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All Creatures of Our God and King

posted Jul 25, 2014, 4:15 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 25, 2014, 4:53 PM ]
St. Francis of Assisi is one of Christendom's most beloved historical figures. Living during the Crusades, he is remembered as a gentle and compassionate man who renounced his inheritance; and instead of taking the life of a knight in armor on horseback, chose to walk barefoot in simple garments. Traveling long miles from village to village, sleeping in caves and preaching to anyone who would listen — even birds, he was a lover of nature and animals.

He also loved music and believed strongly in the importance of church music. To encourage singing, he wrote more than sixty hymns. Sick and suffering bouts of temporary blindness, he was returning home to die when he stopped on a hot summer day at the St. Damien monastery to visit friends. While there, he wished to express the unity he felt with nature and the feelings of peace he experienced as his earthly life drew to a close, so he wrote the joyful hymn Cantico di frate sole (Song of Brother Sun and of All Creatures).

Early in the 20th century, an Anglican rector translated it to English for a children’s festival, publishing it in the 1919 Public School Hymn Book. He set the words to a German Easter tune from a 1623 Roman Catholic hymnal, LASST UNS ERFREUEN HERZLICH SEHR, which the famous composer Ralph Vaughan Williams had just arranged for a 1906 Anglican hymnal as Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.

Besides being sung in churches, it features prominently in this year's Vacation Bible School, called Weird Animals. And by weird we mean “unique”, “wonderful”, and “one-of-a-kind”; where all kids can experience the extraordinary love of Jesus. Now isn’t that a fitting legacy for St. Francis?