Tuesday, October 4, 2011

St. Francis, the patron saint of Simplicity

Put on your best Italian accent, and see if you can pronounce these beautiful words:
Laudato si, mi' Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de Te, Altissimo, porta significatione.
I know, it's a mouthful, but a really beautiful mouthful, sung to God in praise for Brother Sun. It's a small piece of Il Cantico del Sole, The Canticle of the Sun, which refers to all of creation as our sisters and brothers. It was written in the twelfth century by my favourite saint, a fellow named Francis of Assisi. I'll post the translation of the entire Cantico (song) at the bottom of this moodling. It's one that I stumbled across while in university, and kept on my bulletin board to remind me that I am a small sister in a grand creation.

St. Francis was one of my favourite people in those days, and still is. Son of a wealthy fabric merchant and due to inherit the family business, he opted instead for a life of simplicity with a capital S, caring for the poor and living in harmony with creation. His lifestyle was so unlike that of his friends (who thought at first that he'd lost his mind) that they became curious... and when they discovered the joy with which he was living, they joined him, and became the first band of merry Franciscans.

And there are still merry Franciscans with us today. I know a few personally, and enjoy them immensely, as they're anything but stuffy clergy. I walked with one during the Downtown Way of the Cross one Easter, and when something I said struck Dave funny, he laughed so loudly that other participants gave us a look. My Franciscan friends take so much joy in life. If only I could say the same of all religious!

St. Francis had a special rapport with animals, so my neighbour, friend, and local Anglican priest, Dan, holds a liturgy to bless pets on the Sunday before the feast of St. Francis. I love to hear about that kind of thing, because I think that religion as a whole has missed the boat if it says that animals don't have souls. How can anyone be sure? All I know is that creation is good, and if we lived as if every living creature was as important as human beings are, our world would probably be in much better shape than it is.

Francis has been called the Saint of Ecology, and I posted a pretty cute story in that vein about God and St. Francis last year. Unfortunately, all that many people know about him is that his lyrics were sung at Princess Diana's funeral. Several of his poems and prayers have been turned into beautiful music, and way back when, Franco Zeffirelli made a movie about him called Brother Sun, Sister Moon. If you've never seen it, I'd recommend it -- with the suggestion that Francis probably wasn't quite as ethereal as the lead actor portrays him.

I'll leave you with one of the songs that's been made from his words (lovely photos; kudos to the person who put the video together!), and the rest of the words of the Canticle of the Sun. Happy St. Francis' Day! And happy feast day to my Franciscan friends!

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
 no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
 fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
 He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
 who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
who for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.  

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

1 comment:

  1. My friend calls me St. Francis because of the animal work I do:) I need to celebrate today too!
    That song is lovely.


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