Monday, October 4, 2010

The Legacy of St. Francis

Today the feast day of St. Francis is a good time to reflect on his life, and what he left as  a legacy.

In the October issue of the  Kyeongyang magazine, a priest who studied ecology and represents an ecological spiritual research group, brings to our attention the criticism of many: the  failure of Christianity in not doing a better job of taking care of creation.

He mentions the historian Prof. Lynn White, who gives a great deal blame to Chrisitiantiy for the ecological  problems in the West.  We  have taken the words of Genesis (1:28) as the rationale to conquer and subdue creation, White says, as if God's grace was only there for us.  He  criticizes Christianity for being the most  human-centered  of all religions and believes that St. Francis would be a good antidote to this way of thinking, which is also the belief of the priest. He  does not accept all the criticism of the professor but, along with White, thinks that Christianity has now the responsibility of undoing the harm that was done.

St. Francis was one of the saints who made all of creation his brothers and sisters. He is the patron of all those who are working in the field of ecology. We all are familiar with his canticle to the sun in which all of creation are members of the family of God. The human body is similar: When we prick one of our fingers doesn't the whole body feel the pain?

The problem comes when we think the rational life is the standard by which all of creation should be judged. With this thinking, how are we to think of those who have mental difficulties and of those who are not functioning well in their old age? Are they not also to be respected and given their human rights? Isn't all of creation to be respected?

Scripture makes this known to us in many passages. Pope Benedict tells us in his Peace Day message that if we want peace, we need to be concerned with creation. In the documents of the II Vatican Council, we are told of the need to take care of creation. St Francis knew how to do this.

He cared and respected the water he used, the creatures he found along the paths he traveled--everything in the world he considered family. He believed not only that we have to love creation but acknowledge the mutual relationship between creation and God. We have to rid ourselves of the man-made obstacles that keep the natural world separate from the supernatural. When we embrace God's creation, we are embracing God.

He concludes the article with an examination of the ecological  spirituality of Francis. 

Sorrow:  For the way we have exploited creation in  searching for the comfortable life.

Poverty: A willingness to accept a more uncomfortable lifestyle  and be less of a burden on the environment.

Humility:Remembering that non-rational creation is also  family, and living a life of  thanks instead of greed; trust instead of exploitation.
Mercy:  Acknowledging  the blessings of creation are for all  humans and all organisms; understanding that indiscriminate development destroys part of who we are; and recovering a sensitivity to the hurt that our environment suffers.

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