In a few days we will be celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. For Franciscans this is our big celebration. St. Francis founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, the Third Order of St. Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. On July 16, 1228 Pope Gregory IX canonized Francis; his feast day is October 4. He was designated patron saint of Italy. Later on he became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment. This is when it became customary for churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on or near his feast day. Francis is known for his love of the Eucharist and in 1223 he arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene. In 1224 Francis received the stigmata during the apparition of a Seraphic angel in a religious ecstasy which made him the first person in Christian tradition to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion.
On this eve Francis asked the Friars to be brought to St. Mary of the Portiuncula, so that he might yield up his spirit where he had first received the spirit of grace. He had himself placed naked upon the ground. He waited without fear for his triumph, and said to his brothers: “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what you are to do.”
He also invited all creatures to praise God, and exhorted them to love God. He exhorted death itself to give praise, and going joyfully to meet it; he invited it to make its lodging with him. “Welcome,” he said, “my sister death.”
Friars and other followers of St. Francis have gathered at twilight on the eve of his feast since the seventeenth or eighteenth century to celebrate his passage from physical to eternal life. On this celebration of passage…Transitus…we gather to celebrate with all creation this evening, in union with Franciscans through the world.
St. Francis wrote the following canticle toward the end of his life, praising God.
The Canticle of Brother Sun
(also known as The Canticle of the Creatures)
Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor
And all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him. How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars; In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, And fair and stormy, all the weather’s moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire, Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful is he, how merry! Full of power and strength. All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our Mother, Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces Various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon For love of you; through those who endure
Sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
How dreadful for those who die in sin!
How lovely for those found in Your Most Holy Will. The second death can do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks, And serve him with great humility.
– Sr. Barb Knauf