A message from Fr John

Posted on: 30/08/2020

Dear Friends

Good morning

And now for something completely different - not really; it’s more of a follow up to yesterday’s homily. Sr Joan prepared a discussion paper for the FMSJ sisters and this is an abbreviated version.

“Praised be to you, O Lord, with all your Creatures”

A Franciscan Spirituality of Creation

Sister Joan Kerley, FMSJ

When Pope Francis wrote his compelling Encyclical Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home in 2015, he stated: “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 was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast… He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” The Pope cites Francis’s ability to “take us to the heart of what it is to be human.”

Pope Francis challenges us: “ 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.” (paragraphs 10 -12). As we celebrate both the Season of Creation from 1September – 4 October and begin our Year of Franciscan Spirituality, there is no better way to begin than with a reflection on the Franciscan spirituality of creation.

In chapter 8 of his book Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith, Daniel Horan, OFM explains humans have 3 approaches to Genesis 1:28, which states:” 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

1. Dominion: This response sees human beings as being superior to all other parts of creation with the ability to use earth’s resources at will for their needs or pleasure. Some people feel this approach leads to ecological disasters by plundering the earth, using too many resources irresponsibly or not actively working to prevent earth’s destruction.

2.Stewardship: This approach encourages more of a sense of responsibility to care for the earth and stresses God’s invitation to a faithful relationship with God in caring for the earth. However, it still portrays people as being over and against creation and obliged to take care of the earth because of God’s command as opposed to having an intimate connection with the earth.

3. Kinship: This approach stresses the interconnection of all parts of creation, including human beings. Each part has its own intrinsic value. This is the approach of St. Francis, Pope Francis and today’s leading scientists as they discover the intricacies of interconnection evident in our ecosystems.

Horan quotes Keith Warner, OFM, a Franciscan and an environmental scientist, who believes that Francis’s familial understanding of creation has 3 aspects: “it must celebrate relationship, it promotes courtesy, and it reflects a commitment to the practice of penance”. These aspects can be lived out in our lives, he maintains, by being “environmental peacemakers.”

Jon M. Sweeney in When St. Francis Saved the Church, challenges us to reflect on Francis' s caring and gentle attitude toward creation. He states: “Francis did not love nature because he never loved anything or anyone in the abstract…Francis’s gift of caring was specific [that tree, this bird, that animal] ... Similarly, Francis did not in fact love ‘people’... he showed his love for Clare, for Leo, for Matteo- the person in front of him at that moment… Francis’s connection to the created world was always specific and always in the present tense.” (p. 106)

In the Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth., Ilia Delio et al write: Francis “came to know himself as a creature in relation to God as Creator” (p.48.) In his Major Legend of St. Francis Bonaventure described Francis as “one who lived in the centre of creation because he lived in relation to Christ the Centre” (p.49). This realization came as a result of his life experiences: his encounter with the leper, his meditating on the Cross at San Damiano, his encounters with nature and animals. The authors write: “Through prayer, poverty and attentiveness to the detail of the other, Francis discovered a God of humble love expressed in ordinary, fragile human flesh and in the simple things of creation” (p.49)

The Franciscan Spirituality of Creation is a spirituality based on the knowledge that all creation – from the smallest particles swirling around the Solar System’s galaxies, to earthworms and microscopic creatures that create the topsoil which nourishes and feeds our crops, to the diverse variety of plants and animals and the vast array of peoples and cultures – has the same origin: God’s creative love revealed most fully in the Trinity. As we reflect on this theme, let us take the time to deepen our own understanding through prayer, reflection and action. There are many ways to do this:

1. Reread some of the Franciscan sources, especially The Canticle of the Creatures.

2. Meditate on some Scripture passages that connect with nature, e.g. Psalms 65, 135, 145, 147, 148; Romans 8: 20- 23; Col. 1:15-20

3. The website of the OFM General Office for Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation https://ofm.org/about/curia/jpic/ has some excellent resources on this topic.

4. Carefully think about how you use the earth’s resources and what impact that has on the environment and the poor of the world. What changes would you like to implement based on what you have read?

I would like to think that we might take this to heart and it somehow become part of our parish manifesto for the ‘new normal’. For sure we cannot ignore the threat to ur planet and our own share in responding to the explicit challenge to our own lifestyles - our way of being Church.

Have a good think!

St Joseph, pray for us

Fr John

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