Franciscans on Care for Creation

Posted on 20. Mar, 2013 by in Creation, Franciscans on Creation

St. Francis of Assisi is widely acclaimed as the pre-eminent example of Christian care for creation.  British Royalty, scientists, leaders of other faiths, diverse scholars and ordinary believers have claimed him as their inspiration in this age of ecological crisis. Why such a broad appeal? Francis recognized God’s work in creation, and loved it. He celebrated the beauty of God in creation, and loved God all the more for this gift. Francis’ relationship with creation is best understood within the broader context of his religious journey, including: Francis’ passionate love for Jesus Christ and his desire to follow him; contemplative prayer; ongoing conversion of life; and a spirituality of brotherhood with everyone and everything. Francis was foremost a follower of Jesus, but in him there was no tension between loving God and loving all creatures of God. His life inspires faith in Jesus Christ and care for creation.

Francis’ famous composition popularly called The Canticle of the Creatures celebrates his passionate and sensory love of creation.  It conveys in Francis’ own voice his experience of creation. Francis reveled in the sun, gazed upon the stars, danced with the air, was drawn to the fire, marveled at water, and caressed the earth. The Canticle’s vivid images emerged from Francis’ sustained contact with the elements and his prayer with the psalms and Gospels. TheCanticle is the fruit of sustained contemplative spiritual practice, celebrating God’s love for all creation and reflected back by creation’s praise. The Canticle discloses Francis’ recognition of creation as an expression of God’s generous love, and that creation has inherent value, not because of its material or instrumental value to humans, but because it is created by God

The example of Francis can inspire us to respond to the cry of the Earth with love, compassion, and generosity. We cannot simply mimic him, but we can look to his example as we formulate our own vocational responses to a world of environmental crises. A contemporary vocational response can draw from Francis’ model of ecological consciousness, but will have to synthesize something new by combining inspiration, a contemporary moral vision, and the best scientific information.

Environmental problems may feel quite overwhelming. Nonetheless, our faith helps us to recognize that God still loves the human family, even as we have disrupted the delicate balance of the Earth’s climate. The first step is to commit oneself or one’s community to engage this issue with wisdom, prudence, prayer, and an open heart. The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, communities, organizations and institutions to protect God’s Creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change. To join the Covenant, you commit to act on each of the five elements of the St. Francis Pledge, to:

  1. Pray and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
  2. Learn about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
  3. Assess how we-as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations-contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
  4. Act to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
  5. Advocate for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.

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