Franciscan Spirit Blog

Novena to St. Francis | Day Four: Creation

The Jesuit priest poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has a beautiful line in one of his poems. “The world,” he wrote, “is charged with the grandeur of God.” Though St. Francis lived long before Hopkins, I think he would agree. Francis sensed the beauty and presence of God in the created world. It was like another “Bible” that he read and encountered the Almighty. His biographer, St. Bonaventure, put it this way: ”In beauty, he saw Beauty itself.”

Bonaventure also poetically described creation as the “footprints of God.” In his beautiful “Canticle of the Creatures,” Francis praised God who made all things: moon, stars, wind, fire, and water. He wrote, “Praised be you my Lord, for Brother Sun; of You most High, he bears the likeness.” Feeling the warmth of the sun made him think of the warmth of God’s love. Even the sight of a worm on the side of a road after a storm reminded him of Jesus because of the passage from Isaiah describing the suffering of Jesus: “I am a worm, and no man.” The whole world, from the majestic sun to the tiniest creature, reminded Francis of the Creator, and to him it was all beautiful and good.

And not only did he sense the presence of God in creation, but Francis realized that all things were connected, because all had been created by God. He had a sense that everything and everyone was Brother and Sister, even the “Brother Thief” who robbed him one day on the road and “Brother Fly” who pestered him. At the end of his life, he welcomed Sister Death as a door that opened his life to the full experience of God.

I don’t do it often enough, but I find taking a walk in the woods to be centering and calming. In the spring, the trees and shrubs start budding and coming to life. The sounds of insects and birds speak a beautiful language. In the fall, we experience the marvelous colors; in winter there is a silence that speaks volumes.

I have a friend who often described himself as feeling “discombobulated,” a delightful word I take to mean confused, unconnected, even a little frantic. Listening to the birds or the sounds of a thunderstorm, or watching a sunrise, can put our lives back together again. We can sense our place in God’s creation. And in reverencing other creatures, we praise the God who made us all.

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Let Us Pray

Gracious God, I thank you that I, and all my fellow creatures, my brothers and sisters, are wonderfully made.
When I realize that I am your creature, beautiful and good, I feel whole,
and sense that I am part of all that you have made, and I am recharged by the grandeur I experience.


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