2015 - "Three Little Words" by Terry Ferguson
The Fruit of the Spirit
2016 - "Through the Year with Francis of Assisi"
by Murray Bodo
2017 - Thanks-Living

Friday, September 30, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 30

St. Francis and the Parsley

"One night during his last illness Francis had a longing to eat some parsley, so he humbly asked for some.  But when they asked the cook about it, he said it was impossible.  'I have picked so much parsley from the garden that what little might be left I couldn't even find in daylight, leave alone at night.'

But St. Francis replied, 'Don't worry, my brother, just go to the garden and bring me the first herbs you lay your hands on.'

So the brother went out to the garden and picked the first plants he came upon and brought them back into the house.  The brothers then looked over the handful of herbs and found there some leafy and tender parsley.  The saint then ate a little of it and was greatly comforted.  He then said to his brothers:  'My dear brothers, obey a command immediately without waiting for it to be repeated.  And don't say that it is impossible, for if you are commanded something beyond your strength, holy obedience will give you the strength you lack.'"  --Celano, Second Life, 51

In order to do what Francis admonishes we must know when the Lord is speaking to us and when it's just our own thoughts taking over.  This isn't an issue if we are completely given over to the Lord.  However, we must learn to not let the world distract or entice us to be looking elsewhere when the Lord is asking us to do something.  Abiding in Christ means to be continually listening and watching for His voice, His movement in our lives so we can obey.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi -September 29

St. Francis and Brother Fish

"Once St. Francis was sitting in a boat near a port in the lake of Rieti.  A fisherman who had just caught a large carp rowed over to the saint and kindly offered him the fish.  St. Francis accepted it joyfully and gracefully, and immediately began calling it 'Brother.'  Then he placed the fish gently in the water and began praising the name of the Lord.  But all the while Francis prayed, the fish continued to play beside the boat and would not leave until St. Francis finished his prayer and gave it permission to leave.

And so it was that St. Francis's total obedience to God gave him great dignity before creatures, who in turn obeyed him."  --Celano, First Life, 61

Our obedience to God reflects on our relationship with Him and is an example to others--including God's animal kingdom--on how we should serve Him.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 28

St. Francis and the Lambs Bound for Market

"Once when St. Francis and his companion were passing through the Marches of Ancona, he met a man on his way to market carrying two little lambs over his shoulder.  When Blessed Francis heard their bleating, he was filled with compassion.  He went up to the lambs and touched them compassionately like a mother over her weeping child.  Then he said to the man, 'Why are you torturing my brother lambs, binding their feet this way and hanging them over your shoulder?'

'I am taking them to market to sell them because I need the money.'

'And what will happen to them there?' asked Francis.

'Why, whoever buys them will slaughter them and eat them, of course.'

'God forbide!  This must not happen.  Here, take this mantle in exchange, and give me the lambs.'

Then, since the mantle was worth more than the lambs, the man quickly made the exchange.

Now Francis had borrowed the mantle that very day, because it was very cold.  And so when he was trying to determine what to do about the lambs, he consulted with his companion, and then decided to give them to the man who'd lent him the mantle.  He told the man to take care of the lambs and commanded him never to sell them or harm them, but to keep them and feed them and care for them conscientiously."  --Celano, First Life, 79

There were other instances that Francis encouraged his followers to eat meat.  I have not seen where this contradiction has been explained.  Ultimately, I believe it must be between you and God.  I feel animals were given to us as food, but we should treat them humanely.  This is the message, at the very least, that should be gleaned from today's reading.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 27

Brother Flowers

"Francis told the brother gardener not to plant the whole garden with food but to set aside a plot for those plants which in their season would bloom with Brother Flowers.  He said the reason the brother gardener should plant this pretty little flower bed with its sweetly scented herbs and flowering plants was because it would invite all who saw it to praise God; for every creature says, 'God made me for you, oh human!'"  --Writings of Leo, Rufino, and Angelo, 113

When we do not take care of our planet and treat it kindly we are saying to God that we do not appreciate all that He has given us.  Not only does God make plants to be useful (like pollen for the bees in the flowers), He goes a step further and makes them beautiful to our eye.  Our rivers and mountains and the clear, blue sky are all useful and beautiful, yet man pollutes and destroys these resources.

