St. Francis and Climate Change

Fr. Sam Fuller, OFM Cap.

By Fr. Sam Fuller, OFM, Cap.

“Among the holy and admirable men who have revered nature as a wonderful gift of God to the human race, St. Francis of Assisi deserves special consideration.  For he, in a special way, deeply sensed the universal works of the Creator and, filled with a certain divine spirit, sang that very beautiful “Canticle of the Creatures”.  Through them, Brother Sun most powerful and Sister Moon and the stars of heaven, he offered fitting praise, glory, honor and all blessing to the most high, all-powerful, good Lord.” So began Pope John Paul II with his proclamation of St. Francis as patron Saint of Ecology. This year we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the proclamation. Saturday, October 4th, is the feast day of St. Francis- all of this during the papacy of Pope Francis whose forthcoming encyclical on the environment is eagerly awaited.

Given the urgency of climate change and the momentum of the unprecedented turnout for the September 21st People’s Climate March in NYC with similar events happening worldwide, it is good to appreciate the gift of the life and the spirituality of St. Francis. I cite these together as both were so intertwined offering a clear progression of ever expanding and deepening awareness of God’s Love. From being embraced by such Love, to embracing societies’ outcasts as his own brother and sister, he extended this sense of fraternal relationship to nature of which he wrote so movingly in the Canticle of Creatures. It is particularly insightful that St. Francis does not mention human relationship until the last third of the Canticle of Creatures. It is only after naming everything from Brother Sun to Sister Water to Brother Fire and Mother Earth as each in its own way praising God, does Francis name those “who grant pardon for love of you.” It is as if St. Francis was in continual awe and reverence with the way God made His presence known here on earth – not only with the Incarnation but as a continual event through the beauty of nature.

St. Francis came to know Creation as a book of revelation before which not only was one called to right relationship before God but also with all of humanity. Care of creation became integral to one’s care for one’s neighbor. We are all called to be a good steward of God’s creation. What I find compelling with Franciscan spirituality is the invitation to discover one’s relationship with nature as transformational and thus is expressive of not only the fullness of my faith but also the fullness of what it means to be human.

I can think of no better time to discuss the urgency of climate change than on the feast of St. Francis. Our treatment of God’s creation and our wasteful use of its resources not only causes untold suffering for all of His creatures, it is in direct opposition to the relationship that St. Francis embodied. If we are to live out the call of St. Francis, we cannot stand on the sidelines; we must act. As people of faith, we must be better stewards of this planet and cherish the planet that God so loves. Religious communities will have an opportunity to explore this call to stewardship and action more deeply on October 12th and 13th at the Climate Stewardship Summit in West Hartford, CT. ( I hope that we will be able to come together on those days and the days ahead to create a world that is just, sustainable, and that continuously praises the Lord for His Creation. As St. Francis wrote, “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, indeed.

Father Sam Fuller is a Capuchin Franciscan who serves on the Board of Directors of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network (IREJN) and also as a priest at St. Pius X in Middletown, CT.

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

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