Friar Jack Muses About St. Francis
As my religious title suggests, I am a Franciscan friar. That
means, by definition, I'm tied to St. Francis of Assisi. One
thing that makes St. Francis especially appealing to me is his
love and respect for birds and animalsindeed, the whole
created world. With his feast day (Oct. 4) quickly approaching,
now is a good time to share some musings about the saint whom
Pope John Paul II named the patron saint of ecology in 1979.
It's not hard for me to write about St. Francis because many
thoughts and feelings about him are stored in my heart. As a
matter of fact, because of upcoming events, I've been asked
to add a special installment of this e-newsletter on Sept. 15.
That is the date our Web site launches its annual listing of
pet blessings, city by city, around the country.
Why all this interest in animal blessings among the followers
of St. Francis? My musings today are in response to that question.
Since early in my Franciscan career, as early as 1970, the following
question has haunted me: Why did St. Francis go about the countryside
calling every creature he met "brother" or "sister"?
Was it just a quaint personality quirk, some eccentricity? Or
did it arise from a profound theological insight? I choose to
believe the latter.
What, then, was the special instinct that led Francis to call
a rabbit or a lark "brother" and "sister"?
What made him call outwith genuine sincerityto "Sister
Cricket" or "Brother Wolf"? And what spiritual
vision prompted him to compose his "Canticle to Brother
Sun," in which he invites all creatures to join him in
praising and thanking their all-good maker"Brother
Sun and Sister Moon," "Brother Wind and Sister Water,"
"Brother Fire" and "Our Sister, Mother Earth"?
Think about it. What spiritual belief do you think stands behind
St. Francis' joyful custom of seeing a sister or brother in
every creature? I'll give my answer to the question at the end
of this e-newsletter.
TRIBUTE TO MOTHER TERESA
The fourth anniversary of Mother Teresa of Calcutta's death
is September 5. Stop by our Web tribute to Mother Teresa and
hear her pray a daily prayer. Post a story about why Mother
Teresa inspires you, read other Web visitors stories and send
a free Mother Teresa e-greeting. http://www.AmericanCatholic.org/Features/Teresa/default.asp
A CATHOLIC MISS AMERICA: ANGELA PEREZ BARRAQUIO
She's a devoted Catholic school teacher from Hawaii and the
first Asian-American to win the title. Keeping God and family
close to her heart, the reigning Miss America uses her fame
as a platform to promote positive changes. By Jay Copp.
FINDING GOD IN LIFE'S TRANSITIONS
Moving? Look for a new job? Recently widowed? Children leaving
for college? These life transitions can be stressful, but they
can also offer unique opportunities to grow closer to God. By
KEEP CASTING THOSE ONLINE VOTES:
We appreciate your monthly input to our online poll. This month,
our question is: When I have been lost in life, God has found
me and welcomed me home through (choose one): 1) family, friends,
loved ones 2) members of my Church 3) answered prayer 4) the
power of biblical teaching. Take the poll and check results
CATHOLIC EVENTS COVERED LIKE NEVER BEFORE
Read how the Web has created a new way to share in Catholic
events from around the worldbefore, during and after the
event. From a vocationcongress to a papal visit to the World
Youth Day, we can keep abreast of Catholic events around the
world like never before (or during or after). http://www.AmericanCatholic.org/Messenger/Sep2001/Web_Catholic.asp
REFLECT ON REMARKABLE WOMEN
Anne Frank and Annie Oakley, Joan Baez and Joan of Arc, Elizabeth
Blackwell and Elizabeth Seton: What do these women have in common?
Though their lives and worlds were ages apart, they have each
contributed to a treasury of wisdoma legacy for those
with courage to follow. Remarkable
Women, Remarkable Wisdom: A Daybook of Reflections by Sister
Mary Francis Gangloff, O.S.F., offers a mentor for each day
of the year with a short biography, a quote by or about her,
a quote from Scripture and a few reflections to help you absorb
the message and meaning of each unique life. Some of these women
you will know, and some you will meet here for the first time,
but all have some special insight into the burden and blessing
of being a woman.
CATHOLIC E-GREETINGS FOR SEPTEMBER
Stop by CatholicGreetings.org this month and celebrate Grandparent's
Day, September 9.
"THE REAL PRESENCE" MADE EASY
The U.S. Bishops' 2001 pastoral statement, "The Real Presence
of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions
and Answers," is now in an easy-to-understand resource
that helps explain real presence for everyone. Read more in
this month's Catholic Update, "The
Real Presence: Jesus' Gift to the Church" by John Bookser
"ASK A FRANCISCAN"
Does God have a direct hand in a person's death, shouldn't Jews
be Catholic and does the Church allow surrogate parenting? These
are just some of the questions posed to Fr. Pat this month:
As always, please continue to submit your questions about the Catholic faith to "Ask a Franciscan."
FRIAR JACK'S CHOSEN SITE
Abortion is a hot topic on the Web. Here's a site that offers
a unique look at this issue and offers support to those who
need help when confronting the issue of an unplanned pregnancy:
CONCLUSION OF FRIAR JACK'S MUSINGS
In my view, this is why St. Francis saw all creatures as brothers
and sisters: He had a profound intuition that all creatures
form ONE FAMILY. We humans are not really outside or "over
and above" the family of creation. We are within it, part
of it. We are not "outside managers." We are not meant
to be proud masters over other creatures with the right to selfishly
dominate or exploit them at will.
The universe is one interconnected family. We are all sisters
and brothers. For St. Francis, it was quite simple: If the sun
and moon had the same loving creator in heaven as he, then they
are brother and sister to him. It's not just a nice thought:
We ARE one family of creation.
In this light, the humble figure of St. Francis standing on
birdbaths or surrounded by flowers, plants and shrubs is so
right for our times. Such images present the saint as an enlightened
human being who sees other creatures as "subjects"
with dignity, not as "objects" to be dominated. In
real life, St. Francis saw himself as a little brother (a servant
or steward) to the birds, the fish, the lowly ivy.
These ideas have great appeal to me because they flow from the
Franciscan vision I have come to love. Most recently, I have
tried to communicate a bit of this vision and spirituality in
the form of a fanciful children's story, "St. Francis in
San Francisco." In the story, St. Francis visits modern-day
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
The first thing St. Francis does is talk to the animals in the
city's Golden Gate Park and blesses them. For Franciscans, the
popular custom of blessing animals flows from St. Francis' insight
that we are all from one family of creation. All members of
that family are our sisters and brothers. They all deserve our
love and respectand blessings!
You can find out more about Jack Wintz's new children's book
Francis in San Francisco" by clicking this link.
KEEP YOUR E-MAILS COMING! Although my hectic schedule makes
it impossible to respond personally to your e-mails, I do welcome
your comments and suggestions. I take the time to read your
emails and helpful feedbackand I pray for you and the
needs you share with me. Thanks for your understanding.
Jack Wintz, O.F.M.
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