Christ the King and White Supremacy

         As some of you have noticed, I can be a bit stubborn and quirky as a clergy person. There are a lot of reasons for this that I don’t need to go into right now. But one thing I will almost always do is explain my rationale for some belief or practice when asked. Now, there is always a chance that my answer is “I don’t know; I never thought about it. That’s just how I’ve always done it or how I learned to do it.” This happens a surprising amount when I’m asked about the traditions of the Episcopal Church.

         A few years ago I realized that there was a tradition that I, and most of the Episcopal Clergy I know do every week, and very few of us know why we do it:

         Why we all wear white at the Altar.

         Now, you might have noticed that I don’t wear white at the Altar. And even when I do, my alb is flax, not white. The Bishop, on his visit honored my preferences and wore flax instead of white.

         I don’t wear white because when I realized I didn’t know why we wear white at the Altar, I did some research.

         And the answer sent shivers up my spine.

         Purity. Because white means pure.

         We wear white to show how pure we are; and that we are clean. Because white is the color associated with goodness, with cleanness, with purity. It has been for centuries, perhaps millennia, beginning when the ruling elite had the paler skin from being inside, and those who worked had darker skin from being in the sun.

         That we wear white to show purity is nearly undisputed. It started long ago.  Christians started wearing white because it was what the Romans wore to symbolize citizenship, and the brighter white the toga was, the more important the person wearing it. The wealthiest Romans actually had their enslaved people color their togas with white chalk, to make them even brighter.

Clerics didn’t start wearing white right away, but slowly evolved into wearing white beginning in the Eastern Churches around the 6th Century did so to show they were pure enough to administer the sacraments. In 1566, white became the official color worn by Popes, to show how pure they are.

         In and of itself, this maybe isn’t a problem to everyone. Certainly not to those of us who are white. But when we look into the history of how and when white became lauded what we find is a history of making sure that some are seen as better than others and using white to do so. To show wealth, to show that you don’t work in the sun. To show that you can afford the most expensive cloth.

         The Pope, in 1556, started wearing white to show purity somewhere around 50 years after enslaved Africans started arriving in Europe. Also at that time there was a shift in how good and evil was portrayed in art and theater. Suddenly white was good and black was evil. And this is when the Pope made it official to wear white at the Altar to show purity.

         Since I learned this, which was between when I was ordained a Deacon in November of 2016 and when I became a priest in June of 2017, I have not worn a white alb. I will not wear one again. I did not wear white at my own ordination.

         Maybe the association of white with purity doesn’t bother you. But it bothers me. A lot. Cotton, for those who have never seen it in person, isn’t bright white; it’s a yellow-ish off white. The white that we think of as white in fabric is caused by bleach and a bit of blue dye – that’s why white clothes fade to yellow over time.

There are many hundreds of year years of tradition behind wearing white to show how pure we are. But the white has actually gotten whiter and whiter over the last two hundred years. Especially since the 1800’s. Literally. This is when bleach was invented and became widely available for textiles.

But this tradition of brighter white being better is grounded in the belief of the supremacy of things that are white over those things that are color. Maybe that wasn’t understood long ago, or at least not cared about, but we care now. I certainly care now.

I know a lot of good priests and deacons, good Godly people, who believe they are honoring a tradition by wearing white at the Altar. And they are. But it bothers me no end that they are holding a tradition of the church as more important than breaking a tradition that is grounded in white supremacy.

         Now why, you may be wondering, on Christ the King Sunday, on Ingathering Sunday, am I preaching on upending several hundred years of tradition in the church.

         Well, that’s kind of my style.

         And also, this Gospel, this one, is Jesus looking at the most powerful person in Israel by human standards and saying “your ‘power’ is nothing. Your sense of being better than me, isn’t true. Your understanding of how the world works, how power works, is wrong. Your chalked white toga doesn’t mean you are better than me in my dirty, non-white cloak.”

         The truth, Christ says. The Truth is the power.

         The truth, my friends, is that there is no such thing as race. It’s a social construct. We are all descended from Africans, it’s just that some of our ancestors left earlier than others.

Modern American racism, as we know it, was actually created in large part by the Episcopal Church in Virginia (with a little help from the Catholics in Maryland, and the Anglicans throughout the colonies). Because it was the vestries of the local parishes at that time who made and enforced laws.

