by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
The Season of Creation 2022 ends this Tuesday, October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
One instinctively understands the appropriateness of this bow to “Il Poverello.” Pope Francis begins his encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home” with the words of the saint, “laudato si” (praise be to you, O Lord). Then he continues: “I do not want to write this… without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took in my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome.” With reason, then, this week’s reflection centers on the “little poor man of Assisi” and his continued influence and inspiration eight centuries after his death.
St. Francis’s great poem “Canticle of Creation” could be called his “magna carta,” the incredibly expansive view this 13th century figure had of our kinship with all the gifts of our loving Creator. There is no better way to begin here than to quote from that Canticle.
“Most High, all powerful, all good Lord.
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor and all blessing.
All praise is yours, my Lord, for all that you have made.
And first, my Lord, Brother Sun:
Who brings the day and light you give us through him.
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars.
In the heavens you have made them bright and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air.
And fair and stormy, all the weather’s moods, by which you cherish all that you have made.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water, so useful, lowly, precious and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord through Brother through whom you brighten up the night.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our Mother, Who feeds us … and produces fruits and colored flowers and herbs.”
Some 20 years ago a small group of us began to ask the question: does Francis of Assisi have a relevant message for humanity today? We found compelling lessons for modern people in his life and message. This was especially true regarding humanity’s place in God’s creation. Our reflections led us to write a book together specifically directed to our contemporary sisters and brothers (Francis and the Foolishness of God, Orbis Books)
Here are some cursory learnings from our collaboration taken from the chapter titled “Francis and Creation”:
- Creation is a word from God.
- Creation’s witness to the artistry of the Creator did not end with the primordial moment of creation.
- Creation spirituality is a posture that seeks to behold and respond to the mystery of the Divine Being that shimmers in all creatures.
- Creation is a continuous testimony of rapturous joy.
- The voice of humankind praising the Creator is not a solo voice but part of a chorus, a cosmic choir made up of all God’s creatures.
What then would St. Francis say about the state of his Sister, Mother Earth, today? The namesake of Il poverello, Pope Francis, answers in graphic language. “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”
So the last word as we conclude another Season of Creation must be one of repentance. This ongoing grace from God, a compulsion to ask for Divine pardon, is a gift of the Holy Spirit – not a despairing sentiment. We are assured that the very name of God is Mercy. Further, we pray this word in our own names, for our participation in “irresponsible use and abuse of all God’s creatures”. It is also a plea for forgiveness in the name of humanity. May it inspire us to renew our Care for Creation.
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.