by Karen Boyd
Following the long, green, growing season after Pentecost, I look forward to all the excitement that begins in autumn and culminates when summer arrives again next year. But, it’s not the beginning of school that, for me, marks this change, nor is it Halloween; it is the Feast of Saint Francis on October 4th.
Francis was born in Italy in 1181-82, the son of a wealthy merchant. His early years were spent enjoying life in easy living with friends. While attempting to prove himself in battle he was injured. While recovering from both physical and emotional injuries, he found himself praying in a small, crumbling church outside of the city. As he was praying, he heard God say to him,”Francis, rebuild my church.” Francis returned to his father and renounced his inheritance, selling all of his worldly possessions to finance repairs. He eventually understood that God meant all of his Church, and not just the one, small church where his conversion took place. Francis worked without ceasing to spread the gospel. He founded the Franciscan Order, which pays special attention to the poor and the sick.
St. Francis is the patron Saint of animals and ecology. In the Episcopal Church, we honor St. Francis by remembering all of the animals that we love, and have loved us. All of the animals that God lovingly created to benefit us in so many ways. We give thanks to God for these animals and we bless them.
Beginning on October 4th, all children at St. John’s will be invited to bring their pets, real or stuffed to school with them that morning. Clergy will be available for blessings as we celebrate the love God shows us through his creation. The children also gather donations for a local animal shelter. The donations are blessed and sent to animals in need.
On October 5th, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., we will be at Abilene Zoo, for the second annual St. Francis at the Zoo. Heavenly Rest priests will bless all of our wonderful zoo animals. All of Abilene is invited. Last year was such a wonderful time, this one will be as well.
On Sunday afternoon, October 9th, beginning at 5:00 p.m. in the Heavenly Rest Courtyard, will be a lovely service dedicated to the animals who share our homes and our hearts. This year, we are excited to have new tags branded with our Heavenly Rest logo that each blessed animal will be able to wear proudly on their collar or elsewhere. The service will conclude in our St. Francis Memorial Garden as we remember our beloved friends that we see no more.
As we remember the life of St. Francis, and work to continue his ministry to rebuild the Church, we not only bless and give thanks for all of God’s creation, but we reach out to our neighbors, to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to all by not just loving God, but by loving all he has created.