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St. Francis 2016


Last week father Steve told you halfway through his sermon, “you thought he forgot to continue the sermon series on the book “prayer works”. And he didn’t.  Well, I am going to be right up front, but this is my favorite Saints day, St. Francis and I will not ignore him.


In today’s collect for Trinity 19 we prayed “Grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts.” If anyone ever followed the Holy Spirit of God it was St. Francis of Assisi who allowed God’s Holy Spirit to direct and rule his heart, mind and actions.  Remember: the Saints of God were closer to Christ in 1.) In Time 2.) In Mind and 3.) In spirituality


Now the first part of my sermon is from prayer works, chapter three is about “Good Reception“. I can say without a doubt St. Francis had good reception, because he listened for the Holy Spirit to speak to him and direct him and he followed.


I will begin with chapter three and then I promise end with our friend St. Francis.  I have thought about writing my own book on prayer the Title would be “Prayer Does Not Work! because we abuse and misuse it.  God is not our personal concierge in heaven jumping at our every request.  Remember in the Mitford series, Father Tim said the perfect prayer that is always answered ends with “Thy will be done”.


“Good Reception” there are some instances when force will not work.  We cannot use force to threaten or bargain with God, it may even cause a short circuit   we do not demand of God; we must receive graciously his answers to our prayers.

You don’t tell those bringing you gifts what to bring, of course we can and should bring before God our personal hopes, requests, desires and prayers for others then through prayer allow him to’ choose  (help us to choose) what is best for us.  Remember our solution or desires are not always best for us.


In pastoral counseling, I try not to tell someone what they should do.  I ask them what are their choices and if their choice makes sense, I will agree or encourage, if not I will ask them to consider an alternative.  Then, whatever their decision, it is their decision and they cannot blame me or give me credit.  I think it is a lot like that with God, He directs us in right choices, if we listen.


The books says when we demand of God or tell him what we must have, we certainly are not saying, “thy will be done” but my will be done.  If that is the way you want to play the game, do not waste your time and his.  The more we try to force God with our own wills, the more we try to take the kingdom of heaven by violence.  Satan, the devil tried that.  How did that work out?


Remember prayer is learning what God wants for you and how to live your life acceptable unto him. Talk to him as your loving father, He will answer, yes, no, wait or other!


Now to my favorite Saint and one who certainly prayed fervently and listened with both ears; today, the Franciscans follow him, the Catholics venerate him, and the Protestants have adopted him.…. St. Francis!


He was born into wealth, destined to be a member of nobility, dreamed of being a knight and fight in the crusades, but called instead by God to “re-build” his church. Remember that word “re-build” even St. Francis misunderstand God’s instruction, at first but eventually got it right.

I often dwell on and emphasis St. Francis “the patron Saint of animals”, not meaning to neglect the other side of the man (the Saint) who founded the “Franciscan order”,  a man known for his brotherly love, preaching, poverty, humility and silent teaching by personal example of a life of simplicity.


St. Francis was born in 1182 into a wealthy cloth merchant family; in his younger days growing up he enjoyed pleasures and riches, and much like our youth today, little responsibility.


His knightly career was short lived; in a battle, St. Francis was taken prisoner and became seriously ill.  After this life threatening illness and with much inner conflict decided to devote himself to prayer and the service of the poor. 


Now back to “He was told in prayer to re-build Christ’s Church”. It was while he was in the chapel in Assisi praying that God spoke to him and told him to “Re-build His Church”  Francis misunderstood God’s command and began a campaign to raise money to restore the church in Assisi”.  It was later that he understood that Christ had asked him to restore and unify the “Body of Christ” the church with the love and compassion of Christ.  He was not asked to initiate a big expensive building program, but to build up the real body of Christ, God’s people. 


Francis had no intention of founding a religious order, but as his followers grew, out of necessity, an organization, the great Franciscan brotherhood was formed. During his lifetime the friars spread to the ends of the earth, filled with his spirit, which was the very spirit of Christ. They settled themselves in the slums of great cities.  They preached in Egypt and the east, died martyrs deaths, and ministered to the poor black slaves in plantations in Spain. Wherever misery of soul and body could be found, there they served Christ.  St. Francis not only fulfilled his vocation but taught others to do likewise.

St. Francis considered himself wed to poverty, forsaking family fortune, a lesson for the modern man or women today who are often wed to materialism.


Now to the other side of St. Francis, you could say that St. Francis could “multi-task”! St. Francis the patron Saint of animals was noted for his amazing love for nature and all God’s creatures. 

Animals found in him a tender friend and protector.  It is said that animals responded to his kindness by listening devoutly to his sermons.


