Franciscan Spirit Blog

Novena to St. Francis | Day Seven: Love

St. Francis composed the “Canticle of Creatures” in the early part of 1225 when he was staying with Clare and the ladies at San Damiano. He was lying in a little hut that became overrun by field mice. He was nearly blind and suffered from multiple infections and illnesses.

Francis was depressed over what he experienced as the decaying state of the order. And, finally, the mystical events of the previous fall at La Verna were etched deeply in his soul as was the pain from the wounds of the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side. It was under these conditions that Francis composed one of the greatest love poems of all time. It was at this low point that Francis felt the intense joy of a life that was totally permeated by love. But how?

Because he found God; and where God is, so is love. As Murray Bodo, OFM, writes in Francis: The Journey and the Dream, Francis’ experience in the cave assured him that Jesus dwelled within him. In that dark hole, he found God already existing in his heart. And if God was existing in his miserable state, it too existed in every other living creature.

As it is written in 1 John 4:16, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”

Francis’ desire to experience God within himself propelled him to experience love in all creation. Pope Francis, in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, writes, “St. Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. ‘Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world’ (Rom 1:20).”

Francis’ desire to experience God within himself also propelled him to lead a life modeled after the source of love: Jesus. It was a life of poverty, preaching, and penance lived in a spirit of humility. In his desire to so imitate Jesus, Francis freely shared what he already knew and pointed all to do the same. In doing so, Francis was able to cross barriers and borders, wounds and wars, cultures and religions.

A life filled with love was all he ever wanted and all he ever needed. In the “Canticle,” Francis expresses a way of life, an inner attitude in which he learned to stand before God and to face life itself. Through the “Canticle,” praise bursts forth from a heart who lives by grace alone and from the heart who can only express gratitude through life and through words.

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Let Us Pray

God, in our weakness and lowliness,
reveal and strengthen our hearts with your love so that we, too,
may offer you praise and glory through creation.

Did you miss a day in our novena? Catch up here!


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