ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI OUR PATRON SAINT
Francis of Assisi is revered as the Patron and Model of Religious Brothers. It is because he had a vision of Universal Brotherhood of all human beings. This would mean that, as children of God we all belong to the one large family of God. As created by God in his image, every human being shares in the divine dignity. There is no room for any division based on race, color, caste, nationality, community or whatever. We form one human family. My dignity as a human person derives from my belonging to this human family. In fact, Francis’ vision of Brotherhood goes far beyond. For him the whole of cosmos is bound together in a fraternal bond. So he could speak of Brother Sun, and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and Sister Water and Sister mother Earth. Saint Francis of Assisi has a powerful message for the men and women of today: humans are not to dominate or exploit God’s creation, rather they are to befriend it, respect and protect it. This alone will ensure harmony and peace in the created order.
As an itinerant beggar preacher he was widely known for his holiness, his empathy for the poor and his radical self-giving to the Lord. Inspired by his example, many put aside their possessions, joining him as penitent preachers of the Gospel. In 1209 they gave birth to the Franciscan Brotherhood. The movement he created survived the centuries and lives today in the world through thousands of men and women. He was a listener to the language of creation. He considered himself as a small part of a remarkable universe inhabited by animals and elements that were all connected as Brothers and Sisters. He educated others with his actions by embracing lepers, calming a marauding wolf with kindness, traveling to Syria to preach to a Muslim Sultan in the midst of the Crusaders.
In 1979 Pope John Paul II proclaimed Saint Francis as the heavenly Patron of those who promote Ecology: He believed that world was created good and beautifully by God but suffers a need for redemption because of primordial sin of humans. He preached to human beings and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God and the duty of men and women to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures. He offers an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation. This poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation, which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.