He was born in 1181, the son of a wealthy merchant who gave up everything to obey the words of the Lord: “Leave all, and follow me.” He then lived in complete poverty, preaching the gospel. Such was his charism that others came to join him, living a simple and humble life. From them grew the Franciscan Order. His life was a putting into practice of the beatitudes, and was marked by faith, joy, service of others, prayer, and love of all created things. Francis lived the gospel and reflected the image of Christ.
During this weekend, I thought of Francis, as I walked with Allen and two of our grandchildren through the bush which hugs our eastern coastline. It was an overcast day and just the right temperature for enjoying the ascent and descent of our rugged coastline. Ezekiel, one of our grandsons, loves the colour purple, and to our amazement and his excitement there were lots of purple flowers, shrubs and weeds sprinkled throughout the bush. We even managed to see a wallaby along with bush turkeys and a variety of bird life, as well as the ocean waves. Along the track we noticed the varying colours and shapes of the diversity of leaves. We also spent time with the children on the beach, just playing in the sand, with water, buckets and spades and also with the many pebbles and shells that had washed up with the continuous pounding of the waves. Ezekiel even found some rocks with purple in them. There is a certain joy in introducing young minds and hearts to the beauty and awe of creation. Passing a bower bird’s nest, with an array of blue objects around it, was very appealing.
This leads me into this week’s message around the Season of Creation which has been celebrated since September 1 and will conclude on October 4. During the Season of Creation, Christians across denominations and around the world are invited to pray and care for creation. September 1 was first proclaimed as a World Day of Prayer for Creation by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I for the Orthodox community in 1989, and embraced by other European churches in 2001. Pope Francis declared it a day of Prayer for Creation for the Catholic Church in 2015. In 2016, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I released their special messages for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, kicking off the month-long Season of Creation celebrations. Both leaders used strong language to stress the urgency of the ecological crisis and the need to take action on climate change.
Since 2016, the World Council of Churches, Global Catholic Climate Movement, Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Act Alliance, and several other Christian agencies have collaborated in an ecumenical celebration of Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is a powerful time to bring together Christians in our common concern for creation.
I apologise for not bringing this to your attention sooner, because I have now discovered a wonderful website http://seasonofcreation.org/ which provided communities with many ideas, prayers, actions and advocacy. I will endeavour, along with our Social Justice Council and the Hunter Ecumenical Social Justice Network, to bring this to our attention next year so that with the coming of spring we may mark and celebrate this Season of Creation.
I share with you some of the words of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the World Day of Prayer for Creation (1st September 2017). They began this message by recalling our Genesis creation story, and God’s intention of entrusting, to humanity, the gift and legacy of creation to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.
However, “in the meantime”, the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.
The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting. The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures. The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development.
Therefore, united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good, we fervently invite all people of goodwill to dedicate a time of prayer for the environment on 1 September. On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations. After all, we know that we labour in vain if the Lord is not by our side (cf. Ps 126-127), if prayer is not at the centre of our reflection and celebration. Indeed, an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world. The goal of our promise is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.
We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.
A week ago, I had the good fortune of attending an Elton John concert in Wollongong. As he played and sang the song Rocket Man, the video image of the earth at night from outer space was awesome. This served again as a reminder to me of our common home which we humans share with species of every kind. It is we who have the capacity to build up or to destroy. The Season of Creation serves to remind us to preserve, protect and co-operate with the gift of creation we have graciously been given.
Laudato Si’ takes its name from St Francis of Assisi’s medieval Italian prayer, “Canticle of the Sun”, which praises God through elements of creation like Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Mother Earth. As brothers and sisters, the earth, our planet, is part of our family and should be cared for with this sentiment.
The Canticle of Creation (by Saint Francis of Assisi)
O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.
Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
- you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.
I finish this week’s message with the words of Pope Francis from Laudato Si’:
Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. (n.42)