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Happy Feast of St. Francis

If you haven't already, today would be a great day to read Paul Moses's story in the latest issue of Commonweal: "Mission Improbable: St. Francis and the Sultan." Paul posted about the story here on dotCommonweal back in June (in connection with the president's Cairo speech). Now you can read all the details -- and check out the Web site for Paul's brand-new book, The Saint and the Sultan.Other great ways to honor St. Francis:

  • Have your pet blessed! I'm off to a local parish with my turtle in a few minutes for his first-ever blessing. Does your parish do this?
  • Pray for peace, especially in the Middle East.
  • Subscribe to Commonweal. (It's what Francis would have wanted.)

Any thoughts on the story? Had you heard it before?

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, today was officially celebrated as the Feast of St. Francis and NOT just another Sunday in Ordinary Time.Today is also the occasion of the Castro Street Fair and the environs of Most Holy Redeemer were thronged with revelers, none of whom appeared to be looking for a place to have their (animal) pets blessed.

Same at the Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe.Interestingly. today is the Rosry for life her - the main speaker ia Cardinal McCarrick.

Bless your turtle, Mollie! I find it sad that there are no animal blessings or even animal acknowledgments in the local Catholic parish, this despite the fact that a good chunk of the parishioners are dairy farmers, about two-thirds of the kids are in 4-H, and a lot of people are making extra money these days from eggs and chickens. One need not be sentimental about our Dumb Friends in order, perhaps, to be grateful for the livelihood they provide.Plus I've got a big yellow cat who could use a blessing and possibly an exorcism. He celebrated the day by getting hold of Palm Sunday's palm fronds, dragging them under the bed where I couldn't reach him, eating the ends off said fronds and barfing them up on the couch.

Thank you, Jean! There was a pretty good crowd gathered around the baptismal font -- mostly dogs, many of whom were quite wary of each other. I saw one cat (in a carrier), but I think Wyley, my turtle, was the only critter there without fur. He's been very tranquil since we got home, so that peace prayer may have had an effect!We didn't go to my parish -- we went to one closer to our house -- but I know they were doing an animal-blessing too. It seems to be pretty common around here. Of course, the place to be in Manhattan on October 4 is St. John the Divine, the Episcopalian cathedral, where they bring in all kinds of animals (even a camel!). So perhaps having that in town is a good influence on the Catholic parishes?

Mollie, Wouldn't St. Francis have wanted Commonweal to forgo the subscription fee? Please provide the link for free subscriptions.

I think St. Francis would have considered a subscription to Commonweal a contribution to a worthy cause! But the unconvinced can sample two free issues...

Ah Francis. God's troubadour. Buon Giorno Buona Gente. Make me a channel of your peace...Francis, you so inspired us to greater heights to love and forgiveness. You showed that Muslims are our sisters and brothers also. How your followers lost your spirit right away as Rome coopted you as it is still doing. Taking the spirit out of movements and suffocating them with orthodoxy. Speak to us Francis and show us the real Jesus.

Mollie and Alan,St. Francis was not all that big on book learning in general, which gave rise to some significant tensions among his Franciscan brothers in the early days of the order. Still, we thank God for John Duns Scotus, William of Occam and the Great Bonaventure, not to mention so many great contemporary Franciscan scholars and preachers (e.g., Richard Rohr). So, would the great prophet of poverty beg free subscriptions to Commonweal... or America??? (LOL) Inquiring minds want to know! Truly, I think he'd tell us to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and "Proclaim the Gospel; if necessary, use words." Happy Feast day to all followers of Francis, especially those of you at Lourdes Hospital in Camden, NJ, and St. Francis Inn in Philly. (Full Disclosure. I'm a Jesuit... thus the shameless America plug)

The behavior of some animals reveals traits of sympathy and compassion. There is even talk of animal morality. Arguably animals may be more moral than some (many?) humans.Consider an elephant with a leg injury whose fellow elephants in her herd slowed down for her and even fed her... dogs can agree for a session of rough play thats not supposed to hurt and those that overstep the bounds, by for example by biting too hard, get frozen out of the group. Caged rats taught to push a level for food wont do it when that prompts the scientists to give a rat in the next cage an electric shock. Vampire bats share the blood they collect with bats that cant go out to hunt for their daily dose. raises some tongue in cheek questions: if some animals are moral does that mean that other animals may be immoral, e.g., fail to meet the requirements of compassion? Should these latter be automatically blessed on St. Francis day without some form of contrition? Might there be a distinctive Catholic animal morality? A culture war within the animal kingdom between hawks and doves?

Francis was my favorite saint even before I became a Christian - now he has to share St. Ignatius. My first idea of what he was like came from seeing the film Brother Sun Sister Moon (I posted a video clip from the movie on my blog here :)

Nobody has said anything about Moses's article. I thought he handled difficult sources well. I thought perhaps he added more suppositions about Francis' motives than the sources warrant. Francis was a fundamentalist, for example, regarding poverty.I wonder.

For almost 30 years I was a member of the Order of Friars Minor, with Francis as my spiritual father. I still consider myself a son of Francis, though I no longer wear the habit and sandals that characterized the Order in my day. I celebrated the feast of "our holy father Francis" yesterday--I belong to Franciscan parish--with much joy and a lot of reflection on Francis.The pet blessings, so common in our time, are a real tribute to Francis' love for all living things, but I fear at times that, with all the attention given to pet blessings on his feast day, we miss the true genius of Francis' vision: eight centuries ago, he was already "into" incarnational theology! He wanted nothing more than "to live the Gospel" and "to be poor because Our Lord was poor." The kind of poverty he advocated, spiritually, we call "wurrender" today. That is the meaning of the Tau sign he chose for his Brotherhood: it signifies total surrender to God. His love for animals was part of a much larger vision, and he like Lord he loved and served so well is -- he has always been -- way ahead of us...pointing the way.

I'm struck by the economic "edge" of Franciscan poverty--its societal more than its individual implications. This son of a rich social climber (at a time when it was only just beginning to be possible to BE a social climber, absent noble birth,) rejected the whole idea of social climbing for a vision of radical equality--all humanity, and all humanity with all creation. It's easy to individualize and then to sentimentalize Francis' obsession with poverty--and by contemporary standards, he was obsessed, to be sure. But bring some of that notion of radical equality of all people into debates on health care reform, welfare reform, etc., and Brother Francis would represent a stark and extreme vision of how we might share the goods of the world with all. Just, you know, share everything.

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