Today, of course, is the Feast of Saint Francis and my children are dutifully bringing stuffed animals to school this morning to be blessed. Contemporary hagiography often seems to reduce St. Francis to a lover of animals and friend of the natural world. At such times, we might do well to ponder some of his harder sayings, like this excerpt from his Letter to the Rulers of the Nations:
To all mayors and consuls, magistrates and rulers throughout the world, and to everyone who may receive these letters: Brother Francis, your little and despicable servant in the Lord God, sends his wishes of health and peace to all of you.
Pause and reflect, for the day of death is approaching. 1 beg you, therefore, with all possible respect, not to forget the Lord or turn away from His commandments by reason of the cares and preoccupations of this world, for all those who are oblivious of Him and turn away from His commands are cursed and will be totally forgotten by Him. And when the day of death does come, everything which they think they have will be taken from them. And the wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, so much greater will be the punishments they will endure in hell.
Therefore, I firmly advise you, my lords, to put aside all care and preoccupation and receive with joy the most holy Body and the most holy Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in holy remembrance of Him.