On October 4, Christians around the world remember and celebrate St Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), the patron saint of animals and the environment. In the midst of our stressful times, he reminds us what is most important - that the whole of creation is woven as one; living simply is the way to freedom and care for others; peace is the active presence of God in the world; and everything is holy. Francis knew that the Earth is our Mother, and that she is our Sister.
From Francis’ song of praise to Brother Sun and Sister Moon:
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Take a walk, go outside, look around. See the beauty of the world. Perhaps visit a church virtually, especially those offering online pet blessings. Spend some time praying, centering, or mediating and hold in your heart creation, the poor, and peace. Remember the deepest truth of all: God is with us, through creation, dwelling here. St. Francis understood. The great contemporary theologian Sallie McFague (d. 2019) extended his insights and spirit when she insisted that the Earth - and the entire universe - is the “body of God.”
Appreciate the gift of life, of creation, of beauty, of awe and wonder. Breathe gratitude.
And take action in the spirit of Francis. Work in a garden, donate food to the hungry, contribute to causes that benefit animals and the environment, demand candidates address the climate crisis, and vote with “Sister Mother Earth” and her future in mind. Make every day St Francis Day.
Sister Mother Earth has never needed you more than she does right now.
(icon: MF Dondelinger)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; and
where there is sadness, joy.
O, God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
- The Prayer of St. Francis (anonymous but attributed to him)
Holy God, your mercy is over all your works,
and in the web of life each creature has its role and place.
We praise you for ocelot and owl, cactus and kelp, lichen and whale;
we honor you for whirlwind and lava, tide and topsoil, cliff and marsh.
Give us hearts and minds eager to care for your planet,
humility to recognize all creatures as your beloved ones,
justice to share the resources of the earth with all its inhabitants,
and love not limited by our ignorance.
— The Episcopal Church
Once we “see” the world – and ourselves as part of it – with “double vision,” as grounded in God and resplendent with the individuality of each thing, from slugs to forget-me-nots, from whales to big cedars, from crouching tigers to fields of waving wheat, we want to shout, “Hallelujah!” To see creatures, including human beings, becoming their illimitable selves as they live within and for God – this is a great joy. We realize that there is no either/or, but a both/and: it is not God versus us, but rather God as the ground, source, breath, water, womb, bath, air, breast, and tomb within which we become who we truly are.
— Sallie McFague
I am usually classed as a progressive, a liberal. But it seems to me that what I care most about is preserving a world that bears some resemblance to the past—a world with some ice at the top and bottom and the odd coral reef in between, a world where people are connected to the past and future (and to one another) instead of turned into obsolete software.
— Bill McKibben
There is a pattern of God all around us - a spiritual theology that relates to contemporary concerns, provides meaning and hope for the future, and possesses rich ties to wisdom from the past. God is the ground, the grounding, that which grounds us. This world, not heaven, is the sacred stage of our times.
— Diana Butler Bass (from Grounded )
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