If you’re one of the millions of people who enjoy animal videos online, you’re going to appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi. He lived in the late 12th century into the 13th century, during a time of great unrest in the Middle East. Francis upset his family when his life took a turn toward poverty and the priesthood. He would renounce his wealth and his family in order to serve God. When Francis was canonized after his death, he was made the patron saint of animals and ecology. His love of nature and all creatures makes him someone to remember even today.
Saint Francis and His Legacy
In 1989, Liliana Cavani directed Mickey Rourke in “Francesco,” an Italian film which follows Francis’ life from a son of a wealthy silk merchant in Italy to a soldier in the army who would be captured in a war. Francis would later become a humanitarian and give up his family’s wealth to serve God. The film won three major awards and is a great representation of his life.
During the Fifth Crusade, Francis would attempt to mediate peace between the Christians and Muslims. Although he was unsuccessful, the Franciscans, his order of monks, were given permission to have a presence in the Holy Land. Since the 13th century, the Franciscans have almost steadily been the “Custodians of the Holy Land” for the Catholic Church.
El Greco painted a beautiful rendition of “Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata.” Saint Francis is said to have received five wounds similar to those that Christ received when he hung on the cross. Although many historians now believe he was stricken with leprosy, at the time it was considered to be a sign of exceptional religious faith.
Saint Francis has inspired many other works of art and music. As recently as 2005, Lewis Nielson composed a concerto for violin, called, “St. Francis Preaches to the Birds.” One of Bernard Malamud’s novels features a main character who lives the life of Saint Francis in Brooklyn during the 20th century.
Francis is remembered as a great poet and writer. Not only do his poems and works have religious value, but also literary value. This is the first few lines of “Canticle of the Sun,” believed to be one of the first works of literature written in Italian:
“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.
“Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.”
It was written in the Umbrian dialect and translated into English for us to appreciate.
Your Pet Is an Important Member of Your Family
The church celebrates Saint Francis of Assisi on October 4, commonly with services that include blessings for animals. In many paintings, Saint Francis is portrayed with a bird in his hand because legend has it that he commanded the animals. One legend tells the tale of a wolf who lay down at his feet. Francis is thought to have worked out a pact with the wolf and the town dogs to protect the townspeople. He blessed the wolf.
Pope John Paul II referenced Saint Francis in 1982 on World Environment Day, reminding people to care and to love all of creation, to offer a healthy environment for those who come after us. Everyone can get behind being green and eco-conscious to protect our animals and the plants. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi.