A Modern Franciscan

A Summer’s Blessings
August 23, 2019
St. Francis loved animals AND people too
September 20, 2019

By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF

As we’re getting into the celebratory mood for the magnificent feast of St. Francis of Assisi coming up in another month on October 4, I’m thinking about the poem that beloved American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about him.  Actually, I’m first thinking about a comparison of these two men.  Consider this:


St. Francis of Assisi Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Lived 1182-1226 1807-1882
Birthplace Assisi, Italy Portland, Maine, USA
Lifespan 44 years 75 years
Life Goal Be the most Christ-like person who lived Be the perfect gentleman
Reputation One of the Catholic Church’s most beloved saints One of America’s most recognized and beloved poets
Life Ministry Itinerant preacher Educated professor at Bowdoin and Harvard
Nature Nature is our gift of brothers and sisters Nature reflects human feelings
Conflicts Seen City-state wars War of 1812; Civil War
Peace Sought peace in hearts Sought peace in the country
Works Canticle of the Creatures,

The Praises of God

Paul Revere’s Ride, Evangeline, Song of Hiawatha, The Village Blacksmith

Longfellow died 700 years after St. Francis was born but certainly captured well St. Francis’ gift and inspiration in preaching to all God’s creatures.  A meditative read of Longfellow’s poem about St. Francis proves that, now 144 years later.

The Sermon of St. Francis (Composed in 1875)

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Up soared the lark into the air,
A shaft of song, a wingéd prayer,
As if a soul released from pain
Were flying back to heaven again.

St. Francis heard: it was to 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,” St. 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 breathe 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 St. 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.

Sister Nancy Linenkugel

Franciscan in the Marketplace

Sister Nancy Linenkugel has served in healthcare administration, education and leadership for the Sylvania Franciscans.  She is an accomplished cello player and a member of the Washington D.C.-based Medical Music Group, made up of doctors, nurses and medical professionals from around the country.  Sister Nancy is currently the chair of the department of health service administration and director of the graduate program in health services administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  She has served on the Sylvania Franciscan Leadership Team, was president of Chatfield College in Cincinnati, president and CEO of the Providence Health System and Providence Hospital in Sandusky, Ohio, and vice president of St. John Medical Center in Steubenville, Ohio.

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