Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was born in Portland, Maine. He studied at Bowdoin College and later taught at both Bowdoin and Harvard Colleges. Longfellow was the first American poet to translate Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy into English. And he is remembered as one of the finest and most popular poets in American literary history. In 1875, while struggling to cope with the effects of fame and celebrity, Longfellow wrote a poem about Saint Francis of Assisi, a model of Christian humility. In the poem, Francis preaches to a flock of birds about the things of God. Even though Francis doubts that the birds understand his sermon, he finds peace and solace in the simplicity of the birds. For modern readers like us, The Sermon of Saint Francis is a simple but powerful reminder of God’s abiding care and love for all creatures great and small.
The Sermon of Saint Francis
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Up soared the lark into the air,
a shaft of sun, a winged prayer,
as if a soul released from pain
were flying back to heaven again.
Saint Francis heard: it was him
an emblem of the Seraphim;
the upward motion of the fire,
the light, the heat, the heart’s desire.
Around Assisi’s convent gate
the birds, God’s poor who cannot wait,
from moor and mere and darksome wood
come flocking for their dole of food.
‘O brother birds,’ Saint Francis said,
‘Ye come to me and ask for bread,
but not with bread alone to-day
shall ye be fed and sent away.
‘Ye shall be fed, ye happy birds,
with manna of celestial words;
not mine, though mine they seem to be,
not mine, though they be spoken through me.
‘Oh, doubly are ye bound to praise
the great Creator in your lays;
he giveth you your plumes of down,
your crimson hoods, your cloaks of brown.
‘He giveth you your wings to fly
and breath a purer air on high,
and careth for you everywhere,
who for yourselves so little care!’
With flutter of swift wings and songs
together rose the feathered throngs,
and singing scattered far apart;
deep peace was in Saint Francis’ heart.
He knew not if the brotherhood
his homily had understood;
he only knew that to one ear
the meaning of his words was clear.
A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Almighty God and Father,
you made Saint Francis of Assisi
Christ-like in his poverty and humility.
Help us to walk in his ways,
so that with joy and love,
we may follow Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile; or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
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In Memory of Connie McGrath