October 4, 2020

Each year, from September 1 until the feast of St. Francis on October 4, we are invited to participate in what is called the “Season of Creation.” During the beautiful autumn time of the year, we are invited to reflect on the gift of the whole created world and our place in it. I offer today a reflection on St. Francis and Creation.

The Jesuit priest poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has a beautiful line in one of his poems. “The world,” he wrote - “like an electric wire - is charged with the grandeur of God.” Though St. Francis lived long before Hopkins, I think he would agree. St. Francis sensed the beauty and presence of God in the created world. It was like another “bible” that he read and encountered God. His biographer, St. Bonaventure, put it this way: “In beauty, he saw Beauty itself.” Bonaventure also poetically described creation as the “footprints of God.” In his beautiful Canticle of the Creatures Francis burst forth in praise of the God who made all things: moon, stars, wind, fire and water. He wrote, “Praised be you my Lord, for Brother Sun; of You most High, he bears the likeness.” Feeling the warmth of the sun made him think of the warmth of God’s love. Even the sight of a worm on the road after a storm reminded him of Jesus because of the passage from Isaiah read on Good Friday, describing the suffering of Jesus, “I am a worm, and no man.” The whole created world, from the majestic sun to the tiniest creature, reminded him of the Creator, and to him it was all beautiful and good.

And not only did he sense the presence of God in creation, Francis realized that all things were connected, because all had been created by God. He had a sense that everything and everyone was Brother and Sister, deserving reverence and respect, even the “Brother Thief” who robbed him one day while on the road, and Brother Fly who pestered him. At the end of his life, he welcomed Sister Death as a door that opened his life to the full experience of God.

I don’t do it often enough, but I find taking a walking in the woods to be centering and calming. In the spring the trees and shrubs start budding and coming to life. The sounds of insects and birds speak a beautiful language. In the fall we experience the marvelous colors and in winter there is a silence that speaks volumes. I have a friend who often described himself as feeling “discombobulated,” a delightful word I take to mean confused, unconnected, even a little frantic. A walk in the woods or along the lake, listening to the birds or the sounds of a thunderstorm, or watching a sunrise can put our Humpty-Dumpy lives back together again. We can sense our place in God’s creation, and reverencing other creatures, praise the God who made us all.

Gracious God, I thank you that I, and all my fellow creatures, my brothers and sisters, are fearfully wonderfully made. When I realize that I am your creature, beautiful and good, I feel whole, and sense that I am part of all that you have made, and I am re-charged by the grandeur I experience.

Fr. Jeff