With the Feast day of St. Francis, the patron saint of the environment, on 4th October, we reflect this month, not just upon fellow humans, but fellow creatures and all God’s beautiful creation.

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St. Francis believed we should appreciate every element of the natural world that God has made. He felt the spirit of life within humanity calls to that same spirit of life in all other creatures. That’s why we feel sorry for animals when they’re young or hurt and need help. And we feel affinity for plants growing, the grass beneath our feet and the stars in the sky, because we remember God cares for every precious element of the world. Indeed, God created the whole universe.

Care for creation includes examining our attitude towards all our fellow-inhabitants of Planet Earth, not only human neighbours. In our liturgies on 4th October we offer appreciation and blessing for all the species who accompany us. This includes gratitude for our pets – for their friendship, loyalty and unconditional love. God has graced us with them. And what about thanking our creator for fresh air, clean water, nutritious food and the sheer beauty of the natural world.

For the Season of Creation, which has led up to 4 October, thousands of events marked the month. The Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker James Trewby headed a two-week programme for the Our Lady and All Saints Catholic Multi Academy Company in Birmingham Archdiocese, covering 12 primary schools and one secondary school in the Solihull, Birmingham and Warwickshire areas. Pupils were encouraged to campaign on climate action, all leading up to a celebratory Mass on 4 October at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham.

The Columbans have organised a delegation to travel to Glasgow in late October as the UK  hosts a UN climate summit, known as COP26. It is hoped that this will be the most ambitious climate summit ever. Lobbying will include a 24-hour vigil, alongside other Catholic groups, and celebrating the Camino groups who have walked the length of Britain towards Glasgow, meeting parishes and schools along the way to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our beautiful Planet Earth.

What would the Columbans like to see at the summit?  Commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees is top of the list. Also, ending all public finance of fossil fuels and cancelling poor country debt which will free up money to address climate emergencies such as drought and flooding. In the gentle spirit of St. Francis we call for renewed tenderness and appreciation towards all God’s creation. Too often we have used our powerful technology to destroy mountains for mineral wealth or poisoned the seas with our waste products. Too often we have not allowed other creatures the living space to survive and many species are now extinct. St. Francis wrote the beautiful ‘Canticle of the Creatures,’ which captured his love for all of God’s creatures and we are inspired by this.

Pope Francis – who took the name and inspiration from St Francis when he became Pope – is expected to speak at the Glasgow Climate Summit. He will call on human society to listen to the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor, as he did in his famous environment encyclical Laudato Si’. Catholic parishes are becoming better equipped to address the climate crisis as part of their discipleship and mission and to make a significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at COP26.

Sometimes poverty and environmental problems seem insuperable. But let us remember the words of St. Francis: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

 

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