October 2, 2013: Saint Francis of Assisi and Murray Bodo

~by Susi Pittman

All created things are simply something loved by and wanted by God. No one knew this any better than Saint Francis of Assisi who emptied himself to the will of God and celebrated his love for the Creator by his very being. Francis believed that all of creation was God’s gift to man and was therefore to be treated as a valuable treasure, called to a dignity given it by the Creator.

Nowhere is Saint Francis honored more than at the “hearth” of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church recognized Francis as a saint when Pope Gregory IX canonized him on July, 16, 1228, less than two years after his death. The Church also recognizes Saint Francis as the patron saint of animals and officially declared him the patron saint of ecology in 1989.

Each year around the October 4th feast day of Saint Francis, Catholic churches across the country celebrate a special ceremony called The Blessing of the Animals, that remembers Francis’ love for the “lesser brethren and the gift of creation.” What a great blessing indeed. Parishioners bring their beloved pets, adopted wildlife, livestock and all manner of creatures to be blessed in a special way by a priest or deacon of the Church.

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Usually, a re-canting of God creating the universe is read from Genesis and/or the pastoral prophecy of the coming of the Messianic times from the book of Isaiah can be included. It is a beautiful moment when all are invited to place their hands on the heads of their animals and a blessing recited.* Amazingly, at these gatherings, the animals are situated in close proximity to each other, yet seem to harmonize with one another. This alone speaks to the “blessing” in the blessing. It doesn’t take much imagination observing one of these Blessing of the Animals to send one’s mind back to the Ark of Noah and what it must have been like as God sent the animals into Noah’s care.

The stories of Francis’s involvement with the animals are legendary. He preached to the birds, made a deal with a ravenous wolf, he spoke to the fish and all manner of beasts and had a pet lamb, dog, rabbit, wolf and pheasant. He had a deep conviction of kinship with all living things, extending to the indigenous flora and ecology of the earth, as well as the elements of earth; air, fire and water. He would study these things and become enraptured in their divine reflections. To Francis the entire world formed an immense family. The song of the earth drew Francis closer to the heart of God, whereby he lived as a man between heaven and earth.

Perhaps the greatest truth that Francis embraced and then emanated towards all who met him was that true happiness comes from loving Christ and feeling His love. Francis was a man who saw that “all that the Father gives” enters into being through Christ and Francis forever lost his heart in the love of Christ.

He was so in love with Christ that he created a special celebration of the Nativity of Christ’s birth. In the town of Greccio near Assisi, around 1220, he arranged for the first living nativity scene for worshipers to contemplate Jesus’ birth. He used real animals and a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and a donkey with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass.

It was Christ who appeared to him as Francis knelt and prayed before the Cross of San Damiano, and who asked Francis to “repair my house.” History tells us that the directives of Christ were for Francis to rebuild the Catholic Church, bringing back the authority of the Gospel as the norm rather than the rampant influence of the state.

I would like to recommend a marvelous Franciscan Friar by the name of Murray Bodo. At the age of thirteen, he read a book on St. Francis and lost his heart and found his vocation. You can catch his marvelous presentation on St. Francis filled with wit and humor:

He has written a book titled, Francis: The Journey and the Dream. This book is not a biography of St. Francis, but 77 vignettes of the life and thought of this great saint. It is a book to be savored. It is poetry and prayer in words and it leads us to reflect on our own path in creation.

The spiritual wisdom in this book will change your spiritual life forever. You can get his book from his personal WEBSITE Francis: The Journey and the Dream is now 40+ years old and a past article in the Franciscan Newsletter chronicles Fr. Murray’s writing the book in Assisi, Italy in 1972. It’s a beautiful presentation!

He has just published a new book Francis and Jesus:



Murray Bodo shares his new book

Friar Murray is a servant of God in an extraordinary way and this quote from his website will give you a little insight into his mission:

The way of St. Francis is for me the way to Jesus. He has been called the Mirror of Christ and so he is for me. Francis and Jesus, Jesus and Francis are at the heart of all my ministry and writing, whether or not they are mentioned specifically. They inform who I strive to be.


Catholics today need to reacquaint themselves and their children with Saint Francis of Assisi, a  loving and great saint and seek ways to serve Christ through responsible actions in addressing our world’s ecology and environment. Our faith teaches us to love God with all that we have and are, and to love our brother as ourselves. Francis called all of creation his “brothers” and “sisters.”  We are commissioned to be good stewards of the earth and all of its creatures. The global awareness of changes in the natural realm from climate change to species extinctions are telling us all that we must correct our abuse of this planet. We must start today, each of us individually, to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle and responsible mode of ecological sharing with our global family at large.

We can become the NEW Francis in our walk in life and herald a new cultural mind-set to bring back into perspective the joy of working for the good and survival of all mankind and all the gifts of creation, because after all, we are children of God and creation is a relative in God’s larger family.

*Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers by Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, NCCB/USCC, 1989

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Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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