I was talking with a friar friend of mine at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia and he told me that anticipation is running high for the pope’s upcoming visit to that city in September. Hotel rooms are hard to come by. There is speculation – slim – that perhaps Pope Francis could come by St. Francis Inn and help serve a meal to the homeless there. Certainly that is something we could see this pope doing. He has without a doubt captured the imagination of the world.
It’s expected that sometime later this week Pope Francis will release an encyclical to be called “Praised Be: The Care of Our Common Home.” What is an encyclical? It’s a kind of “letter to the faithful” which addresses some aspect of our life as Christians. As the title implies, this encyclical is expected to address the care of the earth and our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. It’s a critical issue for our times.
The title “Praised Be” is based on a song/poem that Francis of Assisi himself composed in the 1220s called “The Canticle of Brother Sun.” In this poem, Francis gives praise to God through images such as Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Water, and “Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” Notice how Francis uses relational images in his poem: if water is our “sister” then what might that mean for the way we treat our oceans, rivers, lakes, streams? There has been a movement in Christian theology away from a view that says that humankind has “dominion” over the planet, i.e. that we have the power to subdue the Earth to our own needs and toward a more relational view in which, as the pope’s encyclical implies and as the vision of Francis of Assisi shows, we care for the Earth which has been given to us. With this encyclical, our Jesuit pope once again shows us his Franciscan soul.
This week I will be at a meeting in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey for the guardians and pastors of Holy Name Province. About once a year the guardians and pastors meet as a group to talk over different aspects of our Franciscan life. Holy Name Province, as you may know is based out of New York City and our province currently has just under 300 friars who minister in locations along the east coast of the United States. Sometimes people ask, what is a guardian? A guardian is the caretaker of the local friar community and usually the roles of guardian and pastor are combined in the same house as they are here.
This weekend I am travelling north for those meetings which begin on Monday and when the meetings end, I will drive back and stay for some days in Philadelphia and Washington to visit friends and see some sites.
Blessings on your week!