Rarely has the visit of a dignitary, in an area where we commonly have visiting dignitaries, been as highly anticipated as Pope Francis’ visit to DC. Everyone, not just Roman Catholics, not even just Christians, seems to be drawn to his message of justice, peace, and care for the poor. Even those who disagree with him (some of them from within his own church) have to admit his influence is being felt in most parts of the world.
Pope Francis took his name from St. Francis, the 12th century patron saint of animals and ecology. As Pope Francis teaches about the need to care for “the least of these” (see Matthew 25), he does not forget that this “fragile Earth, our island home” is in need of our care. His papal encyclical, Laudatory Si’ On Care for Our Common Home, ties the care for the poor with the care of creation. He wrote: “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Sun., Oct. 4 is the feast of St. Francis. We honor this saint with our blessing of the animals in the Memorial Garden at St. Michael’s on Sat., Oct. 3 at 10:30 AM followed by taking animal blessings into the community at the local dog park and adoption event. This is a wonderful tradition. We will extend our celebration of St. Francis in the coming months as we begin to explore the stewardship of creation and our role in caring for the least of these.
Our first initiative is to move intentionally to recycling at the parish. We are blessed to live in a community that has single stream recycling, and we will live into that throughout the church building. Further education, conversation, and prayer will follow on many issues of the theology of creation and environmental justice.
Pope Francis has people thinking about what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. This Gospel teaching is integral to our understanding of the need to care for creation. St. Francis cared for creation for the very teachings in Pope Francis’ encyclical: we are to love our neighbor which means to care for our shared home.
A Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources, Book of Common Prayer, page 827
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.