catholic

Saint Francis and Animal Blessings
Saint Francis of Assisi

After his death, Saint Francis was made the patron saint of animals and ecology.

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.

A Horrible Incident in Yemen
A Horrible Incident in Yemen

A Horrible Incident in Yemen

Although the Syrian refugee crisis has been in the forefront, there are many other countries that have their own refugee situation. Some experts believe that Yemen is the next refugee crisis, as there are currently about 2.4 million people who have been displaced because of the war. The greatest percentage of these refugees are Somali. Although the government of Yemen was unified in 1990, the civil war over the last few years has increased displacement because of the weakened economy and political instability.

The Loss of Four Catholic Nuns

For 24 years, the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen, has taken care of the elderly. Religion and faith were never considered when the nuns of the convent took in the poor and disabled at the nursing home where they had between 60 to 80 residents. The charity was a branch of the one founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The nuns came from other countries, leaving behind all they knew to serve those in distress. On March 4, gunmen attacked the convent and killed four nuns. A priest from Kerala, India, disappeared during the attack. Diplomatic efforts are underway to negotiate his release, but no information is available as of this writing.

None of the residents were killed, but 12 other volunteers also died in the attack. One of the nuns who was killed was from India, while two came from Rwanda, and the fourth was from Kenya. As of this writing, no group has claimed responsibility for the slaughter. These deaths are just a small percentage of the lives that have been claimed over the past year in the Yemeni civil war.

The nuns were aware of the violent situation and given the opportunity to leave. The Bishop who spoke with the nuns believes that it wasn’t heroism that made them stay, but their commitment and dedication to their work. These nuns held the belief that the people they served were entrusted into their care. Some believe the nuns will be remembered as martyrs for their faith.

Standing Against Oppression

On March 4, the same date of the Yemen attack, The Catholic Universe published an article written by Bishop Declan Lang, the chair of the UK-based Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs. In it, he writes, “The persecution of atheists is a grave violation of human dignity throughout the world.” He holds that this oppression violates basic human rights and it “represents a degradation of the fundamental principle that people should be free to hold their own beliefs without fearing for their life or liberty.”

Many times throughout history, one minority group has been oppressed only to have others follow the same fate in future generations. Lang called for the Catholic Church in England and Wales to take a stand and speak out when atheists are persecuted. Although the Catholic Church has had its own PR issues throughout the years, it does deserve a great deal of credit for standing up for atheists.

In the wake of losing four dedicated nuns, the Catholic Church certainly needs solidarity to take a stand against oppression based on religious or non-religious beliefs. While Al-Qaeda had denied responsibility for the attack in Yemen, there is a great deal of unrest from Islamic extremists who stand against anyone with different beliefs. The nuns who died didn’t care about the faith of those they ministered to. They, like many others, were no threat to Islam community, but were killed. Other Catholic churches in Aden have been vandalized and sabotaged.

It may be that one person can’t change those halfway around the globe. However, you can promote peace in your corner of the world. Know what’s happening in other countries to understand how blessed you are to be safe.

New Year, New Wedding Traditions

canadian wedding blog 12.13.13Recognizing Old and Creating New Canadian Wedding Traditions

Weddings are one of the most fascinating cultural events for people all around the world. Every religion, country, and ethnic group has distinct traditions associated with weddings. Some wedding traditions require the pomp and circumstance of an ordained minister that has spent years learning theology and who is familiar with a specific sacred text. Other traditions are newly made by couples who are ready to make the world their own. Canadian wedding traditions are similar to many of those in Western culture.

A Typical Canadian Wedding

It is a little silly to label any one specific wedding style as typical. In the past, religion has dictated what is important in a wedding ceremony and what is not. A large and historic church, such as the Catholic Church, has specific ceremonies that accompany a wedding. In fact, they have important ceremonies for many things. One such holy rite was held on December 8th of 2013 as the NotreDame de Quebec Basilica received holy bronze doors that were to be opened after a priest knocked three times. Once the ceremony ends, the doors are sealed for at least 25 years, if not longer.

Non-Denominational Traditions

Even as children, many young women dream of their wedding day and once engaged, they excitedly plan every detail. Canadians host what is known as a Trousseau Tea. Although not a particularly common practice, sewing a trousseau was very important to English women and some other European countries for many hundreds of years. Since cloth was precious, and a woman wanted to be able to bring lily while linens with her to her marriage, a girl would begin saving sheets, dresses, table cloths, etc., for her marriage. Now, instead of sewing bed sheets, Canadians prefer to host a luncheon or dinner for friends that cannot make it to the wedding ceremony. This special Tea could be described as making good memories with which to enter a marriage instead of linens. This is a Canadian wedding tradition that does not belong solely to any one religious denomination.

Saying Special Vows

A very common practice among married couples in Canada and around the world is writing their own vows before their wedding ceremonies. These vows can be anything a couple would like to promise one another. Ceremonies that contain personalized vows are able to be overseen by anyone who is ordained to perform weddings. There need not be any association with religion if the couple does not wish it. One of the most freeing options for any soon-to-be wed couple is the possibility of creating their own Canadian wedding traditions. Women and men are often excited to begin new lives starting with matrimony, and what better way is there than to start than with brand new traditions that can be passed on to their own children.