29 May 2024

The presence of God in all creation

Late in his life, and approaching “Sister Death”, Francis wrote a piece of poetic praise to the God he knew was present to him in all of creation. This renowned piece is a beautiful hymn of praise that Franciscans have treasured throughout the centuries.

It is also an inspiration to many within the Christian community. Hymns have been written based on these words, and in 2015, Pope Francis began his second encyclical using the words of the hymn of praise, The Canticle of the Creatures:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,

Yours are the praises, the glory,

and the honour, and all blessing,

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,

especially Sir Brother Sun,

Who is the day and through whom You give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant

with great splendour;

and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord,

through Sister Moon and the stars,

in heaven You formed them clear

and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,

and through the air, cloudy and serene,

and every kind of weather,

through whom You give sustenance

to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,

who is very useful and humble

and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,

through whom You light the night,

and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,

who sustains and governs us,

and who produces various fruit

with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give

pardon for Your love,

and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace

for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,

from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessed are those whom death will find

in Your most holy will,

for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks

and serve Him with great humility.

This glorious hymn to the God who loves summarises the spirituality of Francis of Assisi. For Francis, and for we Franciscans, God is present in all created things. All of creation must be treasured, protected, loved and cared for because the footprints of God can be seen in all that we see, all that we touch, and all whom we encounter. Fractious attitudes and behaviours must cease. Even death is the place where God is to be found.

Franciscan Spirituality is not about praying to a distant, unapproachable God who has not become present to us. Franciscan Spirituality – our shared spirituality – begins by finding God in the world we inhabit and the people we encounter.

This is the great challenge that Francis leaves us, and it is what we strive to become: followers of Francis, walking in the footprints of the loving God, finding the living God in the world around us.

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