I have a statue of St. Francis in my backyard. Well, maybe not a statue of St. Francis. It’s a statue of a monk that I feel and think and believe is St. Francis. He’s moved with us to three different states. He’s sat patiently through heatwaves, snowstorms, blizzards (in upstate NY), rain, even a total eclipse.
When we placed Francis in our small sliver of a backyard here in Richmond, my only request to Matthew was this: I’d like him to be standing in a field of lavender. (Yes. You may safely insert Matthew’s “eye roll” here.)
Next week, we celebrate the feast of St. Francis who was born and raised in Assisi. He is celebrated for his generosity and compassion to the poor and outcast, but he’s celebrated, also and equally, for his connection to creation. He makes this connection most obvious in his Canticle of the Sun, in which he gives praise to God for “Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and Sister Water.” Through this canticle, he lifts up God’s presence and power by pointing to the world around him. God wasn’t only “out there” in stars.
For Francis, God was equally at work in the everyday toil of farming and field. In doing some research about him, I heard about a story in which the humble monk gave the oxen an extra portion of food. It was Christmas eve, and Francis gave thanks for the role that they played in putting food on people’s tables – they were partners, these animals. For Francis, it was about connection – connection to our poorest of neighbors, and connection to our God-created planet.
Even now, these connections are important, aren’t they? As Gwynn said in her sermon on Sunday (click here to watch), the poorest among us are deeply affected by the decisions that we all make regarding how we live on this planet. In his day, Francis pointed out that we are the vulnerable ones. But now, the planet is vulnerable in the hands of our machines and technology and desire to own and conquer. But, I dare say, the planet will have the last word.
Francis reminds us that God calls us to live in harmony – in cooperation – with Sun, Moon, Water, Sea, Sky, Soil. From the beast of burden in the barn out back to the porpoise who leaps with joy on the horizon, we are connected.
When I look at that statue of Francis, standing in a “field” of lavender, I am reminded of the importance of being grounded and being connected. Our feet, our roots, our souls in the earth, and, the earth in our souls. From the mud, we were formed.
Here’s a prayer attributed to St. Francis. Lesser known than the one in our prayer book (BCP, p. 833), Francis prayed this prayer (a version of it) before a cross in a falling-down chapel just outside his hometown of Assisi – the place where he heard God’s voice calling him to “build God’s church.”
Like him, it’s simple and direct:
Most glorious, good God.
Pour your light into the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, perfect charity, insight, knowledge and wisdom,
That I may do your holy will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
See you in church,