Monday, September 26, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 26

St. Francis and the  Swallows

"It happened once when St. Francis was preaching in Alviano that he could not be heard because of the chattering of a flock of swallows building their nests there.  So St. Francis said to the birds:

'My Sister Swallows, you have had your say.  It is now my turn to speak.  Be quiet now and listen to the word of the Lord.'

Then to the astonishment of the people standing about, the little birds fell silent and did not move until St. Francis finished preaching."  --Celano, First Life, 59

Sometimes we have to tell all the chatter in our minds to be quiet so that we can hear the Lord speak to us.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 25

Brother Rabbit

"Once when St. Francis was staying at the town of Greccio, a little rabbit that had been caught in a trap was brought alive to him by a certain brother.  When the most blessed man saw it, he was moved to pity and said:  'Brother Rabbit, come to me.  Why did you allow yourself to be tricked like this?'  And as soon as the rabbit had been let go by the brother who held it, it fled to the saint, and without being forced by anyone, it lay quietly in his lap as the safest place possible.  After he had rested there a little while, the holy father, caressing it with motherly affection, released it so it could return free to the woods.  But when it had been placed upon the ground several times and had returned each time to the saint's lap, he finally commanded it to be carried by the brothers to the nearby woods."  --Celano, First Life, 60

As I read this I thought about how Jesus released us from our trap and continues to be a safe haven for us.  But just as St. Francis had the rabbit taken back into the woods, God sends us back into the world to do His bidding there.  The difference for us is that we have the Holy Spirit to be with us even in the world.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 24

The Little Sheep

"Once in the Marches of Ancona St. Francis found a certain shepherd feeding a herd of she-goats and he-goats in the fields.  Among the great number of these goats there was one little lamb going along and feeding humbly and quietly.  When blessed Francis saw it, he stopped and, touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, then groaning deeply, he said to the brother who was with him:  'Do you see this sheep that walks so meekly among the goats?  I tell you that our Lord Jesus Christ walked in the same way meekly and humbly among the pharisees and chief priests.  There I ask you, my son, for love of him, to have pity with me on this little sheep.  Let us pay the price and lead her away from among these goats.'"  --Celano, First Life, 77

Just a Jesus's compassion knew no bounds St. Francis's compassion knew no bounds.

Friday, September 23, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 23

Sister Cicada

"One day when St. Francis came out of his cell, he saw a cicada on a branch of the fig tree that grew beside the door.  The cicada was so close he could have reached out and touched it, but instead he stretched out his hand and said, 'Come to me, little Sister Cicada.'  And immediately it jumped down upon his finger.  St. Francis then began stroking the cicada with a finger of his other hand and inviting it to 'Sing, little Sister Cicada.'  And as soon as the cicada heard his words, it began to sing, consoling Francis and moving him to praise God.  He held the cicada in his hand for a good hour and then put it back on the branch of the fig tree where he had found it."  --Writings of Leo, Rufino, and Angelo, 75

When even insects respond to you it must be a clear indication that you emanate peace and safety. Francis's whole being was given over to the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 22

Brother Pheasant

"A certain nobleman from the commune of Siena sent a pheasant to the blessed Francis while the latter was sick.  He accepted it with alacrity, not with the desire of eating it, but, in the way he always rejoiced over such things, out of love for the Creator.  And he said to the pheasant:  'May our Creator be praised, Brother Pheasant!'  And to the brothers he said:  'Let us see now if Brother Pheasant will stay with us, or if it will go back to its usual and more suitable haunts.'  One of the brothers took it, as the command of the saint, and placed it at a distance in the vineyard.  Immediately, however, it came directly back to the saint's cell.  Again Francis ordered it place even father away; but it came back with the greatest speed to the door of his cell and entered almost by force under the habits of the brothers who were standing at the door.  The saint then ordered it to be fed diligently, embracing it and caressing it with soft words."  --Celano, Second Life, 170

I see this as an example of how we should be concerning God's gifts to us.  Francis was willing to give up the pheasant, and he was rewarded with its return to him--twice.  His unwillingness to eat it was another matter.  The nobleman had sent it because Francis was ill and he probably figured Francis needed the food for his health.  But Francis, a lover of animals, did not view the gift in that light.  Because I believe God gave us animals for work and food, I will eat meat, but I know if I made an acquaintance with the animal I could not eat it either.  Francis's love for the creature and the Creator allowed him to receive it without claiming it for himself only.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 21

The Little Black Hen

"St. Francis had a vision of a little black hen, whose feathers and feet were those of a dove.  She had so many chicks that she couldn't gather them under her wings, and so they ran all around her, beyond her reach.

