His name was Giovanni Bernardone, but he became known as St. Francis of Assisi. The son of a wealthy merchant, he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps but rebelled against the pursuit of money. As a young man, he experienced a vision that persuaded him to renounce wealth so that he might live a life of poverty and service.
St. Francis is famous for many things, including love of animals. Pictures of him usually have birds flying nearby and small animals at his feet. A popular story tells of him stopping to preach a sermon to a flock of birds. He reminded them that God had blessed them with beautiful clothing even though they had never learned to spin or weave— and that God had blessed them with food even thought they had never learned to sow or reap. Then he called them to sing their songs as praises to God.
The hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” is an outgrowth of that sentiment. It is a call for “All creatures of our God and King” to “lift up (their voices) and with us sing, Alleluia!”
St. Francis wrote this hymn near the end of his life. Sick and suffering bouts of blindness, he was going home to die when he stopped to visit friends at the St. Damien monastery. While there, he felt the inspiration to compose this joyful hymn. It calls all God’s creatures —sun and moon —wind and water—fruits and flowers—and all who are of tender heart—to sing, “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!” to honor our God.
— Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan