, preacher, and mystic. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for men and women. He’s known as the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment, and unofficially a patron saint of the poor. He is unarguably one of the most known and beloved saints of the Church.
Like so many others, I was drawn to the saintly life of Francis from a very young age. His tender love for all of creation and the poorest of the poor was something that stood out to me. For my Sacrament of Confirmation, I choose the name Francis and I had even thought about becoming a Franciscan at one point in my life. Still to this day, Francis is a saint I look to for guidance, understanding, and inspiration in living my Christian life. He played a profound role in my conversion to a vegan lifestyle and even this blog. Over my desk where I do most of my work, hangs an icon of my favorite saint, which I reflect upon during my some of my daily prayers.
On his feast day one of the most common practices in the Church is the blessing of animals. This is a beautiful gesture, but this is also a more than appropriate day to selflessly give of ourselves to others, our community, etc…and not just today, but everyday. In 1995-96 I was a runaway youth on the streets of San Francisco. In the chaos and turmoil of my young life I would somehow manage to attend daily mass at St. Boniface Church on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco’s tenderloin district. This parish was/is run by Franciscan Friars and is known for serving the poor and marginalized of the city. On many occasions I saw some of the most magnificent acts of love and charity by these Franciscans.
One memory so vividly stands out..,after afternoon mass the Friars would distribute food to those in need, in fact on many occasions I my tummy was comforted by some of their humble offerings. I remember sitting across the street in a park next to the church when I saw an elderly homeless man who was obviously very ill attempt to walk up the sidewalk to reach the area where food was being distributed. An elderly Franciscan glanced over and saw him, stopped what he was going and came to assist him. The man was filthy, barefoot, and filled with open sores on his feet and legs. The Friar assisted him up to a bucket which was turned upside down and eased the man in having a seat. The Friar went back towards the church and returned moments later with a large cup of water and food. As the man began to eat, the friar got onto his knees and gently poured water over his feet, massaging the filth off, and used his robe to slowly dry his feet. He then slowly bent down and kissed each one of his feet. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I quickly looked around to see if anybody else was seeing what was happening, but nobody was. The Friar then spoke to him some (and I was across the street and couldn’t hear what they were saying), but then the Friar took of his sandals and lovingly placed them on the man’s feet. He let the man finish eating for about 10 minutes before helping him up, and helping him continue walking up to the church…the friar barefoot, and the homeless man in sandals. It was like something we read about out of the gospels. I was moved beyond words, and as I write this almost 20-years later, tears are falling down my cheeks like droplets of rain.
In a world still filled with so much pain, hunger, fear, neglect, hateful bigotry, deception, and vanity – faith, hope, and love are the medicines we need to give to all, without hesitations or reservations. How blessed are we to have St. Francis who gave the entirety of his life to imitate Christ. May we all be so inspired by Jesus and all of the holy men and women, such as Saint Francis, who have given all, to be all. May we be inspired to live our lives in being generous messengers of hope, stewards of faith, and instruments of love.
Most high, almighty, and good Lord,
Yours is the praise, the glory, honor, blessing all.
To you, Most High, alone of right they do belong,
And no mortal man is fit to mention you.
Be praised, my Lord, of all your creature world,
And first of all Sir Brother Sun,
Who brings the day, and light you give to us through him,
And beautiful is he, agleam with mighty splendor:
Of you, Most High, he gives us indication.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sisters Moon and Stars:
In the heavens you have formed them,
bright and fair and precious.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
Through Air, and cloudy, clear, and every kind of Weather,
By whom you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water,
For greatly useful, lowly, precious, chaste is she.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night,
And fair he is, and gay, and vigorous, and strong.
Be praised, O Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
For she sustains and guides our life,
And yields us diverse fruits, with colored flowers, and grass.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who pardon give for love of you, And bear infirmity and tribulation:
Blessed they who suffer it in peace,
For of you, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Brother Death of Body,
From whom no one among the living can escape.
Woe to those who in mortal sins will die;
Blessed those whom he will find in your most holy graces,
For the second death will do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and thank him too,
And serve him all, in great humility.
Canticle of the Creatures or the Canticle of Brother Sun. A poem written in stages by St. Francis of Assisi from the period of the summer of 1225 until his death on October 4, 1226