Francis close rapport with the animal creation has inspired artists.  His preaching to the birds was and is a favorite scene from his life.  The wolf of Gubbio, tamed by Francis words, would listen to him preach, the tamed wolf was buried in the church yard at Assisi.


In the opening chapter of God’s word, Holy Scripture, God tells us that we have “dominion over all creation”.  St. Francis would tell us that means, respect, care and preservation of nature and all of God’s creation.  Before the fall, in the garden, man and Gods creation were in harmony.  Once man decided to go it alone, he became a belligerent combatant with God and his creation, including the animals, hunting and needlessly killing and eating them. Did you know it is believed, that man was a vegetarian before the fall?


I heard just last week Dr. Charles Krouthammer said we may learn in a 100 years that killing and eating animals was a mistake and future generations will not.  Nothing in nature compares to the inhumanity and atrocities that we commit against ourselves, others and God’s creatures.


I could spend hours sharing stories after story, that I have heard or read about God’s creatures affecting the lives of people as we learn from them and they help us. In truth, they do more for us than we do for them.  When given a chance these other fellow creatures save lives, assist humans, bring love and comfort, they give us examples of life and love.  We are just beginning to touch the surface of our commonality with God’s creation and our interaction.


They have even  been known to author books, giving us humans sound advice to livings, like Trixie, the very, very special angel and beloved dog of Dean and Gerda Koontz, who wrote the book “Bliss To You!” Trixie’s guide to a happy life! On how to achieve true bliss!


Trixie wrote: “All dogs know the secret of how to achieve bliss. And here on the other side, in the company of angels who toss tennis balls for us and give us belly rubs, I have learned even more about the subject. The road to bliss is paved with dog wisdom. Follow me, I will show you the way, the steps to bliss; calm, beauty, fun, wisdom, meaning, others, humility, loss, gratitude”.


St. Francis taught: if we would restore our close communion with God and his creation, nature and animals, the world would be a better place.  The catechism of the church states clearly that animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory, thus men owe them kindness. It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.


I have talked with many theologians and written on the subject. Compassion for animals was a prominent theme with Pope John Paul who wrote that animals are “The fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect”.


He reminded people that all living beings, including animals, came into being because of the Breath of God and that they are as near to God as men are. They possess the divine spark of life, the living quality that is the soul and they are not inferior beings.  After he became Pope, John Paul II went to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and spoke of the Saint’s love for animals. He declared we too are called to a similar attitude.           


Father Jack Wintz, a Franciscan Friar and author of several books on animals going to heaven, writes “After all, God cares for all of his creation not just the humans. In the biblical account of Noah and the ark, God makes sure that all the animals are saved”.


The Franciscan’s take St. Francis position seriously that our animals are our brothers and sisters.  Our heavenly father created the whole world to share in God’s saving plan, believing that God intends heaven to be a new Garden of Eden as all creation is restored to God’s original intended state.


We read in Romans 8:18 (Phillips) “In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us.  The whole of creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sign of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited - yet it has been given hope.  And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God.


Father Homer Rogers, the Padre wrote: “Everything God has made is an expression of something which is in God.  Even the hippopotamus is like something in God.  But it is still not God.  How do you hold a kindly, tender affection for the hippo?  If so, when you see God, face to face in eternity, you are going to like something in his nature, whatever part of him is revealed in the hippopotamus.  Gods nature and beauty is presented to us in the multitude of the lovely things that surround us all day long.”


Before I close with my favorite St. Francis quote, in keeping with the theme of St. Francis and the world, I have one last quote from from the enduring spirit of Dean and Greta Koonntz‘s  Golden Retriever Trixie (now at the rainbow bridge). “Too many of us die without knowing transcendent joy, in part because we pursue one form or another of materialism.  We seek meaning in possessions, in pursuit of cosmic justice for earthly grievances, in the acquisition of power over others.  But one day death reveals that life is wasted in these cold passions, because zealotry of any kind precludes love except of the thing that is idolized.  On the other hand, dogs eat with gusto, play with exuberance, work happily when given the opportunity, surrender themselves to the wonder and muster of their world, and love extravagantly.  Envy infects the human heart; if we envy, next we covet, and what we covet becomes the object of our all-consuming avarice.  If we live without envy, with the humility and the joyful gratitude of dogs – kibbles! Ball! Cuddle time! – we will be ready even for death when he comes for us, content that we have made good use of the gift of life……………in preparation for the next!



St. Francis taught us “If you have people who exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have those who deal likewise with their fellow human beings.”  If we would restore our close communion with God and his creation, nature and animals, the world would be a better place.  Agreed!    It begins with us!  The whole of creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sigh of the sons of God coming into their own. The whole of creation stands with Saint Francis, and yes Virginia, our pets and all God’s wonderful creation will be in heaven!


Father Michael Robertson.

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