Submitted by the Ministerial Association

Nine-hundred years ago, a man lived who is still admired and loved by Christians all over the world. His name is Francis and his universally celebrated birthday is next week, on October 4.

Francis was born about the year 1181 in Assisi, Italy. He founded the Franciscan orders of men and women and led religious movements for reform of the Roman Catholic Church of his day.

After his conversion to a life of poverty and prayer in the year 1205, Francis began to preach, though still a layman.  In 1209, a group of disciples accompanied him to Rome; eventually they received papal approval for their rule of life.  Francis organized an order for women in the year 1212, and a lay fraternity in 1221. In 1224, he receive the stigmata (the wounds of Jesus) and lived two more years in constant pain, dying in the year 1226.

You may be wondering what is attracting 21st century moderns to this man.

Francis tried to make his contemporaries aware of their responsibility for their fellow creatures and their environment, as part of Christian love of God and love of neighbor. He is remembered, even today, for writing the “Canticle of the Creatures.” This Canticle praises God and all he has created–brother sun and sister moon, brother wind and sister water–but most pertinent is Francis’ thanking God for all weathers and for sister Mother Earth, “who sustains and governs us and produces diverse fruits and colored flowers and grass”–the foods which enable the animals and us to live.

Sadly, emphasis on the importance of man over creation continued. The basic Christian idea of man as the only creature made in the image of God, to whom all other creatures were subdued, separates man clearly from the animals. In this theory, the concept of brotherly fellowship of man with his fellow creatures is lost.

However, almost a thousand years later, in June 2015, Pope Francis issued an Encyclical, which discussed “The Gospel of Creation.” It calls our attention to a concept, which many of us may have overlooked. Pope Francis asserts: “The creation accounts in the book of Genesis … suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.”

Pope Francis is saying that it is our obligation to work at sustaining these three relationships. Taking responsibility for God’s earth means that First, human beings must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world.

Second, we must recognize that “God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things.

Third, we must acknowledge that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes.

The on-going threats accompanying climate change and the desires of some people to turn existing animals and plants into money emphasize the relevance of both the Saint’s and the Pope’s insights.