September 25, 2017: As part of this year’s Novena Preparation for the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, our Conventual Franciscan confreres processed through the streets of Assisi, Italy, to the Tomb of St. Francis, in the Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi, for a Blessing with the Relics of St. Francis. (Video provided by Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Martin Breski, OFM Conv. who is currently serving in Assisi as a guide for pilgrims to the Basilica)
Franciscans from around the world celebrate the October 3rd Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi, in addition to his October 4th Feast Day. The definition of “transitus” is the “transit of a person or property en route from one place to another.” For Franciscans, TRANSITUS marks the night Francis left his earthly life, to move onto a life in heaven with Our Lord Jesus. He died, on the evening of October 3, 1226, a small man in his forties who had wanted to live a simple life in service to God.
Traditionally Saints’ Feast Days mark the date of death and are remembered with special mention, prayers, and scripture readings. For us the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th is so much more. It is a day filled with celebration and joy; blessing animals (often on the closest weekend), gathering for meals and enjoying the fellowship of our brothers and those we serve. Just as with all of the saints, it is the day Francis obtained Eternal Life.
In his time the message of St. Francis of Assisi attracted many followers across Europe. Francis could have led a life of luxury and earthly power. He was born into a wealthy cloth merchant family in Assisi, Italy around 1181 or 1182. As a young man he spent his days admiring Troubadours who traveled across Europe and performed their poetic songs to audiences. He also partook in raucous celebrations and planned on becoming a knight. His forays as a warrior against nearby Perugia ended in capture and imprisonment. The time in isolation allowed Francis to reflect on what God really wanted him to do in life.
This weekend, at many of our ministry locations, the faithful will gather for a Blessing of the Animals. Please join us at a ministry nearest to you as we celebrate St. Francis’ love for all of God’s creatures. He called animals “brother” or “sister,” and he exhorted them to praise God. This tradition is a strong one in many sects, beliefs and denominations, but for Franciscans it is a part of one of our most beloved celebrations of the year.
Lord God King of heaven and earth,
Thou the Word of the Father by whom all creatures were given us for our support: look down, we beseech Thee, on our lowliness. As Thou hast given us these animals to assist us in our labors and needs so mayest Thou in Thy great goodness and mercy bless them from above, guard and preserve them; and, while Thou givest Thy servants temporal benefits, mayest Thou grant us thy continual grace so that we may praise Thy holy name with thanksgiving. Amen