Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Non-Fluffy Ways to Celebrate St. Francis of Assisi!

St. Francis of Assisi is commonly thought of as an animal-loving, tree-hugging hippie of sorts. Many churches offer a "Blessing of Animals" on or around the feast of St. Francis, and quite often, "suggested activities" for the feast revolve around animals or nature.
St. Francis of Assisi birdbath, anyone?
While doing these types of activities is great, and I'm all about dancing barefoot in fields of flowers amid singing birds, these aren't the only ways to celebrate St. Francis' awesome feast day. In fact, there are plenty of other fantastic things we can do to commemorate St. Francis-that don't revolve around fluffy animals. Since I am a mega-huge fan of St. Francis, and today is his epic feast day, I'd like to share a couple ideas about how we can celebrate!

Clean the church! (or the prayer corner in your home)

Years ago, during a discernment visit I was making with a religious order, one of the sisters explained that St. Francis often took a broom with him when he would preach in churches. That way, in addition to speaking about God, he could clean the churches to show reverence for the Eucharist. So, in imitation of St. Francis, we can clean our parishes. If this is not a feasible option, we can still clean the prayer areas in our homes, so that we will have a beautiful, tidy place to reflect and pray. 
Definitely needs some tidying up and work.
And yes, that is a hand-crocheted St. Francis doll. I have a very, very talented friend :)

 Adore Christ in the Eucharist.

Go to daily Mass and receive Christ in the Eucharist, or find a local Adoration chapel for some prayer time. If you can't do either of these, then pray a Spiritual Communion prayer! Adoring Christ in the Eucharist is very St. Francis-approved. In fact, some people argue that in his writings, St. Francis addresses the topic of the Eucharist more than other issues (like poverty or nature). In a letter to all of his friars, St. Francis wrote:
"Wherefore, brothers, kissing your feet and with the charity of which I am capable, I conjure you all to show all reverence and all honor possible to the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the things that are in heaven and the things that are on earth are pacified and reconciled to Almighty God." 
And, in the Testament which St. Francis wrote just before his death, he noted:
"And I act in this way since I see nothing corporally of the Most High Son of God in this world except His Most holy Body and Blood which they [priests] receive and which they alone administer to others. And these most holy mysteries I wish to have honored above all things and to be reverenced and to have them reserved in precious places."

Make some cookies!

Lady Jacoba de Settesoli was a noblewoman and friend of St. Francis. As the story goes, when St. Francis lay dying on October 3, 1226, he asked for "Brother Jacoba" (as the lady was affectionately known) to bring him almond cookies. Countless Catholics have different almond cookie recipes they use, but some people believe that Jacoba brought St. Francis something similar to mostaccioli. One such recipe can be found here. 

Gaze at epic, beautiful churches and educate yourself about church architecture.

For much of my life, I thought, Franciscans are all about simplicity. So, a truly 'Franciscan' church would be extremely plain and not particularly beautiful. Right???
WELL,  when I was a college student, I was blessed to hear a talk by Duncan Stroik, a Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. In this talk, he discussed the Franciscan Tradition of Sacred Architecture, and blew my misconceptions out of the water. 
"In fact, the Franciscans have been some of the greatest builders and patrons of art and architecture in the history of the Church. Can you believe that? The Franciscan order employed art and architecture to build the Faith." ~Prof. Duncan Stroik
If you're a bit of a nerd and have an hour to spare, you can watch or listen to the entire talk to learn more:

Show the deacons in your life how much you appreciate them.

Fun fact: St. Francis of Assisi was  never ordained a priest. Not believing himself worthy of the ordained priesthood, St. Francis humbly served as a deacon. Just as deacons assisted the Apostles in the days of the early church (see Acts 6,) countless deacons have continued to serve throughout the years. So, in celebration of St. Francis, the awesome deacon, why not pray for all deacons and show appreciation for any deacons in your parish or diocese? 

Read The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

This collection of stories about the life of St. Francis is simply delightful. Pour some coffee into your St. Francis of Assisi mug and read the stories here. Or, if you have children who like to act, then read or paraphrase the stories while they act them out! I think they may enjoy Chapter 11: How St. Francis made Brother Masseo Turn round and round like a child, and then go to Siena :) 

Regardless if you celebrate by having your cat blessed or by reading epic tales of St. Francis' antics, I hope that you all have a very blessed, glorious, and joyous feast of this simple saint! 
"Dear friends, Francis was a great saint and a joyful man. His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love of Christ, his kindness to every man and woman made him happy in every situation. In fact, between sanctity and joy there subsists a profound and indissoluble relation. A French writer said that there is only one sadness in the world: that of not being saints, that is, of not being close to God. Looking at St. Francis' witness, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness: to become saints, close to God!" ~Pope Benedict XVI, general audience on St. Francis


  1. These are all such good ideas and I plan on using some today! I especially like the one about cleaning to show reverence. My husband and I just started watching the movie Francis and Clare yesterday and will finish watching it tonight. Next year we will try to make it to a Transitus celebration. Happy Feast of St. Francis!

    1. I'm so glad you like these, Bethany! Oooh, the Francis and Clare movie is fun-that's so neat that you two watched it together! If you can make it to Transitus, I definitely recommend it. I wish there was a Franciscan order that lived near me, because I love Transitus! It's a simple, great way to kick off the festivities. I hope that you had a wonderful celebration yesterday!

  2. I, too, love the idea of cleaning the church. What a humble, simple thing to do to show respect.
    I did not know that St. Francis was not a priest. What a powerful reminder that we can all serve and make a difference in whatever roles we're in.

    1. I agree! I actually spent most of my life assuming that St. Francis was a priest, and my mind was pretty blown when I found out that he was not. As St. Paul said, there are many parts to the body-so many different roles and ways for us to glorify God and help others :)

  3. While I loved going to pet blessings as a kid with our crazy dogs, this is an awesome idea to honor St. Francis in ways beyond getting Fido blessed (while I'm not opposed to that ;-)
    I love a reason to celebrate a saint AND bake cookies, loL!!!

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you like this. Oh, I'm the same way-any excuse to bake cookies sounds good to me!

  4. I love St. Francis! Thank you for this post! He is such a wonderful simple saint!

    1. You are so welcome-I'm glad you enjoyed this. St. Francis really is wonderful (though he's my Confirmation saint, so I'm a bit biased!).