St. Francis of Assisi, a much-beloved saint and the patron of ecology and animals
Reflections on the readings for the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4, 2022): GAL PS 139:1-3,13-14,14-15; LK 10:38-42
MISSIO offers “Mission In Scripture” to nurture a missionary heart, providing reflections on the missionary themes in the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
One of Francis’ best remembered efforts to draw people to Christ was the Nativity scene he set up in a cave one Christmas.
In 1181, St. Francis, originally baptized Giovanni or John, was born in Assisi, Italy. His father was a silk merchant whose wealth insured that his son could enjoy the many benefits and pleasures of society. However, after experiencing a military campaign and enduring prison and sickness, his life began to turn around. Over time, Francis developed a deeper faith in Christ and an intense prayer life. He also gave up his possessions to serve “Lady Poverty.” Beginning with a handful of followers, Francis preached the Gospel and helped God’s suffering people. He sought to embrace the life of Christ as closely as possible. He founded the Order of Friars Minor, an order of nuns established with St. Clare of Assisi and now called Poor Clares, and a secular order for laypeople and religious who stay in the world. St. Francis is known for his love of all nature. In his Canticle of the Sun, he wrote: “Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and You give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness. … Be praised my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs. Be praised through those who forgive for love of You; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for they will be crowned.”
One of Francis’ best remembered efforts to draw people to Christ was the Nativity scene he set up in a cave one Christmas. Using live animals and a straw-filled manger, he immediately engaged people; the tradition has carried down to the present. At his death in 1226, Francis asked to be laid on the ground naked so he could meet Christ in humble imitation of His own sacrificial death. In 1979, Pope St. John Paul II named Francis the patron saint of ecology. In speaking about him, the pope said that, “The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.”
Suggested missionary action: Let us salute the love that St. Francis had for all God’s creation by performing some act of mercy today. We might help preserve the environment or assist hurting animals. And we can serve people in particular need with the same gentle care and humility that St. Francis would have offered.