Gratitude As A Spiritual Path

St. Francis is my Patron Saint of Gratitude. He made praise and thanksgiving his daily spiritual practice. Gratitude was his spiritual path.

St Francis’s Canticle of the Sun is a prayer, spiritual song and poem all-in-one. It’s beautifully lyrical, full of high teaching, and it offers a powerful meditation on gratitude. Here is a version of the prayer, translated from the original Umbrian, and below that are some musings by me on the joy of gratitude.

I encourage you to read the prayer slowly, and at least twice, so as to let it sing to you and touch your heart.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

Some musings on the joy of gratitude…

Gratitude and Original Blessing
One of St. Francis’s daily prayers was “Who are you, O God? And who am I?” Through the practice of gratitude, and praising the divine, St. Francis experienced the original blessing of God, which is that we are created whole and perfect. Gratitude, with a capital G, is a deep spiritual realization that there’s nothing missing in us. We are full of God’s beauty. We are eternal loveliness. And we have been made for each other.

Gratitude and Spiritual Vision
St Francis used gratitude to connect with the Oneness of Creation. Through gratitude, he lived in loving relationship with Brother Sun and Sister Moon. He experienced himself as a spiritual sibling with all creation, including animals and plants, planets and stars. St. Francis wrote Canticle of the Sun when he was physically blind. His spiritual vision taught him that we are all created equally, as One, by the divine.
Before we practice gratitude, we are in the dark and there appears to be very little to be grateful for. Once we begin, a new light dawns, sometimes a brilliant light, a light as bright as heaven itself.

Gratitude as a Spiritual Path
St. Francis practiced gratitude everyday and in doing so it helped him to discern the real from the unreal. Gratitude taught him to recognize what he truly loved. The more you practice gratitude, the clearer you get about the truth of your life, and what is truly sacred to you.

Gratitude and Spiritual Healing
It is remarkable that St. Francis composed Canticle of the Sun during a “dark night of the ego” that was full of suffering and torture. In his darkest hour, St. Francis turned to gratitude to connect again with the divine and with the original blessing. Through gratitude, he opened himself up and made himself receptive to healing angels and divine love.

Gratitude and Forgiveness
“Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You; through those who endure sickness and trial,” writes St. Francis, in Canticle of the Sun. St. Francis saw that God’s angels rejoice when we forgive because forgiveness helps us to stop playing the victim, to not get lost in dramas, to let go of the past, and to return to love.

Gratitude and Spiritual Abundance
St. Francis referred to God as the “Giver”. He described the divine as a great outpouring that wants to give us everything. Just like Brother Sun, the divine shines on us all. Gratitude encourages receptivity. To be grateful is to receive. Gratitude brings the harvest home. The more you practice being grateful, the more you discover how much you have to be grateful for.

Gratitude and Spiritual Joy
St. Francis of Assisi is often pictured full of ecstasy and spiritual joy. Happiness and gratitude are twins. St. Francis was always at home wherever he went. Gratitude shows you that the grass beneath your feet is greener than you think. Gratitude teaches you that happiness is always now.


Hollie, Bo, Christopher and me, at the Statue of St. Francis in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee

Gratitude and Thanks-Giving
I read somewhere that in St. Francis’s written works, he used the word “doing” rather than “understanding” at a ratio of 175 to 5. St. Francis believed in preaching through action, not just words. He practiced “sidewalk spirituality”, says Richard Rohr, O.F.M. He believed in thanks-giving! In giving help and in offering relief to those less fortunate so that they may have a reason to be grateful too.


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