Who is St. Francis: Francis was born in Assisi, Italy in 1182. He grew up leading a privileged life as the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. Francis loved to learn and sing songs as a boy. His father wanted him to become a businessman and taught him about the French culture. As Francis grew up, he began to see visions from God that changed his life. The first vision was when he was sick with a high fever. At first, he thought that God had called him to fight in the Crusades. However, he had another vision that told him to help the sick. Finally, when praying in a church, Francis heard God tell him to “repair my church, which is falling in ruins.”
Francis gave all his money to the church. His father became very angry with him. Francis then left his father’s home and took a vow of poverty. As Francis lived his life of poverty and preached to people about the life of Jesus Christ, people began to follow him. By 1209, he had around 11 followers. He had one basic rule which was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps”.
Francis was a devoted follower of God. He and his followers were dirty, poor, and smelled bad. However, eventually people understood their vow of poverty and the church blessed the Order. He loved and cared for the sick, especially the lepers.
The Franciscan Order grew as men joined and made vows of poverty. When a woman named Clare of Assisi wanted to take similar vows, Francis helped her start the Order of the Poor Ladies (Order of Saint Clare). He also started another order (later called the Third Order of Saint Francis) that was for men and women who didn’t take vows or leave their jobs, but lived out the principals of the Franciscan Order in their daily lives.
Francis was known for his love of nature and animals. There are many stories about Saint Francis and his preaching to animals. It is said that one day he was talking to some birds when they began to sing together. Then they flew into the sky and formed the sign of a cross.
It was also said that Francis could tame wild animals. One story tells of a vicious wolf in the town of Gubbio that was killing people and sheep. The people of the town were frightened and didn’t know what to do. Francis went to the town to confront the wolf. At first the wolf growled at Francis and prepared to attack him. However, Francis made the sign of the cross and told the wolf not to hurt anyone else. The wolf then became tame and the town was safe.
Why have a festival? The Feast of St. Francis is a great time to honor creation and our animal friends. The festival can be used to focus on the care and love for creation, animals, and each other. It, also, helps to build community, fellowship and appreciation of each other and our faith history.
Ways to do it online: It can be totally on line or give it out kits with contents to do the festival. Here are some ideas-
- Pet “Trick” videos– ask people to make a very short video of them and their pet, preferably of the pet doing a trick. For adults it can be similar to “Stupid Pet Tricks.” Edit them and combine them into one video. Show this for the festival or put it up on your website or media.
- Story Time: Record reading of and put on Facebook Live or do it as a Zoom: The Prayer of St. Francis (for all ages.) and Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi (Life of a Saint)by Juliette Levivier.
- Coloring pages-https://www.thecatholickid.com/saint-francis-coloring-page/, besides St. Francis, include creation coloring pages and animal coloring pages.
- Children’s Message-video record a short message about care of animals and care of creation. This goes well with story time.
- Music: All Things Bright and Beautiful is our St. Francis Festival theme. Record your choir or a soloist singing it . Put the music in a packet for families. Or give this video which includes the lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT_oDqOEGpc
- Prayer: The Prayer Attributed to St. Francis is a beautiful prayer of the day. It can be found in the Book of Common Prayer on page 833. A link for a copy: https://www.missionstclare.com/english/prayers/62.html. If giving a kit, include a page of prayers for creation.
- Crafts: If making kits for all, here is a cute and easy kit to give out: Unfinished wood birdhouses to paint and decorate or Birdseed cookies to put out: Mix together: 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, 3 Tablespoons corn syrup, 4 cups birdseed. Use cookie cutters and put mixture inside the cutter. Put on wax paper to dry. Once dry, remove cookie cutter and hang with yarn or put out on tree limb. Lastly, “Stain glass “ animals-tear up a bunch of pieces of colored tissue paper then laid them down on a sheet of wax paper. Cover it with another layer of wax paper then very quickly whisked a hot iron over the top. Get images of animals from the internet (coloring page ones work best.) Size them the size for the stain glass then print. Place the animal print on top of a piece of construction paper and cut out both layers with an Exacto knife. Cut the wax paper “stained glass” out to size and glued it to the back.
- Outreach ideas: Make the birdseed cookies or bird houses for gift so others can enjoy the animals. Give each family a list of ways to take care of creation and ask them to do one or two for a week or more. Do a collection of supplies for an animal shelter.
Follow with an outside Blessing or drive through blessing of animals.