by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
We conclude the 2020 Season of Creation on this Sunday, the 4th of October, feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Each year this liturgical season will continue to be scheduled in the same way: beginning on September 1st and ending on October 4th.
It is appropriately placed in the final weeks of Ordinary Time as we move into the last third of each calendar year. In addition, culminating the season on the Feast of St. Francis is perfect (pardon the boast from this Franciscan). Francis is the Patron of Ecology, named so by Pope St. John Paul II in 1979. The saint’s entire life spoke both to his understanding of humanity’s place in Creation as sisters and brothers, to his own delight in God’s created gifts even in times of intense suffering.
As we conclude this year’s Season of Creation, St. Francis’ words come to mind. On his deathbed it is reported that he said to his brothers and sisters gathered there: “I have done what was mine to do, may Christ show you what it yours.” This prayer/encouragement now extends to all people of good will who see in St. Francis an exemplar of Care for Our Common Home.
All of us today mourn deeply the fact that the outlook for creation is bleak. While there is absolutely no need to rehearse here the ever more ominous threats to the planet, it is important to ask how to avoid a sense of futility, despondency, even despair, over the prospects for Earth. There is a real temptation to “look away,” to draw a curtain around ourselves and actually give up the struggle for the survival of Planet Earth. This reaction would be understandable, but tragic in every sense. It would be an emotional surrender and a spiritual betrayal.
As is so often the case the Scripture Readings for this Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time offer consolation, and the motivation for overcoming all negativity. This is especially clear in the Second Reading, where St. Paul urges the early Christian community in the Roman colony of Philippi to maintain a hope-filled attitude.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Then Paul’s words continue in a very beautiful and inspiring way: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” These sentiments mirror what we know of Il Poverello of Assisi. He lived his life joyously, never in isolation. He was not an unrealistic dreamer. He went to Egypt to bring peace between Christian and Muslim enemies; he agonized over what he saw as a betrayal of his ideals in his own brotherhood; he wrote the Canticle of Creation during the final and painful months of his life. But he was a joy filled human being.
We do not have the luxury of ignoring Earth’s crises. As has been so often stated in this Season of Creation, in this time, our time, we’re called to continue with every action, public prayer, protest — anything we can think of to save our Common Home.
But the how of doing that is so very important as well. The inspirational lines from Paul’s letter to a community living under the iron rule of the Roman Empire can well be our mantra going forward. They serve as a fitting way to continue in our hearts and efforts this season of love and respect for “our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and directs us bringing forth all kinds of fruits and colored flowers and herbs.” (St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures) “I have done what it mine to do. May Christ show you what is yours.”
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.