The Canticle of the Creatures

francis and birds

St. Francis and the birds by John Dashwood TSSF

Saint Francis is said to have composed most of the canticle in late 1224 while recovering from an illness at San Damiano, in a small cottage that had been built for him by Saint Clare and other women of her order. He added the section on forgiveness to effect a reconcilliation between in a dispute between the Mayor and Bishop of Assisi. The final section in praise of Sister Death was written shortly before his death.

It is often called Canticle of Brother Sun but that is misleading. It has been translated as Canticle of the Creatures but to our ears creatures implies living creatures. That is not what it is about.  It rejoices in the creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars and of the four basic elements (as it was believed) of Earth, Air,  Fire  and Water , not Planet Earth  but Mother Earth  giving forth plants.

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
to you be praise, glory, honour and all blessing.

Only to you, Most High, do they belong
and no one is worthy to call upon your name.

May you be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir brother sun,
through whom you lighten the day for us.

He is beautiful and radiant with great splendour.
He signifies you, O Most High.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister moon and the stars:
clear and precious and lovely, they are formed in heaven.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother wind;
and by air and clouds, clear skies and all weathers,
by which you give sustenance to your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother fire,
by whom the night is illumined for us.
He is beautiful and cheerful, full of power and strength.

Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, mother earth,
who sustains and governs us
and produces diverse fruits
and coloured flowers and grass.

Be praised, my Lord, by all those who forgive for love of you
and who bear weakness and tribulation.

Blessed are those who bear them in peace:
for you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, the death of the body,
from which no one living is able to flee.
Woe to those who are dying in mortal sin.

Blessed are those who are found doing your most holy will,
for the second death will do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give him thanks
and serve him with great humility.