When he woke up, Francis began to think about the dream, and the Holy Spirit reveaed to him that the hen symbolized Francis himself.  'I am that hen,' he said, 'because I am small in stature and black, and because I am to be simple like a dove and fly heavenward on wings of virtue.  The Lord, in his mercy, has given and will give me more children, which I could never care for by myself.  I need, therefore, to surrender them to Mother Church, who will protect them and gather them under the shade of her wings.'"  --Legend of the Three Companions, 63

Our dreams can just be a collection of happenings from our day, or they could very well symbolize something the Spirit within us wants us to see.  When we sleep we are more receptive to the "other world" because our conscious mind is disengaged.  It would do well to pay attention to our dreams and ask God to interpret them for us if it is not obvious to us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 20

Sister Lark

"Sister Lark has a hood like a religious and is a humble bird who gladly goes in search of any little grain, and even if she finds something in the garbage, she picks it out and eats it.  In flight she sweetly praises God like good religious who, detached from worldly things, turn ever toward heaven and who long only to praise God.  The lark's garb, her plumage, is the color of the earth.  Thus she offers religious an example of how not to wear elegant, flashy clothes, but moderately priced things, of the color of earth, the humblest of the elements."  --Mirror of Perfection, 113

I do not think I shall heed Francis's admonition to wear only the color of earth because the colors I find in flowers and sunrises and sunsets and oceans lead me into praise of His glory found in His creation!  While I shall always keep in mind that my flesh is made from the earth my soul is made in His image.

Monday, September 19, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 19

St. Francis Preaches to the Birds

"Once near Bevagna in the Spoleto valley St. Francis saw a large flock of birds of various kinds.  There were doves and crows, and those popularly called daws.  Now Francis was always fervent toward creatures and showed them great tenderness, so as soon as he saw these birds he left his companions and ran eagerly to the birds.   And when he got close to them, he greeted them in his usual way.  They seemed to be waiting for him; they didn't fly away as he expected them.  And so, filled with joy, he begged them to listen to the word of God.  Among other things, he said this to the birds:  'My Brother Birds, you should always praise your Creator and love him.  He covered you with feathers and gave you wings to fly with and granted you a kingdom of pure air.  He cares for you, too, without any worry on your part, though you neither sow nor reap.'  At these words, as Francis and his companions later reported, the birds acknowledge his words in a wonderful fashion.  They stretched out their necks and flapped their wings, and gazed at him with their beaks open.  And St. Francis walked among them in fervor of spirit, brushing their heads and bodies with his tunic, and not of them moved until he made the sign of the cross over them and gave them permission to fly away.  And Francis and his companions went on their way, as well, praising and thanking God whom all creatures venerate and humbly acknowledge."  --Celano, First Life, 58; St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 12:3

Stories like this is why Francis is the patron saint of animals and ecology.  The other day I was sitting here at my computer when I noticed there were different kinds of birds visiting my mini-birdbath outside my window:  a couple of smaller birds I usually see, but then two robins, a cardinal, a bluejay arrived, each taking a turn at the 6-inch diameter bath!  Then a hummingbird appeared at the geranium outside my window--twice!  I'd never seen so much activity before nor since.  I felt like Francis must have felt--in awe.  As I write this I hear my husband talking to a bird in the morning glory on the front porch asking, "Are you talking to me?" as the bird carries on with his squawking.  Yes, I think God's creatures do "talk" to us in various ways as emissaries from God Himself.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 18

Brother Almond

"One day Francis was filled with joy because he was beginning to enjoy God in all creatures.  He went through the streets singing and inviting everyone to sing along with him.  Then he came upon an almond tree, and he said, 'Brother Almond, speak to me of God.'  And the almond tree blossomed."  --An old Franciscan legend

This is a legend, but then with God anything is possible!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 17

Brothers Sun and Fire

"At dawn, when the sun rises, everyone should praise God who has created Brother Sun for our service, for through him our eyes light up the day; in the evening, when night descends everyone should praise God through Brother Fire, for through him our eyes light up the night.  We are all, as it were, blind, and it is through these two brothers that the Lord gives light to our eyes.  We should praise the Lord, then, in a special way for these creatures and for the others, too, who serve us day by day."  --Mirror of Perfection, 119

Having a reverence of God's creation is also reverencing God Himself.