The church was complicit in creating American racism with 3 changes to law and Christianity as it had been passed down.

First, up until the buying and selling of human beings became the major world industry, being a Christian, even converting to Christianity, meant that a person could no longer be enslaved. This created a major problem in the American Colonies where enslaved people of all skin tones appreciated the message of Christ. A few people converted to Christianity and then sued for their freedom. And at first, they won. So the local clergy, vestries and Bishops changed the law, and this was approved by the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, they changed the laws so that being a Christian did not mean you were entitled to freedom.

         Then, vestries decided that it needed to be illegal for people with different color skin to marry, have children, or even to talk to one another. Now, they “had to do this” because the white indentured servants were talking to the enslaved people of color, and they were joining forces to revolt. And the landowners, which would have included all of the men of the vestry, well they couldn’t lose their property to revolt. So the Bishops again changed canon laws. And the legislatures followed suit.

         So it became illegal for people of different skin colors to talk, to marry, to have children; and a social hierarchy was codified into law to give whites, even those who were enslaved, more rights than people of color. Again, all changes in law were approved by local clergy and vestries.

         [trigger warning: I’m now going to mention sexual assault]

         And then, a new problem emerged, in that the white male enslavers were raping enslaved women of color. Now the problem to be dealt with wasn’t that men were raping enslaved women, which was against many laws at the time, no, the problem was that those women were getting pregnant.

         At the time, property, title, status as slave or free, even your religion, was passed down through the father. Well, this was of course a problem, so a solution was created and the local churches enthusiastically signed off on a new law, which changed THOUSANDS of years of tradition, to make it that the rights of a child were the same as the rights of the Mother. Again, these changes were approved by the Bishops and then codified into law.

         These three laws, acts of overt racism and white supremacy, were created and endorsed and codified by churches throughout the “New World.” All while clergy were standing at the Altar wearing white to show how pure they were.

         If you are curious about learning more, I highly recommend the book “Baptism of Early Virginia” by Dr. Rebecca Ann Goetz, who is now a professor at NYU and a national Endowment for the Humanities Fellow.

         This is what I learned about when I went down the rabbit hole of “why do we wear white at the altar.”

And that is why I stopped wearing white at the altar. I want to break my participation in the cycle of white supremacy, and, I never want a person of color to walk into this church and see a clergy person who is willing to wear outward sign of white supremacy. I stopped wearing even this flax alb because I know it’s difficult to see the color differences through a camera, because this is close to the color that was originally worn to show purity, and because I’m still working through all of this. I’d rather not wear it. But I understand the value of tradition and I’m trying to find a compromise. I just don’t want anyone to think this is a place that promotes white supremacy, ever.

         Now, I know that not everyone feels as urgently or as passionately about dismantling white supremacy as I do. I’m sure there are several people in this very room who disagree with me on struggling with white representing purity.

         But, this is, without question, an issue that God has called me to.

         It influences how I lead this church, and not just in how I dress or what I preach on.

         Breaking the cycles and patterns of white supremacy influences how I lead this church because I intentionally try to lead in a way that goes against the power structures as they have been passed down in society and the church. I literally give my power away in situations where it is appropriate to do so. I try to lead in a way that invites you all to give of your passions and energies.

         In here we invite everyone to give of your treasure while outside those red doors, society says you should hoard your wealth, keep it for yourself, rather than giving it away. That treasure includes money, passion, time, energy, ideas.

         Society has made us consumers of goods and services and this has led to the commodification and capitalism-ization of the church. Where it seems as though we can just go to church once a month, get what we want, ignore or criticize what we don’t like, and then go home after dropping a $20 in the plate, and feel good about doing God’s work and getting into heaven.

         I’m not the gatekeeper for who gets into heaven or not, so I don’t know if that’s enough to get into heaven. But I have to tell you, I really don’t think getting into heaven is the main point of the Gospel nor of church.

         The Gospel offers us a way to live, now, here, today.

The Gospel invites us to live into the fullness of who God created us to be. And, to help others live into the fullness of who God created them to be.

I laid my heart, my soul, all of my love, on the Altar before God, and God placed this call on my heart.

