Seeing St. Francis

Quite often we see statues of St. Francis in the garden, a seemingly tranquil figurine, surrounded by nature and other animals. As the patron of ecology and animal lovers it indeed seems a very appropriate place for St Francis to be, no?

But how often to we relegate Francis to the garden? This was a man who was in fact, quite a rabble rouser. He was someone that we might even be afraid of because of his craziness? I mean what would you think of someone who strips nude in front of his father in the public square? Francis was no quiet dove.

But then again, perhaps there’s even more to tranquility than meets the eye.

Francis was someone who couldn’t live any other way once his eyes were opened to the plight of the poor. His choosing of a life of poverty was a radical choice to be sure, but it was also a choice for tranquility in his heart. If he chose any other way of life, Francis would have lived a life of anxiety, unable to sleep at night, uncomfortable with his role in all of creation.

Dare I say, he would have been out of harmony with his nature.

I think perhaps even the animals sensed this inner peace from this man who was comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t need anything else from anyone. All he needed was to give love to others and presumably to love all of creation including brother sun and sister moon and brother dog and sister cat. Animals often can sense someone who is that confident and will become submissive to that person as a pack leader and they in turn give them comfort as well. I know when I feel even a little bit off, Haze, my dog can sense that and it gets him uncomfortable as well. Things are simply not in harmony and it throws the whole balance of our lives off.

Do we ever feel “out of harmony” with ourselves? Do we ever make a choice that goes against our own “inner tranquility?” Do the animals run from us because they sense our fear? Do we ever dare to be naked before God with all of our own convictions?

Or do we choose to hide in the garden ashamed?

It seems our failures are indeed as old as the hills. And because of that we need Francis, who teaches us how to live in harmony with ourselves and in turn, with all of nature.

Francis’ prayer also lets us know that being in peaceful harmony with creation did not come easy for him and therefore we all need to pray:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
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.

Now go hug an animal that blesses us with their companionship, or head to the zoo, or simply enjoy the environment on which you live today and know that you are connected to it all–in harmony with all of God’s creation.

St. Blaise Day – Get yer Throats Blessed!

Today is one of my favorite feast days of the Church. St. Blaise, an Armenian Bishop was martyred for the faith by order of the Emperor Licinius, who wanted all Christians killed.

As he was being led away to prison a young boy was brought before him choking on a fish bone and Blaise cured him immediately. (Some jokingly refer to St. Blaise as the Saint of the Heimilich manuever. Regardless, the miracle that is attributed to him lives on each February 3 when churches offer a blessing of the throats to all who ask for it. Two candles (Unlit!) are placed against the throat and the following blessing is invoked:

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may you be free of every ailment of the throat and from every other evil. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A little known legend about St. Blaise: He is also the patron saint of wild animals. Much of what we hear about St Blaise surrounds his persecution. And that gives us this story. When the persecution of Christians began Blaise received a message from God to flee to the h.ills. Hunters discovered him in a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick but Blaise walked among them unafraid and cured them of their illnesses. The hunters however, considered Blaise to be a better catch than the animals themselves. On the way back, however Blaise talked a wolf into releasing a pig. It turns out that the pig was the livelihood of a poor woman, who was thus saved from abject poverty by his action. Ironically, Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death. The woman, in gratitude, however, sneaked into the prison with food and candles, keeping Blaise temporarily sustained. Blaise was beheaded by the governor.

So today let us pray for those who care for animals and take care of them–especially animals that are not household pets. In these cold winter months, may we also ask St Blaise to pray on behalf of those who suffer from throat ailments.