Tuesday, December 14, 2021

St. Francis

I have a deep love for birds.  My new house in Tacoma now has 5 bird feeders, and every day they are visited by various feathered friends. It is somehow reassuring that so many different species are living their lives in such an urbanized setting. Each visitation reminds me of the larger environment and the adaptations necessary to keep up with so many destructive forces at play, from overpopulation, overuse of resources to climate change.

St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals.  Each year my Episcopal church holds a Blessing Of The Animals near his recognized Feast Day (October 4.) He was born in 1181 or 1182 to a wealthy silk merchant.  Francis knew how to spend money and have a good time throughout the early part of his life.  But, like so many of the saints from this period, he had some life-changing exchanges with beggars and a spiritual encounter that totally changed the life course he was on.  Francis became a deacon (never a priest) and traveled over a wide area of southern Europe into Egypt and North Africa, preaching to Christian and Muslims about the love of Christ.  His early-life wealth and the familial connections with bishops and influence holders in the Church probably played a role when Francis, in sackcloth attire, requested permission to start a new monastic order.  He was granted an audience with the Pope, and the Franciscan order was created.  The order still exists today.

In 1979, the Pope made Francis, the patron saint of ecology.  That's an area that needs all the money and prayer it can get.  Francis would be terribly bothered by how the environment across the face of the earth is under siege.  The theology he preached incorporated the idea that through nature, God is known.  This is a radically opposite belief from the dominant 19th-21st century thought that nature is to be dominated, mined, drilled, and paved for the sake of the almighty dollar. We need Francis and an earth-centered spirituality that gives impetus to saving the planet and the millions of lives that depend upon it, my birds included.

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