December 27. Francis’ Death. Michelle said, “Francis was only 45.” Jackson added, “and we have seen lots of 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.
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 for 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, eternity and the family of creation, with the death of the body, the second death. Care for Creation P90-91.
(The Prayer attributed to St Francis, “Make me a channel of your peace,” was not in fact written by him but certainly is written from the perspective of his spiritual way. In one version the last line correctly is, “for it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life,” instead of the more common, “for it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”)
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, like 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. Reflection and sharing. Pray for an openness to death and for the families of those who have died at this time.