Today, 4 October marks the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and of the environment. Here we look at the significance of today, in light of Laudato Si’ and the recently proclaimed World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
4 October is recognised by Christians worldwide as the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Born to a merchant family in 12th century Italy, Francis renounced his title and inheritance in order to live amongst the poor, he eventually founded what would become the Franciscan Order.
Pope Gregory IX canonised Francis in 1228 and he became the patron saint of animals and the environment. This was due to his profound reverence for God’s creation and his belief that all creatures are brothers and sisters under God.
It was in honour of St. Francis that H.H. Pope Francis chose his papal name, being the first Holy Father to take the name of Francis of Assisi. He did so to reflect his devotion to the poor, just as St. Francis did when he chose a life of modesty in place of inherited luxury.
Pope Francis further aligned himself to St. Francis’ exemplar of stewardship and reverence for the natural world when he released his second encyclical, Laudato Si’ – On care for our common home. The papal letter encourages us to reject rampant consumerism and to make greater use of renewable energies. It states: ‘climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political’ and that we must work collaborative to overcome these issues. This is especially pertinent as it is the poorest communities in the world that are affected greatest by climate change.
Pope Francis’ further demonstrated his conviction that as Catholics we must take on a tangible responsibility for caring for our common home in proclaiming a world day of prayer for the care of creation. This sees an annual day of prayer for our planet on 1 September.
It is particularly timely that we commemorate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi today as this October marks a month of action on climate change. CAFOD, in conjunction with a coalition of partner organisation and charities has launched ‘Speak Up – Codi Llais’ which sees people of all faiths and none lobby their politicians and attend events in order to highlight the crisis of climate change. This practical action to safeguard our common home is an expression of the values that both St. Francis and our Holy Father have exemplified in their words and deeds.