My call is to leave this world with less white supremacy than it had when I entered this world. And in this week, this week where a white man has once again been acquitted of murder after he, looking for trouble, took a weapon of war to a protest for police shooting another unarmed black man; a protest he wasn’t welcome to nor needed to be at, while carrying a semi-automatic weapon not registered to him, and murdering 2 people after he was surprised that people took offense to having an AR-15 pointed at them. This week shows me that I have a lot of work to do to make even the slightest difference.

And if you don’t think Christianity is in anyway involved in the news out of Wisconsin, and the white supremist who now walks free, his defense fund was hosted on a Christian site designed to fund missionaries, GiveSendGo. Which means that some Christians think Kyle Rittenhouse was doing the work of Christ.

This makes my blood boil. And I believe it should ignite a flame within us all to stand up to the systems that have so viciously corrupted the word of God, exactly as Christ did in this Gospel reading!

This week, as we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving, I invite everyone to continue considering what we would lay on the altar before God. And, as we prepare to enter a season of Advent, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that has a true history that differs greatly from what we have traditionally been led to believe, I ask us to further consider what are we called to lay at the foot of the cross, to die and resurrect as something new and powerful?

Because there are many traditions that have been passed down to us, wearing white, or even promoting purity at all, even the myth of Thanksgiving and that this land we stand on was “discovered” when white people landed on it’s shores. The myth of Thanksgiving that ignores the genocide that happened on the very ground we are on.

What traditions in our lives have we participated in, do we participate in, that need to be looked at anew and maybe changed a bit?

This is hard work, and it should uncover some uncomfortable truths. But do not be afraid of the Truth even when it flies in the face of tradition. Because the Truth will set us all free, free from white supremacy, free from the myth that somehow some of us are better than others. When the Truth is that God loves us all, equally.

Let it be so.


What does “All Saints” mean, Saintly speaking?

         I usually have a standard procedure for sermon prep. I read the texts early in the week. Wait a day or two. Read them again, and also a commentary or two. I usually also google a few things, and fact check a few others. I don’t always go in to detail on what I’ve learned in these moments, but I usually have the background. Then I read again, and start writing.

         Every year though, every year All Saints is different. Maybe it’s because it’s an intentional time to remember the Saints in my life. Maybe it’s because this is a week, more so than any other for me, which feels like it should come from my heart.

         This year, the first time I read our Wisdom reading, I knew this sermon would be less Scripture, and more heart.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy; like gold in the furnace God tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering God accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples and the Lord will reign over them forever.
Those who trust in God will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with God in love, because grace and mercy are upon God’s elect, and God watches over God’s holy ones.

         These words, this week, were a balm for my soul. One line in particular: In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.

         I don’t know if this is true for everyone here yet, but I know for myself, I’ve lost several people, and a few pets, who I miss dearly. Every day. When I asked my Mom for pictures a few of those people, of my grandparents and my Aunt Pat to put on the virtual altar, I could actually hear my Mom laugh. Which is impressive, because this was over text.

         My Mom laughed because on earth, my Aunt Pat would probably not have been considered a Saint. I mean I would consider her a Saint. She’d calmed down a lot by the time I came around. But the stories of motorcycle rallies and some of the things she did when she was younger…

         This was more than made up for in my eyes by Pat teaching me to drive, when I was 12, and for being there for me in the difficult days that were my adolescence. By her choice, Pat was baptized on what would be her death bed, when I was 18 and she was moving into hospice. My Mom asked her if she would go back and change anything. Pat got this glint in her eye and said “no.”

Upon hearing that Pat would be baptized in hospice, my surviving Aunt, Rocky, laughed, and said Pat had done it right, being washed clean of sin when she could no longer do anything wrong!

As Pat got sicker and sicker, I would sit by her bed and read her the Psalms. She loved the 23rd the most. As a Baptism gift, the priest who drove 2 hours once a week to visit my Aunt gave her a wooden cross. Pat held that thing so close in her last days. Seeking comfort in the unknown future. And when she died, I kid you not, she took that cross with her. We all searched for that thing. It was never seen again.

         I’ve been thinking about Pat, and my Mom’s understandable laughter, and what it means to be a Saint, and what it means to be honored on All Saints day.

