Beyond the Birdbath: The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

By Sister Eileen Dooling

When considering the offer to write this blog, it dawned on me how little I knew about Saint Francis: a wild youth, disowning his father and his inheritance, conversing with a wolf and surrounded by birds. There had to be more than sentimental stories to have such a Franciscan legacy and a popularity among the people. And so began my homework!

St. Bonaventure described Francis as “searching for God and finding him in all the broken places of humanity.” For Francis, holiness required an active engagement with the poorest of persons and attention to all of creation. He desired to live in close proximity to those excluded from society, but no one—rich or poor, saint or sinner—was excluded from his care.

Francis is the saint of “universal fraternity,” the brother of all. He did not believe in hierarchy or any type of superiority. His brothers vowed obedience, not to Francis, but to the Gospel way of life. Francis saw Christ in everything and everyone. All people, all creatures and all creation deserved respect because all reflected the God who made them. Our modern tendency to see humans as the center of creation would not please Francis. His Canticle of the Creatures makes clear the importance of all of creation—humans too, but not exclusively: “I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.”