The Feast of St. Francis 2021
3 October 2021
Today’s Readings: Galatians 6:14-18; Matthew 11:25-30.
Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,
you helped Saint Francis to reflect the image of Christ through a life of poverty and humility.
May we follow you Son by walking in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi
and by imitating his joyful love;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.


A Reflection

Many years ago, I led a Parish Pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. We stayed in the Casa del Terziario, the House of the Third Order, of the Franciscans, with views over the Po valley to the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the large Baroque church built around the original little chapel which St. Francis and his followers rebuilt and in which they prayed and worshipped.

On one of the days, we travelled out of Assisi to visit the Chapel at La Verna built in the place, high in the mountains, where S. Francis received the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his own body, one on each wrist, one on each foot, and one is his side, reflecting the wounds which Christ suffered in his crucifixion.

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul also claims the marks of Christ, stigmata, in his own body, although not in quite the same way.  In the Roman world, a refugee or fugitive could run to the Temple of Heracles, receive a mark, stigma, and could not be touched by those pursuing him because he now belonged to the god.  Equally, in the Roman army, a young recruit who had proved himself would be awarded a ‘stigma’ usually in the form of a tattoo on the arm, often an image of his favourite general, a mark of allegiance and belonging.  So, when Paul declares that he bears the marks of Jesus, caused by several floggings and beatings taken for his faith, he is declaring his allegiance to God, and that he is claimed by God and cannot be touched.

One commentator, interestingly, points out that scars only appear on a living body.  They are the signs and evidence of a healed wound.  When Christ shows Himself to the disciples in the Upper Room, and in particular to Thomas, he does not show bleeding wounds but healed wounds, a living body.

There is no suffering in the Divine, except in the suffering to which Christ chose to submit Himself in His Incarnation; God recognising, and sharing in, the suffering of fallen humanity in order to heal and redeem.  Christ’s resurrection appearances shows that our wounds are healed and redeemed.

In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul also claims a share in the ‘fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.’

“We a pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down but are never destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10

We have not, like St. Paul, been flogged and beaten for our faith, although many Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world still are!  Nevertheless, we all bear scars on our bodies, perhaps from an operation, an accident or an illness.  More importantly, we all bear scars on our hearts and on our souls, the scars of pain, hurt, grief or rejection, many of which will only be known to us and God in Christ.  In these scars, we share in ‘the fellowship of Christ’s suffering’ and, in that fellowship, He also shares in our suffering.  These are the ‘marks of Christ’ in our lives which show that we belong to Him, owe our allegiance to Him and, ultimately, are healed and redeemed by Him.

Organ Voluntary

Prelude and Fugue on a theme from Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony – Gerard Bunk:
Watch here
If you are not very familiar with the form of the Prelude and Fugue, then this is one of those pieces to close your eyes and listen to what is happening; then watch it again for the views of Cologne Cathedral!

Today’s hymn

King of glory, King of peace:
Watch here

Music from Matthew

There isn’t much music which obviously refers to St Francis, so Carola has chosen two contrasting pieces which celebrate the earth’s beauty in nature. At the offertory, words by the English poet, theologian and Anglican cleric Thomas Traherne in a starkly beautiful setting by Elizabeth Maconchy. It’s very short and worth listening to a few times; listen for the gently climbing motto theme in the piano independent of the soaring vocal line yet underpinning it from beginning to end.

‘Clothed with the stars’ by Dame Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-94)

You never enjoy the world aright till you are clothed with the stars. Till your spirit filleth the whole world and the stars are your jewels.
words by Thomas Traherne (c.1637-74)

Alison Smart (soprano), Katharine Durran (piano)

During Communion, this much-loved aria from Messiah quotes words from Psalm 23, Isaiah, Matthew and John.

‘He shall feed his flock’ by G.F. Handel (1685-1759)

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd and he shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom and gently lead those that are with young. Come unto him all ye that labour, ye that are heavy laden and he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you and learn of him for he is meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Barbara Bonney (soprano), Freiburg Baroque Orchestra

St. Francis of Assisi

I am sure that you all know about St. Francis but here are a couple of videos about him and Assisi.  This American presenter, who always seems to me like Rick Stein but without the cooking, has done a lot of very good travel videos across Europe.

Saturday 9th October – 7.30pm at St. Anne’s.


The last time John and Vimala performed at St. Anne’s was one of the most engaging and spellbinding concerts we have ever had.  Don’t miss it!!

Cheese and biscuits, included, will be served during the interval and there will be a cash bar.

Please forward this email to your friends, neighbours, colleagues etc. and encourage them to join us.

Book now on Eventbrite:


Vasiliki Gkotsi

Whilst thinking about and writing the Reflection, I was reminded of my old friend, Vasiliki, a very talented and successful artist from Greece, as well as being a devout Greek Orthodox Christian.  (Some of you may have met her at St. Anne’s.)  There was a period when she was very interested in the scars on the human body and then on the hidden scars behind a face; in a sense, revealing in a face the scars on the soul which are not seen.  It was one of these paintings which won her a prize in BP Portrait Award.  They are not easy paintings to look at, but I think that this is the one which won the prize:

(I know that if I have got anything wrong in this paragraph, Vasiliki is going to come back at me!)

Daily Readings

Monday: Jonah 1:1-2:2; Luke 10:25-37.

Tuesday: Jonah 3; Psalm 130; Luke 10:38-end.

Wednesday: Jonah 4: Psalm 86:1-9; Luke 11:1-4.

Thursday: Acts 1:12-14; Magnificat; Luke 1:26-38 (Our Lady of the Rosary)

Friday: Joel 1:13-15,2:1-2; Psalm 9:1-7; Luke 11:15-26.

Saturday: Joel 3:12-21; Psalm 97:1, 8-end; Luke 11:27-28.

Shepherd’s Lamb

As we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and as the evenings draw in, here’s another very simple and delicious lamb dish from the mountains of the Abruzzi.

I used to cook this with neck fillets, but any boneless lamb pieces will work.  There are two secrets here: cook on a low heat and DO NOT, however tempted, remove the lid until you need to check if it’s cooked.

Chop one large onion and place in a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish.  Add about 50g of butter. Throw in about 400g of lamb. Season with salt and pepper.  Now cook on a low heat, on the hob, for about an hour.  Every 15 mins or so, shake/toss the pan to mix up the lamb and onions but without removing the lid.  After an hour check to see if the lamb is tender enough.  The lamb should be soft, and the onions will have melted into a delicious buttery sauce.  Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

It’s a peasant dish which St. Francis might have known!

Overheard in a Café

What did the Centurion say to Christ as He was carrying the Cross to Calvary?
‘Drop that Cross again and you’re out of this procession!’
(I do hope that I don’t need to explain this joke!!)
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