         Somewhere in my prep for this week I came across the idea that what All Saints celebrates are those who are now in God’s hands.

         And that, for me, is it. These Saints who are pictured here, and who we will see on the virtual Altar, these are the ones we have loved who are now in God’s hands. They are safe, they are at peace, they are comforted, they understand a truth about God that we who are alive do not.

         I don’t know what happens when we die. I don’t know what heaven is like, I don’t know if there is something specific we are supposed to do, or not do, when we’re on earth. But I’ve had the honor of being with a few people as they transition from this life to the next. And each time, every time, there is this instant of peace.

         Any fear or fighting, vanishes, and is replaced by a peace that goes beyond words or understanding.

         That moment of peace gives me so much hope that there is a heaven and that I’ll get to see Pat, and my Grandparents, and Great Aunt’s and Uncles, several good friends, and some amazing pets, again.

         Today, tomorrow, Tuesday, those are days when the veil is thin. These are days when it’s almost like we can touch them again.

         For our homework this week, I’d like us all to consider at least one of our Saints, and think of something they would want us to do.

         And if we can, do it.

         My Aunt Pat would probably have wanted me to ride a motorcycle so when I was in my early 20’s I did. And I did not like it. At all. She probably laughed at me as I got off, politely thanked the person whose bike it was, handed him my helmet, and walked instead. This week in her honor, I’ll drive too fast and maybe flip someone off. Just for her. Not because of Boston traffic.

         Maybe your Saints would like you to do something, call someone, read something, write something, stand up for something, hug someone, or pet something.

         This week, if it’s safe and you’re able, do it.

         Let’s do our part to be the type of person, to live the type of life, so that we are remembered on an altar like this one, and so that God is extending a hand to welcome us home when the time comes.

         Being in God’s hands. That’s what this day is all about. Our loved ones are there. And until we join them, we are God’s hands on earth.

         I was thinking of my Aunt Pat and my Grandmother when I got in the car this morning. About my beloved pets, Albus and Stella. I drove two feet, looked up, and saw this:

         They are with us. Always.

They are with us. Always.


The patience of a Puppy?

         I’m going to let you all in on a little preacher secret: sometimes we can’t come up with what it is that we want to preach on in any given week. There’s really no rhyme or reason for this, at least not for me. Sometimes it’s because there’s so much in the text. Sometimes it’s because there’s not a lot in the text. Sometimes they just don’t speak to you, or there’s a lot going on in the world or your world, or there’s something you really want to say or even something you really don’t want to say.

         And sometimes you have a week where life is just really distracting and it’s hard to pinpoint where to start.

         I imagine this happens in a lot of professions. Those times when there’s just so much going on that it’s hard to get started on the thing you really need, or want, to do.

         I think we all have different strategies for dealing with this.

         Mine, because I’m an extrovert with ADHD is to ask some version of the question “what sermon would you like to hear preached?” Apparently I asked this very question a year ago to my Facebook friends. I got some great responses.

         This week, I asked the person I was talking to when the thought occurred to me that I really needed to figure out what to preach on. That just so happened to be my friend Lauren, and she was ready to go with an amazing answer!

         And the sermon that Lauren would like to hear this week just so happens to be one that we all could probably benefit from hearing.

         Lauren described the desire to hear about a gentle, quiet perseverance, the perseverance of God in trying to reach us. Lauren demonstrated this with a picture of her 2-year-old goldendoodle puppy, Greta, who has been literally inching her way closer, and closer, to their 17 year old cat, Bella, who wants nothing to do with Greta.

         It has taken 2 years of hissing, and swatting, but Greta can now be withing a foot of Bella without getting swatted. And she just keeps going a tiny bit closer at a time. Allowing her to gain Bella’s trust and avoid getting her nose swatted by the occasionally cantankerous senior cat.

         Thinking about Greta slowly working towards relationship with Bella reminded me a bit of Job. That often said, but really not based in Scripture, saying about having the patience of Job.  Fortunately, we have the ending of Job in our readings today!

Thinking about Greta and Bella reminded me of when Job is sitting on the ash heap in the early pages of the Book that carries his name. His family has been killed, all of his livestock have died, his wife has turned on him, and then he was struck by painful boils from the bottoms of his feet to the top of his head.

