April 4.   Easter Sunday.  Michelle said, “Francis was only 45 when he died and he did so much.” Jackson added, “and we have heard so much about different parts of his life.  His death seems to have been quite joyful.  Is that not strange?” 

Canticle 9.  PRAISED BE YOU, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.  Woe to those who die in mortal sin.   Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm. 

From Care for Creation. At a time, a year before his death, when he was suffering from his painful eye condition as well as effects of the stigmata he was reflecting on his troubles and he prayed to God for help. He heard a voice which told him that his troubles were a great treasure securing his entry into God’s kingdom.  After that he felt so close to God that he said he wanted to sing.  That is when he composed the major portion of the Canticle of the Creatures. The statement in the Canticle of the Creatures about his death was added shortly before his own death.  From Care for Creation (p81)

“The tribute to death calling it sister was composed shortly before his own bodily death in 1226.  He speaks about a first and second death and those who endure the first death – dying to self – will not be harmed in the 2nd bodily death. What does this mean?  All of Francis’ life was a “death” because it involved a continual letting go for the sake of the other, a constant, “dying to self” so that Christ might live in him. The first death is a death to the self-centred ego which wants to exert itself through power and control over others.  This self must die to open oneself to the true self, a web of life, and the family of creation, with the death of the body, the second death.  What we see in the life of Jesus and the song of Francis is that God does not create for death, annihilation or frustration but rather to perfect his creatures into the full body of Christ.   Care for Creation (P90-91).

In St Francis UNCENSORED Noonan heads this chapter “The Jovial Death of Francis.”  As mentioned above Francis was ready and close to God.  He made his final preparations, his own personal liturgy, and asked the brothers to join him in singing his Canticle.  He blessed and granted forgiveness to them and in a Last Supper-like gesture shared bread with those present.  He wanted to be laid naked on the earth and sprinkled with ashes, a final salute and acknowledgement of Christ, naked and crucified on the hill of Calvary.  He died, singing the final verse of his Canticle of the Creatures, knowing death would do him no harm.     

Scripture: Death where is your sting?  1 Cor 15:55    Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful. Psalm 116:15. 

Pope Francis: If we accept death, we can prepare ourselves for it.  The way is to grow in our love for those who walk at our side, until that day when death will be no more.  AL258.

Reflect, share, pray.  How does this reflection speak to you?