St Francis in New York

Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. (St Francis of Assisi)

This morning, the radio was playing music in honour of St Francis of Assisi, whose Feast Day is 4 October.

“Though he was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.” (Brady, Ignatius Charles. “Saint Francis of Assisi.” Encyclopædia Britannica Online.)

Catholic and Anglican churches traditionally hold ceremonies for the blessing of animals on the following Sunday.

photo credit: Helena Kubicka

photo credit: Helena Kubicka

New York’s Cathedral Church of St John the Divine is today having its annual festival service, Blessing of the Animals and afternoon Fair.

Many years ago, I caught news footage of a St Francis Day procession at St John’s, New York. And I still thrill remembering the impact it had on me … the music, the dancers, the animals – especially the elephant. It was a majestic circus!

This year, “visitors can expect to see a great variety of animals process up the nave,” the cathedral’s website says, “including a yak, a tortoise, baby swans, and a macaw.”

“The Fair’s themes – celebration of Creation, Compassion, and Faithful Stewardship of the Earth – align with the vision and work of Saint Francis,” the website says.

Aligning with life in 21st century New York, “All bags are subject to security inspection before entering the Cathedral. To avoid a lengthy wait in the line to enter the Cathedral, visitors are encouraged not to bring bags and backpacks. The Cathedral does not have a checkroom.”

St Francis of Assisi, by Cigoli (painted 1597-99)

St Francis of Assisi, by Cigoli

“Preach the gospel always, and when absolutely necessary, use words.” (St Francis of Assisi) 

The painting is by Lodovico Cardi, (known as Cigoli) 1559–1613. St Francis, oil on canvas, 198 x 147 cm, 1597-99, The Hermitage, St Petersburg.