         Job is sitting there, alone, on the margins of what is essentially the town dump, and three of his friends come and sit next to him, silently, for 7 days. Just so that he’s not suffering alone.

         And oh, oh, how I wish the friends had just sat there quietly. But instead they open their mouths. Their words, and Job’s response, and God’s response, fill chapters 3-41.

         However, the friends aren’t actually what I want to talk about today.

         I actually just want to linger with the Book of Job. All of it. And then I’ll tie it all back in to the Greta inspired persistent, patient, love.

         I’ve heard it said that these are Job-ian times. And in a lot of ways, I really agree with that sentiment.

         For so many of us these days, it feels like the rug is being constantly pulled out from under us. We’ve discovered new levels of perseverance within ourselves that honestly we never wanted to find; and for some of us, we’ve reached a point where we’ve simply run out, and have had to ask for help we never expected to need. And we’ve learned that that’s ok. It’s okay to need and ask for help. It’s okay to run out.

         Job had it all, at least on paper, and the rug was pulled out from under him. He had sons, land, livestock, slaves. All of the things that were valued and prized in his world. And then they were taken away within a few moments of each other. Not by God. But with God’s accord.

         This is a story that is retold, in different ways and for different reasons, over and over and over.

         As it turns out, the Book of Job itself is a retelling and poetic embellishment of a common folktale at the time. The first, second, and 42nd chapters of Job are that folktale.

         In the middle, the friends blaming Job, Job yelling at God, God putting Job in his place, that’s all a poetic attempt at explaining why bad things happen, and undermining the idea that tragedy is punishment of God.

         The poet challenges the idea of tragedy as punishment by saying instead that what we need to ask is why did this happen?

         The answer, the unsatisfying answer (if I say so myself) is: you are not God, and cannot understand what I do, nor why I do it.

         And that’s fair. It really is. It’s unsatisfying and humbling. But it’s fair.

         We are not God. We don’t get to understand why things happen or don’t.

         People like me make our living trying to figure out a way through the messiness of life in a way that makes sense, and allows us to have meaning in tragedy.

         It’s easier to accept a tragic event when we can assign a greater meaning to our loss.

         It’s a lot harder to understand and allow for the idea that God didn’t cause the tragedy, but that God was with us the entire time. Is with us the entire time. And sometimes, it’s through those tragedies that we allow God to inch closer.

         In the Book of Job, both God and Job find ways that work for them to inch closer to one another.

         I shared earlier that Greta, the goldendoodle, has been inching her way closer to Bella, the cat, for two years. What I didn’t tell you is that their cat sibling, Herman, died several weeks ago. It was a tragic loss for everyone, for Bella most of all. And in that time, in that loss, in her grieving, Bella has allowed Greta to move closer to her.

         She still sets boundaries and isn’t sure about the enthusiastic pup. But they are getting closer. Allowing space for one another. Allowing a reluctant relationship to form.

         What we see in Job, what we see often in life, is God inching closer to us in our moments of tragedy. God waits until we are ready to let God in, and then slowly, patiently, shows that we can grow in relationship with God.

         And, that we humans can set boundaries on that relationship so that we feel safe and comfortable. As our trust grows, our relationship with God can deepen and evolve as well.

         I love that a poet, sometime between 6 and 9 thousand years ago, sat down and told a story about how to grow in a relationship with God through tragedy. And that the poet used a popular culture story to do so. The poet took the accepted understanding of wealth being a sign of God’s favor, and tragedy or poverty being a sign of God’s punishment, God took those beliefs and turned them on their heads.

         The Book of Job became immediately important in the Jewish Canon. And it remains an important puzzle piece in understanding how we can be in our own unique relationship with God.

         For our homework this week, I’d like us all to think about how we think the version of our story with God would be told. And for extra credit, think about how we want that story to be told, how we want our relationship with God to be.


In Celebration of St. Francis

I really like St. Francis. At least, I like the idea of him. The idea that was brought to me by celebrating St. Francis day by blessing animals and by saying the prayer of St. Francis.

