There are few saints so widely loved as St. Francis. He was born into a wealthy merchant family and had a love for fancy, especially French, things.vHis father named him “Frenchy” or Francis, encouraging his pursuit of pleasure. After serving in a war and being a POW, he reached a point of illness and likely suffered from some PTSD. It was during this period that he had a conversion and renounced his wealth to become a beggar. In a famous episode he even took off his clothing to give them to his father and walked through town in the buff.
Francis had a special calling while in a dilapidated church, where he believed that the painted fresco of Jesus called out to him to “rebuild my church; for my house is in ruin.” He took the calling literally and began to rebuild the church and only later realized that he was called to be a reformer of the church in general.
He may be best known for his love of animals, and many churches have an animal blessing in his memory. Pets are so important to people as friends and companions, that this service is particularly moving and special to many worshipers. Francis preached to the birds, converted the wolf of Gubbio, and taught that human beings were in a brotherhood/sisterhood with the rest of creation. This message is timely, during this age of climate change, as creation care and environment protection have become the moral issue of our time. Francis is the patron saint of ecology, environmental science, and anything to do with animals.
While there are some traditional foods to remember Francis’ witness, we think that a modern one is best to continue his legacy. We are making a simple spaghetti, that families enjoy regularly, but instead of using meat we are using a meat substitute. This simple change reduces the global impact of the meal without losing much flavor. Substitutions like this may need to be more common so that we can take better care of our ailing planet and proclaim that the gospel is good news to all creation.
Pictured Above: Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds by Carnicero, Antonio; 1788 – 1789; Oil on canvas; 216 cm x 272 cm; Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain.