“The Canticle” is “the expression that takes place in the night of the soul.” (Eloi Leclerc, OFM).
When St. Francis wrote “The Canticle,” he had returned from Mt. Alverna where he had received the wounds of Christ in September the previous year. He probably has tuberculosis and is suffering throughout his body. It is around April 1225. He is slowly dying and will die in another 18 months. He has a disease that causes his eyes to bleed and makes light unbearable. He lives for over fifty days and nights in a darkened hut with field mice running back and forth across his weakened body. He hemorrhages from the wounds of the stigmata. He is in a deep depression over the departure from his ideals by the brothers. He feels abandoned by God and cut off from God‘s love by his own sins. Out of the terrible darkness, his poem is composed, and he begins to sing, “Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,/Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing,/To you alone, Most High, do they belong,/and no man is worthy to mention Your name.”
The Language of the Soul’s Night
April, 1945: The Allied armies are penetrating deep into the heart of Germany. A lengthy freight train is moving slowly along the line from Passau to Munich, with thousands of exiles packed into its cars. They have been shut up there for twenty-one days now. Hundreds have already died; hundreds more are at death’s door, delirious from hunger. The train started from Buchenwald and has made a long detour through Czechoslovakia and the mountains of Bohemia; now it is heading for Dachau near Munich. Suddenly, incredibly, singing can be heard from one of the cars; it is Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun! “All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, and first my lord Brother Sun … All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother.”
What can such a song mean in circumstances like these? The men who sang were hardly more than ghosts themselves, surrounded by the dead! What was going on in ‘this railroad car? . . . (continue reading by clicking here: The Language of the Soul’s Night )
Francis sought occasion to love God in everything.
He delighted in all the works of God’s hands
and from the vision of joy on earth
his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of all.
In everything beautiful, he saw him who is beauty itself, and
he followed his Beloved everywhere by his likeness imprinted on creation;
of all creation he made a ladder by which he might mount up and
embrace Him who is all-desirable.
By the power of his extraordinary faith he tasted the Goodness
which is the source of all in each and every created thing,
as in so many rivulets.
He seemed to perceive a divine harmony in the interplay of powers
and faculties given by God to his creatures
and like the prophet David
he exhorted them all to praise God.
(from Bonaventure, Major Life, Chapter IX