About St Francis
St Francis of Assisi Church Radford
St Francis Church has been here since 5th July 1939. It was to serve the people living on the new Radford Aerodrome and Hill Farm estates created to cope with the expansion of the car industry in Coventry.
Just over 15 months later the church (now the church hall) was hit by a bomb in the big blitz of 14th November 1940. The stranded congregation was then welcomed in by the landlord of the Pilot pub in Catesby Road and services continued there until 13th March 1944 when the church was reopened.
The present church was consecrated on 24th January 1959 and is unusual in having a beautiful canopy over the high altar and a tracker action pipe organ, which is at least 100 years old. It was designed to have a great sense of space inside and a fine acoustic. The decoration of the church with its candles, statues and stations of the cross reflects the Catholic tradition within the Church of England.
A green saint?
The sculpture on the outside of the church-tower shows Francis with the birds. The story was told of how as he walked through a valley in Italy, he came across a flock of birds looking as though they were waiting for something. He went over to them and, to his amazement, they did not fly away. He decided to talk to them: “Brother Birds, you should love your creator deeply and praise him always. He has given you feathers to wear, wings to fly with and whatever else you need. You neither sow nor reap yet he nevertheless protects you and governs you without any anxiety on your part.” The birds stretched their necks, spread their wings and bowed their heads to the ground in joy. Then he blessed them with the sign of the cross and the flock soared up in the shape of a cross and then flew off in four different directions.
Francis had a great tenderness to all living things. He was well known for picking up worms from the path to stop them being trodden on. He wished there was a law to provide special food at Christmas for birds and for beasts of burden. He invented the Christmas crib with a real ox and a real ass standing by the manger.
It is easy to get sentimental about St Francis. Fortunately he offers three antidotes to sentimentality:
• His whole life was dominated not by animals but by trying to love God. His love of creatures grew out of his love for the Creator who made them.
• His love was for all creatures, not just the attractive ones. He loved rats and bugs just as much as fluffy lambs.
• His love for nature came second after his love for humans.
If we were to put up a stained glass window in his memory, he would not be surrounded by birds and butterflies. He would be in the midst of lepers, AIDS victims, beggars and tramps.
St Francis’ Church, with the Methodists, has organised several Pets’ Services to celebrate St Francis’ Day Oct 4th. We have had everything turn up from horses to stick-insects. The services seem especially right because St Francis had a particular respect for all God’s creatures. He called them brothers and sisters – because we all share the same heavenly Father.
St Francis- the turning point.
One beautiful sunny day in 1205 the young Francis rode out of Assisi into the glorious Italian countryside. He was full of the joys of spring. Ahead of him, from a ditch at the side of the road, he heard a cry for help. He tried to ride by. As he got nearer, he saw that the man in the ditch was a beggar, filthy and in rags. Nearer still, he realised that the man was an unclean, infectious leper. He pushed his heels into the horse’s side to make it go faster.
As he passed, he caught the words, ‘For the love of God, help me.’ Francis felt on his belt for coins to throw to the man … then he paused … God’s love did more for me, for us, than throw a coin. He came to us in the form of Jesus. Forgetting his fear and disgust, Francis went down into the ditch, gently lifted the beggar to his feet and kissed his hand.
From then on he began to work among lepers and others in need, and to live a life of poverty. Others joined him and he started the Franciscan Order of Friars (Greyfriars) who spread through Europe as far as Coventry and beyond.
Prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred, let me sow love,
where there is injury, pardon,
where there is doubt, faith,
where there is despair, hope,
where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled, as to console,
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.