This week-end, some people will be focusing on the issue of gun violence. There is a web site called "God, Not Guns" that focuses on how the faith community can talk about gun violence as a peace and justice issue. Since peace and justice issues are natural topics for discussion for faith communities, the issue of gun violence fits with the message that most religious leaders espouse.
On Sunday, September 12th, my own Minister chose the Prayer of St. Francis for a congregational reading. The topic for that day was the intolerance and hate that had fomented during the weeks leading up to September 11th and the "Ground Zero Mosque" including the possible burning of Korans by Florida Pastor Terry Jones. It was good to remind us of what St. Francis was telling his followers and what he can teach us still. Four years ago, on a trip to Italy, my husband and I went to Assisi as part of a tour. It was a beautiful city with the old city on a hilltop as so many of the Umbrian and Tuscan towns are. We were able to walk through both of the churches there- the upper and the lower, which had been opened not long before our visit after an earthquake did serious damage to the church. The story of St. Francis and his teachings was written in words and pictures all around the walls of the upper church. There was a service in the lower church which we briefly observed. We were there close to the October 4th celebration of St. Francis "feast day" and the anniversary of his death ( October 3rd). As a result, there were many people of faith and the Catholic faith, in particular, in Assisi while we were there.
The old town above the beautiful church was charming with it's winding narrow brick streets not meant for cars. People live along these streets where their earthly needs are brought to their homes by bike, or carts or on foot as the streets go higher and get narrower. Unexpected turns surprised us with views of the valley below and the fall landscape- gold vineyards and yellow sunflowers. It was truly peaceful and felt almost spiritual.
St. Francis is known by Catholics as the Patron Saint of animals and the ecology. I am not Catholic so I not so familiar with the Saints. There are several churches in my community though that perform the blessing of the animals. I like the beginning of the Prayer of St. Francis:"