October 4 is the Feast Day of St. Francis, which is always a time of joy for Franciscans, as well as the church in general. Copied below is an email from our (St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s) regional minister, Theresa Pratt OFS, asking us to reflect on one of Father Francis’ final gifts to us, The Canticle Of The Creatures.
As we approach the Transitus and Feast Day of our Seraphic Father, we offer his own words as they appear in the Canticle of the Creatures. Composed in 1225 during his last illness, St. Francis gives glory to God through all of creation in the first portion of the canticle. Ever the peacemaker, he added verses 10 and 11 at a time when the political and religious authorities of Assisi were in conflict. Then, right before his death, he added two verses praising God for “Sister Bodily Death,” and, as always, calling us to penance and conversion.
The Canticle of the Creatures
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing, (Rv 4:9 Rv 4:11)
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, (Tb 8:7)
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.e
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, (Ps 148:3)
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.a
Praised be 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, (Ps 148:4 Ps 148:5)
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, (Dn 3:66)
through whom You light the night, Ps 78:14 [Vulgate, Ps 77:14]
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, (Dn 3:74)
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs. (Ps 104:13 [Vulgate, Ps 103:13] Ps 104:14 [Vulgate, Ps 103:14])
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your
love, (Mt 6:12) and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death (Rv 2:11 Rv 20:6) shall do them no harm.d
Praise and bless my Lord (Dn 3:85) and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
After reading the Canticle, go back and look at the Scripture sources indicated by the footnotes—read the passages—see how Francis was influenced by his intimate knowledge of Scripture.
What part does Scripture play in your daily life? What does “going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel” (Article 4 of our Rule) mean to you?
Reread verses 10 and 11 of the Canticle.
How do you serve as a peacemaker in your family, job, or community?
In what ways is it difficult for you to “forgive” those who don’t agree with you?
Verse 10 calls to mind the story of Perfect Joy. What is Francis telling us in that story and in this canticle?
Verses 12 and 13 talk about the end of life and how we are to prepare.
Give some thought to the qualities it takes to accept our eventual death or the death of someone we love.
Reread the Prologue to the Rule of 1978, especially “Concerning Those Who Do Not Do Penance.” Why are penance and conversion so important to us?
Here is a short video about the Transitus of St. Francis celebrated on October 3rd.