Monday, October 3, 2011

St. Francis: All of Creation

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

St. Francis expressed his joy in all of creation in his Canticle of Creation , sometimes known as the Canticle of Brother Sun. (We Episcopalians know this as Hymns 406 and 407, “Most High, omnipotent, good Lord”.)

Many parishes have a tradition of blessing the animals – dogs, cats, hamsters, and sometimes more exotic creatures – on or around October 4, St. Francis Day. This is a popular tradition; we appreciate the reminder that God loves our animal companions just as we do. St. Francis loved not only the animals, seeing them as his brothers and sisters, but all of creation – including the wind that is promised for St. Francis Day in central Nebraska. Perhaps we should bless our chrysanthemums and cottonwoods, our rocks and rivers along with the animals. We could make a point of rejoicing in the breeze, the songbirds, the stars and moon, the insects, and in our food, clothing, homes, and the people around us.

Discussion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline has made many of us more mindful of the gifts of the Ogallala aquifer and of the soil and the grasses that help provide stability to the soil. We have learned about the tar sands in Canada and about the vast Canadian Boreal Forest. Aware of himself as part of God’s creation, St. Francis would see these resources, too, as brothers and sisters. Scholar Daniel Wildcat, quoted by Carol Berry on the Indian Country website , says something similar. Berry reports:

Wildcat suggested looking at tribal nations that “never had a word for ‘resources’ in their vocabulary” but instead called them “relatives,” pointing out that “You don’t treat your relatives like resources” and the “ATM” approach “is not going to cut it” given 200 years of withdrawals without many deposits.

Joy in creation is one strand of the life of St. Francis. An equally strong strand is his teaching of compassion for the poor. The Old Testament reading appointed for the Feast of St. Francis, Jeremiah 22:13-16, is about humility. It reminds us that God is more interested in justice and righteousness, in how we treat the poor and needy, than whether we are able to have luxurious homes. The two strands are intertwined, as finding joy in the everyday wonders of creation opens our hearts to compassion for all creatures, including our sisters and brothers in the human family.

Joy in God’s creation and compassion for the poor are two elements of environmental stewardship. We work for a sustainable environment because we know the poorest and least powerful people in the world usually suffer first and worst from any sort of pollution or climate change, but we also work for a sustainable environment so that we can preserve our non-human brothers and sisters, those animals and plants and places through which we encounter God in God’s creation.