(Corby told this story while doing a Godly Play presentation! Very quiet and attentive time!)
A saint is a very special person who becomes close to God. Saint Francis became very close to God almost 1000 years ago.
He was born into a very wealthily and important family so he wore very fancy, beautiful clothes and was very spoiled. As a young man, he became very ill and was deeply changed. He remembered that Jesus Christ told us to get rid of all our belongings and follow him. Now, could any of you do that? I don’t know if I could.
But Francis did just that. He left his comfortable life and went to live in an abandoned church that was falling apart. This embarrassed his wealthy father. One day he asked Francis to meet with the Bishop in the town square, where they begged Francis to return to his old life. But Francis told his father that he was going to give him back everything from his old life. Right there, in the middle of town, in front of everyone, Francis took off ALL of his clothes and walked away, naked, to follow Jesus. Later someone gave him a plain, rough robe and he wore that with no shoes for the rest of his life.
People could see that Francis was getting closer to God so they began to follow him. Animals and birds could see it too.
One day Francis and his friends were traveling and saw many birds. Francis said to his friends, “Wait for me while I go talk to my sisters, the birds.” Francis spoke to the birds, “May the Lord be with you.” The birds listened in rapt silence to his voice as he preached. They flapped their wings and craned their necks to see him. They flew along with Francis until he gave them permission to leave.
Another time, Francis heard of a vicious wolf attacking people in a town nearby called Gubbio. He went to the wolf, with no weapon or helmet. Right away, that scary wolf skulked up to him, growling. Francis made the sign of the cross over the wolf and said, “Brother wolf, come here. In the name of Christ, I command you not to hurt anyone anymore.” The wolf lay down at the feet of Francis.
“Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil. All these people accuse you and curse you...But brother wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people.” The wolf placed his paw carefully in Francis’s hand as a sign of agreement not to harm God’s creatures anymore. Then Francis and the subdued wolf walked into Gubbio to the amazement of the citizens. Francis told the people that the wolf had done evil out of hunger so they had to feed the wolf. From then on, the wolf received food and love from the people of Gubbio.
St. Francis believed that nature itself is the mirror of God. In his Canticle of the Sun he refers to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, Sister Water, Brother Fire and Mother Earth. This humble relationship to all around us reminds us that we are not too important. It also helps us understand that everything, EVERYTHING is important to God. When a spider dies, God knows. When a flower blooms, God is happy.
God is happy when we join him in caring for the world and its creatures around us. God would be most pleased to see his beloved creatures, all of us, dogs, cats, birds, people, here in church today.