Saint Francis of Assisi [10-12]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Papa Francisco's 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

10. I do not want to write this Encyclical without
turning to that attractive and compelling
figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration
when I was elected Bishop of Rome.
I believe that Saint Francis is the example par
excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an
integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.
He is the patron saint of all who study and
work in the area of ecology, and he is also much
loved by non-Christians. He was particularly
concerned for God’s creation and for the poor
and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for
his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness.
He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in

17 Lecture at the Monastery of Utstein, Norway (23 June
18 “Global Responsibility and Ecological Sustainability”,
Closing Remarks, Halki Summit I, Istanbul (20 June 2012).

simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God,
with others, with nature and with himself. He
shows us just how inseparable the bond is between
concern for nature, justice for the poor,
commitment to society, and interior peace.

11. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology
calls for openness to categories which transcend
the language of mathematics and biology,
and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.
Just as happens when we fall in love with
someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the
moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into
song, drawing all other creatures into his praise.
He communed with all creation, even preaching
to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord,
just as if they were endowed with reason”.19 His
response to the world around him was so much
more than intellectual appreciation or economic
calculus, for to him each and every creature
was a sister united to him by bonds of affection.
That is why he felt called to care for all that exists.
His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that,
“from a reflection on the primary source of all
things, filled with even more abundant piety, he
would call creatures, no matter how small, by the
name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”.20 Such a conviction

19 Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis, I, 29,
81: in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-
Manila, 1999, 251.
20 The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 6, in Francis of
Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000,

cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it
affects the choices which determine our behaviour.
If we approach nature and the environment
without this openness to awe and wonder, if we
no longer speak the language of fraternity and
beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude
will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless
exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate
needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately
united with all that exists, then sobriety and care
will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity
of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of
asceticism, but something much more radical: a
refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be
used and controlled.

12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to
Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent
book in which God speaks to us and grants
us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.
“Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures
one comes to know by analogy their maker”
(Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity
have been made known through his works
since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For
this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary
garden always be left untouched, so that wild
flowers and herbs could grow there, and those
who saw them could raise their minds to God,
the Creator of such beauty.21 Rather than a problem

21 Cf. Thomas of Celano, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, II, 124, 165, in Francis of Assisi:Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 354.

to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to
be contemplated with gladness and praise.