St FRANCIS NOVENAS
Francis and the birdbath are a common sight. We feel a sentimental tug when we think of this holy man and the birds. Like Jesus before him, Francis knew the power and awe of rejoicing in God’s blessings, which include the blessings of nature within our wonderful universe.
Francis reminds us that nature includes not only the sentient beings with whom we share the universe, but also ourselves – our body and soul. Nature includes all that is – nothing is left out. Even the deserts and wastelands are included, and they are holy and beautiful. All is a blessing, and within this universe – our earthly home – we are all a part of God’s family.
When did you last set aside time to observe and appreciate God’s gift of a sunrise or sunset? How could we learn to love and care for our universe better? Francis treated all creatures as brothers and sisters, with gentleness and respect. Are we trying to follow his example?
God’s awesome Creation has, already, suffered so much damage as a result of human action. We need to treasure His gifts, so freely given to us, before it becomes too late to do so………..
‘Think of the flowers growing in the fields – they never have to work or spin. Yet I assure you that not even Solomon, in all his royal robes, was clothed like one of these’. (Matthew 6).
My Lord God, as the rain hides the stars,
As the Autumn mist hides the hills,
As the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
So the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of Thy face from me.
Yet, if I may hold Thy hand in the darkness
It is enough………………
Since I know that, though I may stumble in my going,
Thou dost not fall.
St Francis spent much of his time praying in solitude in nature. He practised contemplation, or ‘a long loving look at the real,’ which allowed him to see in a new way.
Denise Levertov in her poem, Sojourns in the Parallel World similarly asks us for a while at least, to turn away from our self-concerns to a larger reality found in our long loving look at the world around us.
Here are a few lines:
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal--then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
Find a few minutes if you can during each day of the novena to practise your own ‘long loving look at the real’ as an exercise of self-abandonment and trust in God’s goodness.