         You know the one. We’ll say it together in a few moments, actually. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Creator, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

I love that prayer. When I’m walking into uncertain pastoral situations, and even some situations where I know what’s coming, I will softly pray to myself, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

In the last few years I found out Francis didn’t write that prayer. Like what happens many times in Scripture, most notably in the Psalms and with some of the Epistles attributed to Paul, the prayer of St. Francis was written to honor him, but was not written by him.

I looked at some of the Canticles of Francis, which he is known to have written, in preparation for today, and what I found was a man who would be pushed to the fringes of modern Christianity. He was a man who put God first, in all things, and saw the goodness of God in all things – especially those things that society had pushed to the margins or dismissed as worthless.

If Francis were alive and practicing Christianity today, honestly, I think he’d be thrown out of the church. Even the Episcopal Church.

He called for a Christ centered life, one that disregarded material things and wealth in favor of loving and respecting all of creation. A life that respected the unhoused person MORE than the rich person. A life that required re-examining your life and priorities in favor of being God in this world.

Last week I asked us all to take a look at our wealth. How we acquired wealth, how our families accumulated wealth; how the companies that pay us acquired their wealth. Living into the example Saints such as Francis set is part of why I asked us all to do this difficult work.

I did my homework. And I’d like to share with you all what I discovered; some of which are things I’m not proud of from my family history. My grandparents made their living as developers of the community in Maryland that my Mom still lives in. My grandfather bought the land, not from the Piscataway people who originally inhabited the land, but from another white person in the years leading up to WWII. The Piscataway people had been driven off the land 200 years previously, once it became clear that the soil in Calvert County was perfect to grow tobacco.

The Piscataway were not paid for the land. They were driven off by violence and disease.

My family certainly did not pay them for the land that we still call home.

I don’t know how to make this wrong right. Or even just less wrong. So I did what I hope all of us would do: I asked.

On Friday afternoon I sent an email to the tribe, not the elders, that seems rude and presumptive, but to the general info email. And in that email I explained why I was writing, and asked what I could do. I offered to send money as I was able, and also, I said that this was more than white guilt, more than a white person offering to throw money at a problem to make it go away. I want to do my part, however small it will be, in healing a wrong. Certainly, I think it would be a good starting place to find out how much my Grandfather paid and give them that.

What I offered, and what they are under no obligation to say yes to, is to begin a process of forgiveness. Of acknowledging a harm, a wrong, and of the slow and painful process to make it right. At least on one very small level.

It’s vulnerable, and scary, and they have every right to say no to my efforts.

But, and this is important, this is the work that Christ calls us to do. I don’t want to do it. It’s vulnerable, and raw, and touches a deep part of my soul that I’m not proud of and I’m not comfortable with. There’s a voice that sneering at me and asking why? Saying that my attempt to make amends is but a drop in a deep bucket.

But it’s still a drop.

So I’m doing it anyway. And I’m standing in front of you saying I’m doing it.

And that I hope you all do too, whatever this healing looks like for you. Take a deep look at who you are, and how you came to be here. And honestly ask if there’s anything there that you just know isn’t right.

For me, it’s that my family made a fortune selling land that wasn’t there’s to sell. And that they never paid the rightful owners for. That’s wrong.

Before my grandparents, my family were farmers in Virginia and New Jersey.

While it isn’t documented, and they weren’t plantation owners, it is highly likely that my family owned slaves. That my family thought and acted as though they could own other human beings is a wrong that I will never be able to make right.

But until my last breath, I will try to heal some of that harm.

The lesson we have from the Gospel today, and from the life an example of St. Francis, is to never see ourselves as greater than anyone else. We are to see that all of creation is all an extension of God. We are not better than anyone else, nor are we better than anything else.

As I mentioned earlier, in a moment we are going to say the prayer of St. Francis. A wonderful tribute, but not words that Francis himself wrote. Instead, in closing today, I would like to read something Francis did write. This is the Canticle of Creation, believed to have been written towards the end of Francis’s life. When he knew the church thought of him as a rogue problem, rather than a beloved follower of Christ. When Francis was going blind, and still grateful for every moment, breath, and experience of creation:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honour, and all blessing. To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day and through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather, through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give [God] thanks and serve [God] with great humility.

— St. Francis of Assisi