My father died 10 years ago on Oct. 4.
We make what we can of a death, and so it seemed fitting that a man who loved the land and animals would take his earthly leave on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Today, the simple, poverty-living Francis would probably be medicated for his eccentric, God-loving ways. He was an odd one, even before insulating materialism separated us from the physical world.
We are more likely to watch a documentary on the stars than to gaze in awe. Francis ate, slept and prayed under them, his constant reminder of the vastness and presence of God.
Francis famously preached to birds. He found them attentive and seemingly excited as they winged away, carrying a message of mercy.
In “The Canticle of Creatures,” Francis gives thanks for “Sister Earth, our Mother who sustains and governs us.” He addresses Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Fathers Wind and Air, Clouds and Stars, and even Brother Fire.
He saw a reflection of God in every animal, orb and element; creation in its natural state, all praising its Creator, and each playing a role in the symphony of life.
We’ve all had our mystical moments in nature. We remember a breathtaking sunset or a brilliant rainbow. Every real hunter has been taken by the exquisite beauty of her prey; every fisherman by the strength and shimmering grace of his catch.
Those are Franciscan experiences, moments when God breaks through and we are immersed in something profoundly more.
But Francis did something we find difficult. He found the reflection of a living Creator, not just in burbling brooks and warbling birds, but in everyone who entered his life.
When is the last time you looked at a family member (babies don’t count), a co-worker, a public figure, or a random stranger and were reminded of the mysterious yet wonderful ways of God?
Maybe it is the microscope of social media or just a jealous bias, but we are more likely to see the faults of another rather than a God-loved creature stumbling on the path to glory just like us.
If I can’t see some divine grandeur and care in the most complex creatures made in the Creator’s likeness, maybe the problem is me. For this, Francis left me a clue.
He said, “You can show your love to others by not wishing them to be better Christians.”
It’s hard to remember that birds don’t judge.