Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, nicknamed Francesco (Francis, in English), was born to a wealthy family of Assisi, Italy, around 1181. He would have been the kind to join the fraternity with the best parties, had such a thing existed in his day. But after several years of dissolute living, Francis had a vision of a different kind of joy, that of following the teachings of Jesus as closely as possible. For Francis, that meant giving up his worldly possessions and deeply identifying with the marginalized of the world, including the poor and lepers. He saw creation as a mirror of God, and so referred to animals and all aspects of creation as his brothers and sisters. He died in 1226, having established the Franciscan monastic order, a like order for women (Poor Clares), and an organization called the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance in which members do not take vows, but do commit to living the principles of Franciscan spirituality in their daily lives.
St. Francis' legacy continues to this day, particularly in his emphasis on the need to care for all of creation. Pope John Paul II said of him, "The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples." More than ever, we see the need for that peace with all of creation.
St. Francis' feast day is October 4th, and at Christ Chapel we will celebrate the day with an old tradition, the blessing of the animals. If you've a pet you'd like blessed, bring it to worship on Sunday, October 4th at 5:30. All critters are welcome.