Monday, October 14, 2013

Blessings and St. Francis of Assisi

Who was Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (nickname, "Francesco")?  Who was St. Francis of Assisi?  They are one and the same person who impacted Christianity in many ways.  A few facts out of many:
-  A mystic, Saint Francis had one basic rule:  "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps". 
-  He believed that actions were the best example in telling his followers to "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words".
-  Born in Assisi, Italy in 1182 and died in 1226 at 44 years of age
-  A Catholic friar who founded the Franciscan Order characterized by a life of simplicity, poverty and love for the poor.
-  He set up the first known Nativity scene to celebrate Christmas in 1220
-  Stories abound of how St. Francis could communicate with animals and felt at one with all creation.  One such story bears repeating in this blog: 

St. Francis Preaches to the Birds:
Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they moved not. Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”
At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.
Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.
Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during Francis’ life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals. 

People of all faiths can appreciate St. Francis in his love of nature and of all the creatures that live on this planet with us.  Animal lovers can easily identify with his philosophy, as he expressed in these words:  "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."    In honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, it is customary for some churches to hold ceremonies that include a blessing for animals on or near his feast day, which is October 4th.  Both young and old participate in this tradition that is over 200 years old.
" know me is to love me"
I have had the privilege of taking photos on several occasions of parishioners and guests who bring their beloved pets in thankfulness to God in celebration of love. I enjoy the moments of expressed sweet innocence and trust through the eyes of children and how their favorite pets respond in unconditional love.  Extension of family is evident from the two-legged to the four-legged critters as they wait their turn for a splash of holy water in blessing.  One little person even brought her pet crab for a blessing, which was tucked away in a special box she was holding.  You can imagine the surprise when she lifted the lid!  Yes, God's creatures come in all shapes and sizes!  

I put together the following PhotoShow for your enjoyment.  It begins with a bit of humor - some of you may have seen this message already regarding the billboard dispute about "all dogs go to heaven".  After this unique prelude, is my story through photographs aptly describing the title, 'Blessing of the Animals or Animals are a Blessing'My thanks to Father Julian Cassar,  for giving me the opportunity to capture such blessings in the visual medium of photography, where words cannot do justice.


You can also view at this link:

A few words about Fr. Julian.... he began his journey as a priest in Malta, which led to America to minister in churches in New York and on to Eastern Oregon in John Day and Baker City.   May God bless him abundantly as he moves on to his new assignment at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bend, Oregon.  Also a gifted photographer, you can view some of his work on a July 15, 2013 post entitled "...and So God Made a Photographer (Part 1)".  With camera in tow, I'm sure he'll discover much beauty in the Central Oregon area to share.  I can think of no better way to send him off than in the peace prayer of St. Francis, so popular with people of all faiths and in which he personifies.  
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy. 
O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
As to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Join me in two weeks, October 28th, at The Turn-Up Patch.  See you then!

1 comment:

  1. Colleen,

    I wrote Fr. Julian on his blog a few times. How blessed you are to have had him as a Priest. I so enjoyed your video of the animals and of the funny signs.

    Your blog is truly inspiring.