Episcopalians, like many other liturgically based Christian denominations, have much of their lives structured by the liturgical calendar. Throughout the year various days are appointed as feast days that are commemorations of all the saints of ages past. As the leaves on the trees begin to change into the autumnal array and I begin to pay attention to the creation around me with even greater intent, I inevitably think of St. Francis and his love of creation. His feast day is Oct. 4. His love and wonder of creation inspire me. He was awed and fascinated by God’s hand at work in the world around him and he had a deep respect for all of God’s creation. Episcopalians, and others, try to glimpse a fragment of this awe and respect by dedicating a worship service to our fine furry friends with whom we share our lives and our homes by having a “Blessing of the Pets” service.
Although I love the service and seeing all the cats and dogs (not to mention lizards, hamsters, gerbils, frogs, and on one occasion a horse) I can’t help but think we miss much of what Francis was all about. Having been raised in a wealthy household and all the trappings that came along with such an upbringing, he had a drastic turnabout in his life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he had a vision of Jesus that caused him to reevaluate his entire life. He subsequently embraced a life of poverty and service and complete devotion to Christ and His church. His life of faith and devotion are as inspiring today as they were in the 13th century. It has seemed paltry somehow when modern Christians see him as a lover of nature and all creation, and lose sight of his utter devotion to the Creator of that nature. He embodied the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that made it incarnational and very real in the lives of all those he encountered. I can think of no better way to show the character of who St. Francis was than in his own words, “Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we 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.” As we approach the feast day of St. Francis in just a few weeks, we should certainly be mindful of the creation around us, but especially be mindful of his prayer and how we can live more fully into the words attributed to Francis of Assisi.
REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 757-562-4542.