Franciscan documents

Franciscan bits & pieces picked up by Ted Witham tssf

Archive for the tag “Liturgy”

Do Franciscans Bless Animals?

Before I start criticising the practice of blessing animals, let me confess that I have blessed animals, and would do so again.  In fact for a couple of years, Tom Sutton of Subiaco Parish in Perth invited me, along with other Franciscans and other priests to a great outdoor animal blessing.

Bless me, St Bernard!

There is a picture of me blessing a great St Bernard, and it was a delight to make friends with this gentle creature.

This jamboree was stopped only because a certain dog food manufacturer was a sponsor and took advantage of this event.  It took it over by emblazoning its name on every object and dog parade and snail race in sight.

Fr Tom rightly believed that such rampant capitalism was at odds with the spirit of animal blessing.

But as a Franciscan I do feel ambivalent about blessing animals. Not that I have any theological problem with asking for God’s blessing on either pets or wild animals. Our blessing simply confirms the reality is that God has already blessed creation. See Genesis 1.

Nor do I mind the chaos that can be caused by creatures great and small in a little church with God’s people trying to celebrate the Eucharist with devotion.

My problem, I think, is twofold.  Firstly, blessing animals can become a sentimental act. “Isn’t it nice?  Isn’t it lovely?”  If an animal blessing is organised only to evoke superficial sentiments, then it is a dangerous waste of time.  If an animal blessing is organised only to delight children, then it is a diversion from reality.

Secondly, blessing animals can easily turn companion animals into possessions rather than being seen as God’s gifts to us.  The attitude that our pets are simply a convenience can easily lead to neglect and abuse, but even before it gets to that stage, this attitude diminishes us, making us, consumers of animals’ services, rather than their grateful friends. (Click HERE for an RSPCA view of pet ownership.)

What Franciscans can do is to encourage people to think carefully about our relationship with animals.  Saint Francis believed that each creature is a Word of God.  In our encounter with an animal, St Francis encourages us to allow that animal to disclose its story to us.  The animal is not there simply for our unfettered use, but is a fellow-creature put on this earth to share existence with us and to join our praise of the Most High Creator.

Our pets are our companions, not our slaves.

And do we bless the animals that give food, are food for us?  Much has been written about the distance between us urban dwellers and the milk and meat that we enjoy.  If we bless our pets, then we should equally bless the animals that nurture us.  We should be prepared to ask whether the cost of being a meat-eater is too high.  Dr Rajendra Pachauri Chair of the IPCC spoke of the positive environmental impact of eating one less meat meal each week. (Click HERE to read his comments).

Wild animals are a blessing, too, although I suspect it’s impossible to catch a blue wren or an Oenpelli python to lay hands on and pronounce a blessing over it!

So my plea is a Franciscan is, if we are to bless animals, then let’s do it with thorough thought and prayer, and not just as a liturgical stunt. But no one would do that, would they?

Transitus of St Francis

A Vigil Memorial Service
celebrating St Francis’ “passing over”
from this life to the glory of heaven

Liturgy prepared by Pearl McGill tssf

A Tertiary of the Western Australia Region



(A large wooden cross stands before the altar, surrounded by candles)

Ministers kneel in silence and pray

(All Kneel)



Leader Let us bless our Lord and God, living and true
All To him we offer all praise, all glory, all honour, all blessing, and every good forever. Amen ,

(The Office of the Passion)

Leader Brothers and sisters,
a very ancient tradition draws us together on the eve of this St Francis’ Festival
to celebrate his Transitus:
the final stage of his journey home to God.While rejoicing in the saint’s holy death and glorious entry into heaven,
we give thanks to God the Father,
that in his Son, and by his Spirit’s power, we too can welcome death as our “sister”, and trusting in his mercy,
can live now in the sure hope of resurrection.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you

All And also with you.
Leader Let us pray(silent prayer)
Leader Lord God,
on this night you gave to our holy father Francis,
the Poverello of Assisi,
the reward of perfect beatitude.In your love, lead us who celebrate his Transitus, to follow closely in his footsteps,
and come, in our turn,
to worship you face to face,
in a joy that knows no ending.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the .Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

All Amen. Amen. Alleluia!


