St. Francis - A Guide

for Nature Lovers & Ecologists

 

St. Francis shows us how

A caterpillar on a limestone pavement in the Burren, Co. ClareIn declaring St. Francis of Assisi the Patron saint of those who promote care for nature, the Church recommends Francis as a guide for animal and nature lovers, environmentalists and ecologists. Francis shows us how to live in a way that respects and honours nature as God's creation. Click here for a short interview I gave on St. Francis' Vision of Creation.


Saint Francis offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation.

- Blessed Pope John Paul II

 

Prayerful Life nourished St. Francis' Love of Nature 

Close-up of Red Dead-nettle in Meelick cemetery, Eyrecourt, Co. GalwaySt. Francis lives faithfully to a popular ecology that involves the relationship between humanity and other creatures. Although, he certainly loved nature, Francis never used the term natura but instead chose biblical terms and ideas that he found particularly in the psalms and canticles of the bible which he prayed daily. Such prayer together with his interaction in the world informed his vision of creation. By us getting to know St. Francis himself - through his writings and the early stories about him - we discover his extraordinary relationship with all creatures inspired by scripture and learn how we ourselves might relate to nature and the world in a new way; how to relate to God's creation as members of God's family.

 

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

let the sea roar and all that fills it;

let the field exult, and everything in it.

Then let all the trees of the forest sing for joy

before the Lord

- Psalm 96, 11 - 13a

 

Spending Time in the Natural World

Entrance to Loughcrew Passage Tomb, Co. MeathFrancis prayed in nature and discovered more about God and himself through the practice of contemplative prayer in nature. Today with all our modern comforts and conveniences, we tend to be alienated from the earth and from ourselves. St. Francis spent up to half of each year praying in different places amongst nature and the wilderness, living in hermitages, caves, under lean-to's, and on mountainsides, interspersing this

View from one side of Scellig Michael, Co. Kerry

with preaching to animals and plants as well as to people. Through these experiences and the recognition of his own relatedness to nature as part of creation, he himself was helped to grow more fully into the mystery of God, his beliefs liberating him to become more fully alive.

 

Praised be You, my Lord,

through Sister Earth our Mother

who sustains and governs us

- St. Francis of Assisi

 

Recognising God's Goodness in the Material World

Insect feeding on Traveller's Joy at Killeigh, Co. OffalySt. Francis loved all of God's creation; animals and plants, humanity, rocks, wind and the entire universe. Creation is a biblical and religious term and presupposes a Creator who creates creation. In Christian belief which is the faith of Francis, the Creator is a loving God who so loves His creation that He sends His Son, Jesus Christ who lives-with-us as one of us on earth. Creation includes nature and every other created reality.

Autumn sunset over Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry

Through a life of prayer and relationship, Francis eventually came to see God's goodness at the heart of all matter. For him, all of creation is filled with the abundant goodness of God, manifests the presence of God, and deserves respect and care.
 

 

God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind,

and the cattle of every kind,

and everything that creeps upon the ground

of every kind. And God saw that it was good

- Genesis 1, 25

 

Relating to Creatures as Brothers & Sisters

Water flowing under the Salmon Weir Bridge, Galway cityGradually St. Francis realised that he was truly a brother to the sun, moon, stars, fire and water, and to the whole cosmos. Expressing his attitudes through a simple and peaceful lifestyle, Francis models an ecological consciousness, a spiritual and mystical vision of all creatures as brother and sister having one source in God the Creator and Father of all. Francis made this discovery through prayer and a simple but sincere interaction with other people and with nature.

 

Praised be You, my Lord

with all Your creatures

especially Sir Brother Sun

- St. Francis of Assisi

 

Nature Helped Francis Hear God

The abandoned ruins of the church at Kildare friary, KildareWhile still a young man, Francis began to feel God prompting him to question the direction of his life. Searching for inner peace, Francis visited abandoned churches and lonely places (like those listed in the lefthand column) to pray for God's guidance. Surrounded by wild flowers,

A speedwell growing amongst the ruins of Kilnalahin Abbey

tumbled down walls, and bird song, Francis found the solitude he needed to hear his deepest yearnings - God speaking to him. Eventually, Francis found his true meaning and identity in God the Father, in Jesus Christ his Son, in the Holy Spirit, and in the whole of creation in which he saw God's generosity, goodness and love.

 

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;

the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;

and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

Who among all these does not know

that the hand of the Lord has done this?

In his hand is the life of every living thing

and the breath of every human being.

- Job 12, 7 - 10

 

Let's be guided by St. Francis

A young rook at Killarney National Park, Co. KerryLet's praise and thank God daily for the gift of creation. Let's thank God for choosing to send His Son, Jesus into the world to show us how to love one another. Let's see the sacraments as part of a broader sacramental vision of the material world, a world full of God's beauty and goodness, and create community reflecting these values!

 

And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Soloman in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

- Matthew 6, 28

 

Praying Nature with St. Francis 

Looking through a church window toward the tower at Moyne Abbey, Co. MayoSt. Francis prayed in various places which offered him solitude and quiet. In his early years, he prayed in abandoned churches, and so we provide a list of sites (see lefthand column) offering you the opportunity to pray with St. Francis using sacred scripture aided by images of flora and fauna. In this way, you might also reflect upon how St. Francis guides you to promote ecology and better care for nature.
 

Some Resources to Study ...

Some writings of St. Francis referring to creatures: The Canticle of the Creatures, The Letter to the Faithful, Exhortation to the Praise of God, A Salutation of the Virtues.

Some stories relating how St. Francis viewed creatures: Christmas Crib enacted by St. Francis, Our brother & sister creatures, St. Francis' love for the birds, St. Francis and the lambs, Feeding animals and birds to celebrate Christmas, How St. Francis addressed a rabbit as brother, St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio.  
 

Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote ...

"In 1979, I proclaimed Saint Francis of Assisi as the heavenly Patron of those who promote ecology. He offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation. As a friend of the poor who was loved by God's creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation - animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sisiter Moon - to give honour and praise to the Lord. 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.

It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of 'fraternity' with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created."

- from Blessed Pope John Paul II, Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation, Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January, 1990

 

www.franciscans.ie

 

Praised be You

my Lord

with all

Your creatures

- St. Francis