Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yesterday -- Earth Day -- Everyday Earth Day!

"Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs."

from the "Canticle of the Creatures" by St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

Yesterday as I perused the comic section of the newspaper (and I do enjoy the comics!) I noticed that many of the strips referred to Earth Day yesterday, Tuesday 22 April 2008. The characters were planting trees or recycling or some other "green" activity that promoted respect for the planet we call home, with either an overtone or undertone of humor for good measure.

Such reminders are good, and even necessary, for us poor frail humans who are prone to forget (amnesia!). Sadly, Earth Day can be relegated to a one-day affair -- as though care for the planet were limited to a single day or series of events.

St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of the Creatures" (sometimes called "Canticle of the Sun" or "Canticle of Brother Sun") echoes Psalm 148 and the Canticle of the Three Youths found in the Book of Daniel, chapter 3 (Septuagint -- in Catholic and Orthodox versions of the Holy Bible). Here, the founder of our Order is not extolling creation for creation's sake. Rather, he praises God for all of creation. God is the author of all life, of all that exists. Hence, to God belongs all praise, glory, honor and worship.

As members of the Franciscan family, we periodically sing the popular hymn, "All Creatures of our God and King", which is an English rendition of St. Francis' Canticle. There have been some others, but none with such endurance (e.g. Marty Haugen's "Canticle of the Creatures"). But care for the earth is not an "option"; it is a necessity. Not being alarmist, but this is our home, a gift from the Creator of all, entrusted to humanity which, as Genesis 1 states, is created in the image and likeness of God. What a tremendous gift we have received! What an awesome responsibility with which we are entrusted!

Many major Christian leaders, including the late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI have encouraged and exhorted and admonished governments and individuals to foster respect for our earth. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople of the Orthodox Churches is also a leading advocate of care for the earth.

Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople at the Phanar in Istanbul, Turkey (Constantinople) in 2006

As Christians, following Holy Tradition from Scripture and many Saints, to respect the Earth and care for our planet is genuinely an act of worship. Like the Psalms and Canticles of the Bible and like St. Francis, we praise God for creation and with creation. In doing so we fulfill the great commandments to love God with our whole being and to live our neighbor as ourselves!

In fact, the vocation of humanity is to give conscious and reasonable voice on behalf of creation to the glory of God -- it is a "priestly" act!

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