Friday, September 16, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 16

St. Francis's Devotion to the Saints

"The saints and their remembrance were for Francis like a burning coal, which enkindled in him a divine fire.  He venerated with most fervent devotion all the Apostles and especially Peter and Paul because of the fervor of their love for Christ."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 9:3

Seeing how others, like Peter and Paul, lived out their lives in Christ can be an encouragement to us, especially when we see they, too, struggled at times.  But more importantly, we see their victories.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 15

Our Friend, Brother Fire

"On one occasion the doctors agreed that a cauterization would cure St. Francis's eyes, and the brothers encouraged him to have it done.   The man of God humbly agreed, realizing the operation would be helpful, though very painful, too.  They therefore sent for a surgeon who came and put a searing-iron in the fire in preparation for the cauterization.  But Francis, in order to calm his already trembling body, talked to the fire like a friend:  'My little Brother Fire, the Most High has created you with a splendor that is the envy of all creation.  He made you strong, beautiful, and useful.  Be good to me now, be kind.  I beg the great Lord who created you to temper your heat for me, so that you will burn gently and I may endure it.'  When he had finished his prayer, he traced the sign of the cross over the red-hot poker and waited unafraid.  The glowing iron was then laid into his soft flesh and drawn from his ear to his eyebrow.  Then Francis said of the pain the burn inflicted.  'Give thanks to the Most High, for I can say truthfully that I never felt any heat or any pain.'  He had achieved such purity of heart that his body was in perfect harmony with his spirit, and his spirt with God.  And so it happened by God's dispensation that creatures, who always serve their Maker, were made subject in a marvelous way to the will and command of Francis."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 5:9

When we are truly, fully one with God there is perfect harmony and all things are possible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 14

The Praise Due to God

"Because he suffered so much for us and gave us such gifts and will continue to bestow them in time to come, let every creature that is in heaven and on earth and in the sea and in the depths of the abyss (cf. Rv 5:13) render praise to God, and glory and honor and blessing, because he is our virtue and our strength; he who alone is good, who alone is Most High, alone almighty, wondrous, glorious who alone is holy, worthy of praise, blessed forever and ever.  Amen."  --St. Francis, Letter to All the Faithful, Second Version

God is our virtue and strength.  When we are feeling a failure we must remember that it is God in us who enables us to try again.  With Him, we are never a failure.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 13

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"Praise to you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
From whom no one living can escape.
How dreadful for those who die in sin,
How lovely for those who are found in your Most Holy Will,
For the second death can do them no harm.

O praise and bless my Lord,
Thank him and serve him
Humbly but grandly!"  --St. Francis


Monday, September 12, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi -September 12

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"O, and praise to you, my Lord,
Through those who forgive one another in your love
And who bear sickness and trials.
Blessed are they who live on in peace,
For they will be crowned by you, Most High!"  --St. Francis

To live in peace IS to forgive one another in His love.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 11

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
Who nourishes us and teaches us,
Bringing forth all kinds of fruits and colored flowers and herbs."  --St. Francis

Earth is an amazing "spaceship."  I cannot understand why anyone would not believe that it had to have had a Creator.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 10

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"Yes, and praise to you, my Lord, through Brother Fire.
Through him you illumine our night.
And he is handsome and merry, robust and strong."  --St. Francis

Besides illuminating the night, fire warms us and cooks our food.  It is also used to refine and strengthen metals.  And who doesn't like to sit by a cozy fire on a cold winter's night listening to the crackling and whistling of the wood as the flames flicker and dance about.  Yes, there is much to be praised for God's gift of fire.

Friday, September 9, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 9

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"And praise to you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
Through air and cloud, calm, and every weather
That sustains your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So very useful, humble, precious, and chaste."  --St. Francis

The wind moves the clouds that brings the rain that gives us water.  All of life is connected by God's Hand.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 8

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"So, praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who makes the day and enlightens us through you,
He is lovely and radiant and grand;
And he heralds you, his Most High Lord.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon
And the stars.
You have hung them in heaven shining and precious and  fair."  --St. Francis

The sun is representative of God Himself since it is what the earth revolves around.  It gives our planet life--light and warmth.  It is necessary for plants to grow to feed us so we can survive.  Its light allows us to move about without fear of stumbling just like God's light is His love and grace.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 7

