On the plus side to the tradition of have a 'pet service' in association with St Francis is that the TV cameras love it, and we can be pretty much assured each year of some TV news focus on the church - one or other of the cathedrals usually - the more donkeys the merrier!
There is a downside to this association, I suggest: it tempts us to think of St Francis in unidimensional terms. 'He's the guy who blessed the animals, isn't he?' In fact St Francis was an extraordinary multidimensional disciple of Christ: teacher, mentor, preacher, missionary, monastic, apostle, visionary.
He did not receive the stigmata because he liked animals. He became Christ-like in ways few achieve. He was instrumental in renewal of the church. He became an inspirational figure to thousands if not millions in succeeding generations.
Hopefully our sermons each St Francis' Day acknowledge the breadth and depth of this holy one of God.