Today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Around the world, Christian Churches are blessing animals at special services in honor of the man who called the birds and the animals his sisters and brothers. He praised God as well for Sister Moon and Brother Sun, for the water and the flowers as his kin. Francis is likely better known than any Christian saint for his delight in all of creation and his willingness to live totally for God, letting go of everything he owned to be free of attachment.
For most people today it is easy to see why the present Pope chose Francis as his name, the first pope in the history of Christendom to do so. He often speaks of what the Church should strive to be as “a poor Church for the poor.” His humility was clear from the moment he first appeared and was announced as Papa Francesco, when he bowed and asked for the prayers of the people. Divesting himself of all the trappings of wealth, he wears a simple silver cross and lives simply in community rather than in the papal apartments. A scientist as well as a theologian, he has recently written a monumental encyclical called Laudato Si in which he speaks of everything and everyone in creation being interdependent and having unique dignity, meaning, purpose and value. Within creation, Pope Francis writes, “Our God-given role is not to dominate the Earth, but to ’till and keep’ it: to make wise use of its resources, while preserving its health for all creatures and for future generations, since all of us share (and none of us owns) this planet.”
Today is a fine day to celebrate the marvels of creation especially here in the northeast United States, where the beauty of October is appearing in trees all around! Pope Francis has shown himself to be a carrier of the vision of St. Francis in humble, inclusive and unbounded love for all people with a special place fondness for children, the poor and the infirm. I will pray for him today and for all of us that we might wake up to the responsibility we have to care for all our neighbors, human and otherwise, so that the earth will survive and flourish in God’s sight.