I write this on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who reminds us of our uniquely human capacities and responsibilities as stewards of creation.
Last Sunday, St. Andrew’s hosted a service of Blessing of the Animals. The liturgy included the Collect for the Feast of St. Francis from the Book of Common Prayer:
Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace gladly to renounce the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfect joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We were reminded of our relationship with the other living creatures with whom we share this planet and, in particular, those for whom we are protectors.
Francis and his companions took Jesus instructions to his disciples when he sent them out on their mission quite literally:
"As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food" (Matthew 10:7-10).
These words of Jesus reminded them, as they should remind us, of the relationship human beings have with their possessions. It certainly has been a reminder for me each time Gay and I have prepared for a move to a new place of ministry. This happens every year or two for interim clergy. Each time it has happened and we start packing for the move, we realize that we have accumulated too much stuff.
There was a time (1996) when all of our worldly possessions would fit in a 900 square foot apartment and one 10x10x10 foot storage unit. Then, we bought a 3,200 square foot house in Galveston that had a full attic and an above ground “basement” in which to accumulate things. When we sold that house in 2012, we had to come face to face with all our stuff.
This point was driven home again when we contacted movers! I won't go into the details, but the costs for a full-service move took my breath away. I could not imagine spending so much money to move our stuff from one place to another. There are better ways to use those funds. We eventually worked out a reasonable and affordable solution for our move, but for a few moments I almost wished I had taken a vow of poverty like Francis and his Friars as a part of my rule of life.
Perhaps we already have enough people living in poverty and those of us who are in a position to earn may be able to help them when they find it impossible to help themselves. So, for now, I won't take that vow. But I will be more mindful of how my stuff can get in the way of life and my relationship with God, my neighbors, and my own spiritual being.
But there is a kind of vow I take that helps me live in a healthy relationship with my possessions. I make a pledge to give on a regular basis throughout the year for God’s work. I have learned that it is important that my rule of life includes that spiritual practice along with other practices, such as daily prayer, study of the scriptures, works of mercy, worship, and weekly Holy Communion.
You are invited to join with your Cathedral community on October 14 as we gather to make our pledges of faithful stewardship for the coming year. Following the one great service at 10:00 a.m., we will share a complimentary meal at the Capital Club around the corner. Let us know your attendance plans HERE so we can provide an accurate count for the club's management.
So, thank you, Francis, for doing what most of us cannot bring ourselves to do and for offering us an example of a life that is not weighed down by possessions to the extent that we cannot see beyond them to all that is eternal.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral