The Feast of St. Francis on October 4 each year honours St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, merchants, and ecology. Francis, who died in 1226, created a brotherhood, known as the Franciscan Order, after he experienced a spiritual shift in which he turned from a life of luxury to a life of simplicity. Get children involved with aspects of St. Francis' mission with activities that help them learn about and experience the beauty of the natural world and the creatures inhabiting it.
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Blessing of the Animals
Encourage your children to bring their pets or stuffed animals to church for a blessing. Many Catholic churches have such ceremonies on or around October 4 each year, which includes a procession in which all take part. The prayer said on this occasion, cited on AmericanCatholic.org, includes the words "All praise to you, O Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures."
The St. Francis Peace Prayer
Organise a children's St. Francis of Assisi peace pole project, based on the prayer Francis wrote that begins "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace." The GOI Peace Foundation instituted the Peace Pole Project, in which children are encouraged to write "Peace on Earth" or similar phrases along the four sides of a wooden pole erected for the occasion. Write in waterproof paint or marker. Conduct an informal ceremony to plant the pole outside where people can see it and pass on their own blessings of peace. Form a circle around the pole and recite the St. Francis Peace Prayer on his feast. The entire prayer is posted on the Franciscan archive website.
St. Francis Rose Garden
Grow a St. Francis rose garden as a living reminder of the saint's faith. Teach children how to plant and tend the roses. Give them a piece of rosewood on which they can carve the name of the garden and the date it was planted. Visit the garden on his feast day and recite his prayer for peace. These activities are significant because roses play an important role in St. Francis' tradition. According to legend, the saint stripped naked and rolled in thorns in Assisi, Italy where the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli stands today. St. Francis's desire to strengthen his faith drove him to such an extreme, so says the Sacred Destinations website. According to tradition, when the thorns touched Francis' body, they turned into roses without thorns.
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