Canticle of Brother Sun
Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor
And all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.
Looking ahead at the Canticle's next 19 lines, we focus on the various "brother" and "sister" creatures God has made. We praise God for their beauty and preciousness and for the way they reflect God's own goodness. It is fitting therefore that we embrace these creatures as brothers and sisters and as members of the same family to which you and I belong. It is with great joy and reverence therefore that we warmly accept these creatures and praise God with them and through them.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful is he, how merry! Full of power and strength.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our Mother,
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
On Pardon and Peace
Some time after Saint Francis wrote and joyfully sang the original lines of the Canticle, he composed the following four lines to help resolve a dispute that had arisen between the mayor of Assisi and the bishop. Francis asked a friar to sing these lines in the presence of the two men so they might be reconciled. And, indeed, a reconciliation did take place. The lines were added later to the original parts of the Canticle presented above. These words also inspire us in our day to seek reconciliation with one another out of love for God. They will also lead us to peace—and to great blessings from the Most High.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon
For love of you; through those who endure
Sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Finally, not many days before Francis saw his own death approaching, he added the following seven lines to his great Canticle of the Creatures.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
How dreadful for those who die in sin!
How lovely for those found in Your Most Holy Will.
The second death can do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.
Throughout this canticle, we have seen how Francis saw God’s goodness, radiance and beauty in all creatures. He saw them indeed as benevolent friends, as brothers and sisters—as family. And now even the reality of death itself becomes “Sister Death” for Francis, and thus takes on friendly and even “sisterly” aspects. For who of us is afraid of our sister? Indeed, under usual circumstances we are not afraid of our sister. And so, neither does Francis see this sister as threatening to him. In fact, according to Thomas of Celano, the first biographer of the saint, Francis went “joyfully to meet [death]” and “invited it to make its lodging with him. ‘Welcome,’ he said, ‘my sister death!’”
Thank you, Francis
We all owe a great debt to Saint Francis of Assisi and to his Canticle of the Creatures for leading us to the conviction that all brother and sister creatures make up one family under God’s loving care. May all these wonderful creatures continue to lift our hearts upward to God in this glorious prayer of praise!