Monday, April 22, 2013

Francis and Kinship with Creation

Today is Earth Day, set aside since 1970 to recall our connectedness to the earth and to call us to respond to the threats to the integrity of creation.

St. Francis of Assisi has often been invoked as a patron of ecology because of his love of all creation. He preached to birds and fish; he rescued worms from pathways; he established a truce between a wolf and the people of Gubbio.

Julien Green, in God’s Fool: the Life and  Times of Francis of Assisi, wrote of Francis’ mystical stance before the created world: 
Francis glanced around him like a lover who is forever wonderstruck.
Francis dictating the Canticle of the Creatures
But there is another element of Francis’ spirituality that would help us to foster an ecological spirituality: his kinship with all creation. This can be seen most clearly in his Canticle of the Creatures, he praises God through all creatures.

Francis has definitely moved beyond the dominion theology that sees the human person as the lord of creation, over it, with power to do what he wants. This theological approach dominated Christian thought for centuries and still is strong among those who see humans as above nature with unlimited power to do what humans want.

Francis also has moved beyond a more recent stewardship theology that sees the human person as the steward of creation which he has to care for, in responds to God’s command. Stewards see themselves in charge of nature, even if it doesn’t belong to them. In this model we humans are not dominating nature but we are the caregivers in charge of the garden of creation.

But Francis sees himself and all humans as within creation. We are part of nature, with our special part in it, as all beings also have a part in the created universe.

And so Francis praises God for Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Sister Mother Earth. We are interconnected, part of the web of life, of creation.

And so Francis sought to establish good relations with all animals and between animals and humans. The story of the wolf of Gubbio shows Francis seeking to establish a relationship of trust and reconciliation between the wolf and the people of Gubbio.

When we see ourselves as part of creation and nature, we can respect all creatures and recognize their part in the wonderful work God has made.

This will need humility, recognizing that we too are made of humus, earth. As the last line of Francis’ Canticle says:
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility. 
And so this earth day, let us remember that we are part of the beautiful creation that God has made. Let us rejoice in our God who has made us all to rejoice in His love, to wait with all creation, eagerly longing “for the revealing of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19).

And let us love God and love and cherish all that God has made as our brothers and sisters.


This entry was inspired by the essay “From Stewardship to Kinship: A Franciscan Understanding of Creation” by Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, in his anthology of essays Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith.

The image in the photo is on the wall of the friary attached to the church of San Damiano, which can be seen as one walks down from the town of Assisi to the church.


  1. Hi, I am from Australia.
    Please find an essay and website which communicates an Understanding of the non-humans which is congruent with what St Francis had to say
    Related references on Peace
    The Secrets of the Kingdom of God
    The Truth About Human Life
    Space-Time IS Love-Bliss

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. If you want something about non-humans, vampire kinship and Vatican: