I got to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC two hours early to get one of 6000 seats for their annual Feast of St. Francis and Blessing of the Animals. Saxophonist Paul Winter, as he does every year, led his Consort in his haunting “Missa Gaia/Earth Anthem.” The opening song is St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, with a new second verse.
“All praise be yours through Brother Sun. All praise be yours through Sister Moon.
By Mother Earth my Lord be praised, by Brother Mountain, Sister Sea.
Through Brother Wind and Brother Air, through Sister Water, Brother Fire;
The stars above give thanks to thee; all praise to those who live in peace.
“All praise be yours through Brother Wolf, all praise be yours through Sister Whale.
By Nature’s song my Lord be praised, by Brother Eagle, Sister Loon.
Through Brother Tiger, Sister Seal. Through Sister Flower, Brother Tree.
Let creatures all give thanks to thee. All praise to those who live in peace.”
When I wrote last week about meeting two Franciscans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and how blessed I was to sit and listen to them, I received moving responses from far and wide. Since I am going on retreat in Assisi in a month, I will spend the next three weeks writing more about Francis and his Green/Blue Theology.
Check out this fabulous icon of Francis by Nancy Earle, a Missionary Sister of Immaculate Conception. Note the traditional Francis animals - wolf, bird. But look! A whale and turtle, ocean as well as land. One of the other Missa Gaia songs features recordings of humpback whale songs. “Praise be yours through Sister Whale.”
Pope Francis begins his 2015 encyclical on the environment by quoting from Francis’ Canticle to the Sun, also called Canticle of the Creatures, and praising the saint whose name he took:
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us….Francis’ response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists.”
The annual St. John the Divine Animal Blessing famously ends with a silent procession to the altar by creatures great and small. I saw (in 2006) llamas, parrots, alpacas, snakes, a cow, (all from a local animal rescue agency) as well as all the pets brought to be blessed. The Missa Gaia’s first year (1981, 800th anniversary of Francis’ birth) the circus was in town and an elephant led the procession.
Sadly, no Sister Whale. But whales bless us here in Monterey all the time – this week huge pods of humpbacks have been seen right from the shore. Come say hi to your sister, and be blessed.
Our Blue Theology Ministry is hosting Blessing of the Animals services in Pacific Grove (Oct 13) and La Selva Beach (Oct. 14.) Join us, or tell us about your service. Remember to include God’s wet creatures in your blessings. I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook. Bluetheology.com