St. Francis, our namesake’s feast day is October 4

October 2022 · Forward in Hope, Ministry News

Run a quick Google search of “Saint Francis” or “St. Francis,” and look at the results. Odds are, you’ll see loads of links to churches, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, and others than have the 13th century Italian mystic as their namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Why? What is it about him that inspires so many to consider Il Poverello (Italian for “the little poor one) both patron and model?

He is, no doubt, the most popular saint in the Christian tradition, respected as much by Protestants as by Roman Catholics. Admired even by non-Christians and the non-religious, he’s the patron saint of animals and ecology, which is why we see his statue in so many gardens. It’s also why Episcopal, Catholic, and a few other denominations like to perform pet blessings on October 4th, his feast day.

Yet even those of us who aren’t animals, pet owners, or ecologists love St. Francis of Assisi – probably because he’s so darn lovable.

Fr. Bob Mize Jr., our founder, considered St. Francis his patron saint. That’s why he named his ministry – St. Francis Boys’ Home – after him. Inspired by the saint’s extreme humility and simplicity of life, Fr. Bob modeled his own life after him.

There’s not enough room here for a full bio, but Franciscan Media has a concise version that says, “The patron saint of Italy, Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit, and without a sense of self-importance … Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. In 1979, he was named patron of ecology. He did great penance—apologizing to (what he called his) ‘Brother Body’ later in life—that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. Francis’ poverty had a sister, Humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.” You can read more here. Wikipedia has a good article, too – if you’re interested.

You may have noticed the “Prayer of St. Francis” on our website. We also display it in our office spaces and hallways here at SFM. Interestingly, Francis is not the actual author of the prayer. Scholars agree this beautiful prayer was written by French priest, Father Esther Bouquerel, around 1912. Francis did, however, write many beautiful prayers, including the much-loved “Canticle of the Sun,” the first literary work composed in the Italian language.

Here’s a lovely version set to music.

As you can see, St. Francis saw God in everything and everyone, which enabled him to love both expansively and in a way that encompassed all creation. If anyone believed in the power of unconditional love to transform lives, it was he, which makes him a perfect namesake for our ministry of service to children and families.