He’s one of the most popular saints … and for good reason!
After the Virgin Mary, St. Francis of Assisi may be the most universally beloved saint in the world today. While he’s primarily associated with animals and the natural world, the saint’s holiness and accomplishments are diverse and profound. He lived in radical solidarity with the poor, traveled extensively preaching the Gospel, negotiated peace between Muslims and Christians, and rebuilt the Church — both literally and figuratively. He didn’t simply love animals and nature, he had a profound understanding of the gift of God’s creation and treated it all with reverence and care.
So there’s a lot to celebrate about St. Francis, whose feast day is October 4, and he’s an especially great one to share with kids. Here are four easy ways to do that in the midst of a typically busy day:
Bless your pets
Many parishes offer a special blessing for pets on or near October 4, so check out the parish churches in your area and bring your pet. If you can’t get there, or don’t have anything like this nearby, bless your pet at home by sprinkling them with holy water and saying a special prayer such as the “Canticle of Creatures” by St. Francis. Kids can especially get into the idea of blessing animals and it’s a perfect entry to sharing more about what St. Francis taught us about viewing other creatures and the natural world as reflections of God.
Serve something inspired by the Umbria region of Italy
Assisi, the home town St. Francis, is located in the Umbria region of Italy and has many traditional foods and dishes. If you want to keep it simple, serve some Italian meats like mortadella, ham, sausages or salami, make bruschetta, boil some pasta like strozzapreti, umbricelli or tagliatelle, or simmer some lentil soup. If you want to get fancier, consider serving baked trout or a version of something called torta al testo. For something extra special, don’t forget black truffles. Though expensive, they’re delicious and can be found in higher end groceries or added to olive oils.
Put together a bag of gently used items and give them away
St. Francis came from a wealthy family and enjoyed many privileges until he was called by God to a radical detachment from worldly comforts and luxuries in order to embrace a life of poverty and penance. In this spirit, his feast day is a great time to give everyone a bag and send them to their rooms to choose items that they may not use or need so much anymore to give to others who have less.
Pray one of the prayers of St. Francis at dinner
A number of prayers are attributed to the saint of Assisi. The most common is the Prayer of St. Francis, also called The Peace Prayer. While Francis may not have actually written the words of that prayer, he definitely lived them out. You could choose another one to pray at dinner time or bedtime. This one is a great one to commit to memory:
St. Francis’s Prayer Before the Crucifix
Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. Amen.