St. Francis of Assisi was alive and well at Christ Church this past Sunday as we blessed 11 dogs, two chickens, four mice and 32 humans at our annual Blessing of the Animals.
In my message I reflected on the fact that some Episcopalians don’t put much stock in saints yet we have a large book put out by the church called “The Great Cloud of Witnesses” that helps us remember great ‘saints’ (with quotes) throughout history that have shown us the way to Jesus. Francis of Assisi is included in our book and was highlighted Sunday.
Francis taught many things, having come into the world when the church was pretty corrupt. He said the church needs reformation (more on that below) and that God is in all things, all creatures , in us. Francis reminded us that the creatures of the world-our pets, the wild animals, farm animals-were also created by God and therefore are to be honored and taken care of.
As we blessed each pet and gave them St. Francis medals for their collars, I was amazed at how calm all the dogs were even though there were so many of them. One person said her dog had gotten calm after we had done the communal blessing of all animals present.
I loved looking into their eyes, scratching them under the chin and speaking the special prayer to them, following the recitation of their name. They really did seem to know what was going on!
St. Francis also reformed the church almost single handedly after responding to a Crucifix in the Church of San Damiano that said ‘Francis repair my church, which as you see is falling into ruin.’
Francis thought the voice meant that church, the one he was sitting in which was in ruins. But Jesus had other things in mind–the reform of the entire church–which was also in ruins. Having become rich at least partially by selling entry into heaven through something called indulgences, Jesus was asking the simple Francis to return to the simple message of his life, Jesus’ life, which had no interest in money or possessions and only wished to serve God by serving others.
I wonder if we aren’t in a position right now where a new St. Francis is needed, or at least a new Franciscanism is needed. Perhaps that’s what’s going on at Christ Church where we continue to do things outside the norm (‘I’m always amazed at this church,’ said one member yesterday. ‘ I never know what I’m going to experience here!’) As we continue to build this lay-led community of Jesus followers, maybe we’re showing the church the way…just maybe.
In the weeks to come, as we explore our next step, I will roll out a plan for Vestry to consider that kind of provides a Franciscan roadmap for our future. Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about this new form of Franciscanism at Christ Church.