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These grim realities challenge our understanding of faith and invite us to an adult spirituality.To generate compassion for the community of life requires us to address this most pressing crisis. Yet we humans pause...

It is painful to confront this reality. We fear. We feel discouraged, even we religious. Can we make a difference? Is there any hope? Last year, the International Union of Superiors General called for renewing religious life in a spirit of mysticism and prophecy.

Our Father Francis and our Mother Clare provide wonderful examples of how to link these two features of religious life. It is precisely this most precious need that they can help us with: hope. Our planet is already disrupted. We need compassion and courage.

We need a contemplative spirit that can feed our spirits, but also a practical wisdom that, when combined with scientific literacy, can guide us through the clouds of supposed uncertainties. I believe that our Franciscan tradition has essential tools for fashioning a Catholic response to these crises. Our Father Francis is patron saint of the poor, but also the patron saint of ecological literacy. This, plus our contemplative tradition, must be our guides as we journey more deeply into a climate-disrupted world.

I was moved to pursue Franciscan religious life by my experience of nature, contemplative prayer, and solidarity with the poor. When I applied to the Friars twenty years ago, I asked about environmental ministries, but received mostly quizzical looks.

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I was surprised – indeed scandalized -- to discover how few resources were devoted to this. My vocation director and others expressed support for the idea of Franciscan environmental education, but could offer no promise that I could undertake this kind of ministry. Thus began my twenty year efforts to understand why Franciscans were not deeply invested in ministries that care for the Earth.

There is widespread popular expectation that Franciscans model care for creation. This dates to 1979 when Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis to be oecologiae cultorum patronum caelestem. This expression could be translated as “the heavenly patron of those who promote (animate, nurture) ecology.”

Latin has no word for “environmentalist,” so the Pope used the term “ecology.” Perhaps the most helpful translation for this declaration would be: Francis, the Patron Saint of Ecological Literacy.

Fra Keith Warner, OFM

Question for Reflection:

Is Climate Justice a social justice issue for your community (local, religious, global)? Why?