Reader 1 St Francis was lying grievously ill and in pain in the Bishop’s house in Assisi, when a doctor was called for the last time. He said to Francis:
Reader 2 “I must tell you, that according to our science, your malady is incurable and in my opinion you will die at the end of September or the beginning of October”.
Reader 1 Raising his arms to heaven, the sick man joyfully cried out:
Reader 3 “You are welcome, welcome, my dear sister Death,”
Reader 1 Then turning to a friar he asked that Brothers Angelo and Leo be called to help him share this good news by singing beside his bed. In spite of their tears, the two brethren began to intone the Canticle of Brother Sun:
All sing All creatures of our God and king,
Lift up your voices, let us sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Bright burning sun with golden beams,
Soft silver moon that gently gleams,
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 The friars sang the Canticle many times a day to comfort the saint’s failing spirit, and sometimes through the night as well. Not all were pleased.Finally Brother Elias came to Francis and said:
Reader 2 “Well-beloved Father, for my part I rejoice that you should be joyful; but I fear this city, which regards you as a saint, may be scandalised to see that you do not prepare yourself for death in quite another manner”.
Reader 1 The saint smiled and replied:
Reader 3 “Leave me, good Brother, for in spite of what I endure, I feel myself so near to God, that I cannot hold myself from singing”.
Reader 1 Responding to Francis’ expressed desire, Br Elias arranged for him to be carried to the Portiuncula. The magistrates of Assisi consented, and sent an armed escort. When the cortège reached Santa Maria le Mura, Francis raised himself on the litter, and seemed for some time to be contemplating this lovely and familiar view of the city, which he could no longer see. Then painfully he lifted his arm and blessed it:
Reader 3 “May you be blessed, dear city of God. Once you were a lair of brigands, but God has chosen you to become the home of those who know Him and who reverence His most blessed and glorious Name”.
Reader 1 At the Portiuncula, St Francis was given a tiny hut in the forest near to the Chapel of St Mary of the Angels. Again he sensed the solitude of this beautiful place so often visited by the Spirit of God, and he rejoiced as he heard from within the chapel the friars sing:
All sing Swift flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for your Lord to hear,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Fire, so intense and fiercely bright,
Who gives to us both warmth and light,
O praise Him, O praise Him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 This forest solitude was the right setting for Francis’ “passing over” to God, for it was to be an event of radiant beauty. Francis took leave of this world with the same simplicity and courtesy that had marked all the events of his life. He forgot no one or nothing; his sons, his daughters, the places he loved, the Lady of his thoughts, all the creatures with whom he had been so united, shared in his farewells and benedictions. He recommended to his brethren the beloved Portiuncula:
Reader 3 “Brothers, this is a holy place. Hold it ever in veneration and never abandon it”.
Reader 1 In honour of his Lady Poverty, he asked that he be laid naked on the ground, and covering with one hand the wound in his side he said:
Reader 3 “My task is done, may Christ teach you to do yours”.
Reader 1 His friars begged him to forgive them for any offences, and to bless them again. This he readily did, placing his hand successively on the head of each, and then he addressed himself to Bernard of Quintavalle:
Reader 3 “I absolve too, and I bless as far as I am able and even still more than I am able, all my absent brothers. See that these words reach them, and bless them in my name”.
All sing All you with mercy in your heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing now: Alleluia!
All you that pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and cast on him your care:
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 Nor did Francis forget Sister Clare, who he learned was weeping at the thought of losing her father and friend. He sent a message to his “little spiritual plant”:
Reader 3 “I, the little brother Francis, wish to follow to the end the poor way which was that of our Lord and of His Mother, and I conjure you, my daughter, never to be separated from it”.
Reader 1 Then he added:
Reader 3 “And say to Lady Clare, that I forbid her to give way to sadness, for I promise her that she and her sisters will see me again”.
Reader 1 Francis also sent a message to his friend, the Lady Jacoba of Rome, that she should come in haste with what is needed for his burial. Before the courier left the room a brother ran in to announce her arrival, and Francis cried weakly:
Reader 3 “God be praised, let the door be opened, for .the rule forbidding women to enter here does not apply to Brother Jacoba!”
Reader 1 The Roman Lady had carried with her all that was needed for the saint’s burial, and a box of almond biscuits, which Francis tried to, but could not eat.More and more often the Canticle of Brother Sun was heard from the hut, with the new verse Francis had composed in praise of “our sister Death of the Body”:
All sing And you most kind and gentle death,
Waiting to hush our final breath,
O praise him, Alleluia!
You lead back home the child of God,
By way that Christ the Lord has trod:
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 On Friday 2nd October, Francis asked for bread, and he blessed it and, like Christ at the last Supper, distributed it to all present, while the Gospel of St John was read beginning at the Passion. (Ch 13:11)
(Bread is blessed and quietly distributed to those present, while READER 2 proclaims the Gospel)
Reader 1 At dusk on the next day, “she to whom no one willingly opens the door”, presented herself, and Francis saw her enter. The little poor man received her courteously:
Reader 3 Be welcome, my Sister Death”
Reader 1 and he begged a brother to announce as a herald of arms does, the solemn arrival of his expected guest; for he added:
Reader 3 “It is she who is going to introduce me to eternal life.”
Reader 1 They placed him on the ground in a coarse sack-cloth to honour the sombre guest, his head was covered with ashes and dust. Then with failing voice he intoned Psalm 142, and those around him continued with him:
Reader 3 Voce mea ad Dominum clamavi…..
Alternate verses beginning with the right side
With a loud voice I cry out to the Lord*
with a loud voice I beseech the Lord.
My complaint I pour out before him;*
Before him I lay bare my distress.

When my spirit is faint within me,*
you know my path.

In the way along which I walk *
they have hid a trap for me.

I look to the right to see, *
but there is no one who pays me heed.

I have lost all means of escape; *
there is no one who cares for my life.

I cry out to you 0 Lord;  †
I say, “You are my refuge, *
my portion in the land of the living.

Attend to my cry, *
for I am brought low indeed.

Rescue me from my persecutors, *
for they are too strong for me.

Lead me forth from prison, *

that I may give thanks to your name.

The just shall gather around me *
when you have been good to me.

Reader 1 There was a great silence. Evening had already stolen into the hut. Francis lay motionless. The final stage of his Transitus had begun.One of his biographers wrote:
Reader 2 “He died singing, in the forty-sixth year of his age, and the twenty-fifth of his conversion”.
Reader 1 Immediately a multitude of crested larks flocked wheeling about the roof of the hut and for long, with their sad chirping, bewailed the loss of their friend. At the same hour, a Brother, one of no small fame, saw a shining star, borne on a white cloud, mounting towards heaven. The soul of the Little Poor Man was flying to eternal happiness.


All sing Let all things their creator bless,
And worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Praise God the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, three in one;
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
(The ministers process out in silence)


Francis makes his Transitus

Francis makes his Transitus

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