News June 17, 2015
Canticle of the Creatures: The hymn of St. Francis of Assisi that inspired Laudato Si'
Tomorrow, Pope Francis will release the text from his new papal encyclical, Laudato Si'. Learn more about the hymn by St. Francis of Assisi that was the source for the title of the encyclical.
The Canticle of the Creatures, written by St. Francis of Assisi, is also known as the the Canticle of the Sun (in Italian “Cantico di frate Sole,” sometimes translated as “Canticle of Brother Sun”), or Laudes Creaturarum ("Praise of the Creatures"). This hymn, was written during the transition period in the development of the Italian language from Latin, and is the earliest known vernacular literature written in the Umbrian dialect of Italian.
There are three sections to the Canticle:
A praise to God for His creations such as "Brother Sun", "Sister Moon", "Brother Wind", "Sister Water"
This section of the Canticle was written at the end of St. Francis's life (1224) as he was recovering from an illness with St. Claire and the Poor Sisters in San Damiano. At this point in his life, St. Francis was almost completely blind, and yet through his suffering, he composed this song of praise of God for all the wonders of creation.
A praise for those who forgive for the love of God and who endure trials in peace
The second part of the Canticle was composed when Francis reconciled the bishop and the podestá (Chief Magistrate) of Assisi. He sent his friars to sing the first part of the canticle in front of them which led to their reconciliation.
A praise for "Sister Bodily Death", and to those "whom death will find in Your most holy will"
According to tradition, the first time the Canticle was sung in its entirety was by Francis and Brothers Angelo and Leo, two of his original companions, on Francis' deathbed. The final verse praising "Sister Death" was said to have been added only a few minutes before Francis' death.
Famed Catholic author G.K. Chesterton said of the Canticle of Creatures that it "is a supremely characteristic work and much of Saint Francis could be reconstructed from that work alone". Fr. Noel Muscat, OFM, noted that the Canticle "witnesses the profound union between Francis and creation, seen as a gift of God. This union is built upon the category of universal fraternity."
As we look at the environmental teachings of Pope Francis through the spirituality of his papal namesake, St. Francis, the call to "praise and laud his love through the contemplation of creation" become evident. We must also remember that God's creation is "not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude."
Canticle of the Creatures
Original text in Umbrian dialect:
Altissimu, onnipotente bon Signore,
Ad Te solo, Altissimo, se konfano,
Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora Luna e le stelle:
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Uento
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor'Acqua,
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Focu,
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre Terra,
Laudato si, mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano per lo Tuo amore
Beati quelli ke 'l sosterranno in pace,
Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
Laudate et benedicete mi Signore et rengratiate
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
Happy those who endure in peace,
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
Sarah Richter on Flickr