Patron Saint Ecology

   - Francis

Francis of Assisi was born in 1181 or 1182 AD to one of the richest families in the town of Assisi Italy. As a young adult he was a bit of a party animal hosting parties for friends and wanting to be the centre of attention. But around the age of 20 he wanted to be a noble Knight, so he rode off to war against a neighbouring town of Perugia. But, was soon captured and jailed for 1 year. This dark moment had a profound effect on his life. A ransom was paid by his father and Francis was returned to Assisi.

Francis had a conversion. Where he has an encounter with a leper. As a younger person the sight of the weeping wounds of lepers would repulses Francis. But Francis sees the leper as God incarnate. He embraces him and kisses the leper.

In the beautiful 1972 film “Brother Sun and Sister Moon” by Franco Zeffirelli, depicts Francis who has an encounter with a bird high up on a rooftop. He holds the bird and recognises God in creation. People of the town think Francis has gone crazy. Francis begins to give all of his wealth away. Wanting to share the new found love Francis has found in God. But soon his father throws him out.

But for Francis Father Pietro di Bernardone, he is an embarrassment. Pedro has Francis brought before the Bishop of Assisi where he accuses Francis of stealing from him. Francis acknowledges what he has done and literally strips naked. Francis declares “I only have one father now, Our Father who art in Heaven”. Shocked by the nakedness of Francis the Bishop takes his robe off and places it around Francis.

Francis becomes a beggar roaming the streets of Assisi. Soon he has an encounter at San Damiano or Saint Damain’s church, outside the walls of Assisi. He hears a voice that says “Rebuild my church”. Francis thinks the voice was Jesus Christ himself. But People begin to throw stones at Francis, who thinks he is crazy. Francis collects the stones and uses these stones to rebuild Saint Damain’s church.

Slowly, Francis gains a following of the poor and also disciples who wanted to live a life like Francis. But after the church is finished, it is burnt down by the institutional church. Francis had not gained approval for his new band of followers. Like other groups of the time, they were seen as heretical without papal recognition.

Francis travels to Rome to seek an audience with Pope Innocent the 3rd. What is amazing about this story is that the Pope would not see any random commoner like Francis. The Bishop of Assisi was traveling in Rome at that time. Francis is granted a meeting with the Pope. What is also remarkable is that the Pope has a dream the day before his meeting ,where the church is falling into rune. In that dream a man appears, who is Francis. Francis is seen rebuilding the church. Pope Innocent grants Francis and his followers’ permission and acceptance. The Franciscans and followers of Francis, grow.

Today Francis is known as the Patron Saint of Ecology. Francis would be often preaching to birds and other animals. There are reports of him Preaching to birds about God and his good news. On lookers said that the birds had circled around and were literally listening to Francis’ preach. On another occasion a ferocious wolf was threatening a nearby town of Gubbo. Francis was asked to go and meet with the wolf. After the wolf had an encounter Francis, the wolf becomes a friend and protector of Gubbio.

Francis stands in the history of the church as one of the few environmental advocates for the first 1900 years of the church. Francis stands in contrast to the hierarchical structures which sought power, but rather, sought poverty. Francis recognised God in creation. Before his death in 1224, Francis composed the first poem in the native Italian language “The Canticle of Creatures” where he praises God for creation.

Today, Pope Francis has taken his name from Saint Francis. Pope Francis’ document Laudatio Si (2015) heavily quotes the original inspiration of Saint Francis as one who praises God for creation and one who seeks to protect and cherish it.

Let us be inspired by the life and words of Saint Francis so that we too might praise God for Creation and seek to care for it.

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.

Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
- you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.


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31 October 2021

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