The Canticle of Brother Sun

"Highest, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours is the praise, the glory, and the honor,
And every blessing.
They belong to you alone, Most High,
And no one is worthy to speak your name."  --St. Francis

This is the first of seven verses shared from this Canticle.  You can read more about it here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 6

Composing the Canticle of the Creatures

"St. Francis said to his companions, 'If an emperor were to give his entire kingdom to one of his servants, wouldn't that servant be filled with joy?  And if, in addition, he gave him his whole empire, wouldn't the servant be even happier?'  And he continued, 'Then I too should rejoice in my infirmities and troubles, and take comfort in the Lord and give thanks always to God the Father, and to his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit for the great grace they've given me:   namely, to know for certain, even while I am still clothed in the flesh, that I am assured of the kingdom, I an unworthy servant.  'So, for God's praise, for our consolation, and for the edification of others, I want to compose a new song, a canticle to the Lord through his creatures, whom we use every day, and without whom we cannot live and through whom the human race greatly offends its Creator.  We are constantly ungrateful for his gifts and blessings, and we do not praise the Lord, Creator, and Giver of all good gifts, as we should.'  Then he sat down and began to meditate for a while.  And afterward he began to sing, 'Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, etc.,' and he taught his companions the words and the melody."  --Mirror of Perfection, 100

Francis composed many songs to the Lord.  He was able to see all of life as a gift from God to be appreciated now and what was to come.

Monday, September 5, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 5

How We Fail Our Creator

"Consider, O human, the wondrous dignity God has conferred upon you.  He created and formed your body in the image of his Beloved Son, and your soul in his own likeness.  Still, all creatures under heaven serve and know and obey their Creator in their own way better than you do."  --St. Francis, Admonition 5

This is an indictment we can't escape!  However, there is still time, if you are reading this, or in my case, writing it, to amend our ways.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 4

The Friend of Animals

"That meekness which is so necessary, we should learn from St. Francis.  For his was an extraordinary meekness, not only toward other people, but also toward animals.  He called all animals 'brother' or 'sister' and we read in the story of his life how even wild animals came running to him as their friend and companion."  --From a sermon of St. Bonaventure, evening, October 4, 1255

To be meek is to not think of yourself too highly or too lowly.  We must always bear in mind that God gives grace to the humble.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 3

The Contemplation of the Creator in Creatures

"St. Francis praised the Artist in every one of his works; whatever he found in things made, he referred to their Maker.  He rejoiced in all the works of the Lord's hands, and with joyful vision saw into the reason and cause that gave them life.   In beautiful things he came to know Beauty itself.  To him all things were good.  They cried out to him, He who made us is infinitely good.'  By tracing his footprints in things Francis followed the Beloved wherever he led.  He made, from created things, a ladder to his throne."  --Celano, Second Life, 165

Praising God for His creation helps us remember that we belong to God because we, too, were created by Him.

St. Francis of Assisi - September 2

Reverence for Stones

"He walked reverently over rocks, out of consideration of him who is called Peter, the Rock.  And when he came to this psalm verse, "Upon a rock you have exalted me" (cf. Ps 61:2-3), he would say, to be even more reverent, 'At the feet of the Rock you have exalted me.'"  --Celano, Second Life, 165

Scripture speaks on building a house on a rock foundation rather than sand, so when Peter is called a rock it is to emphasize that the church was being built on a solid foundation.  Francis was exemplifying Peter's role in establishing the church by reverencing the rocks he walked upon.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - September 1

Seeing the Symbols Around Us

"Francis embraced all things with an unheard of love and devotion, speaking to them of the Lord and exhorting them to praise Him.  He spared lights, lamps, and candles, refusing to be responsible for extinguishing their light which he saw as a symbol of the eternal Light."  --Celano, Second Life 165

Francis's reverence for all of God's creation was evident in all that he did.

St. Francis of Assisi - August 31

The Joy of St. Francis

"When the sweetest melody of spirit would flame up in his heart, he would release it by singing in French, and the trickle of divine inspiration which his inner ear had caught would begin to overflow like a minstrel's song.  At times, as I have seen with my own eyes, he would pick up a stick from the ground and, holding it on his left arm, would draw across it another stick bent by means of a string, as if he were playing the violin.  Then pretending to play, he would sing in French the praises of the Lord."  --Celano, Second Life, 127

Francis's child-like playfulness was indicative of his relationship with God--that of child and loving parent.