Earth Day Network

The Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology

St. Francis of Assisi: religion and environment in 1180's

Life of St. Francis of Assisi

 

St. Francis of Assisi spent much of his time preaching about animals, exhorting that all creatures are brothers and sisters under God. Born in 1181 in Italy, St. Francis is today celebrated as Patron Saint of Ecologists. Throughout most of his youth, he served as a soldier, but after a “conversion experience,” he renounced his family’s wealth and devote his life to God. He was a popular preacher at the time. His death in 1226 brought three million people together for his funeral.

 

The Patron Saint of Ecologists

 

In 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis the Patron Saint of Ecologists. In some ways, St. Francis of Assisi could be viewed as the original Earth Day advocate. Not only did he care for the poor and sick, but he preached multiple sermons on animals, and wanted all creatures on Earth, including humans, to be treated as equals under God. Some of his sermons included stories about birds, fish, and rabbits.

 

The Feast of St. Francis

 

This Catholic holiday is celebrated worldwide on October 4th. The event is most heavily celebrated in Italy in Assisi where St. Francis died and earned the title of Patron Saint of Ecologists. The event begins on October 3rd, where the town of Assisi lights oil lamps in remembrance of St. Francis. On the next day, special religious events and services are organized so people from around the world—not just in Assisi, Italy— can bring their pets to have them blessed. Many other events take place during the week to celebrate the life of St. Francis, including nature walks and games for children. The feast is also known for commemorating the food and diet of St. Francis, which included honey almond cake—the saint’s favorite.

 

 

Why should we care? 

 

With poaching, climate change, unsustainable agriculture, and rampant deforestation for timber all contributing to habitat loss for wildlife around the world, St Francis’—and currently Pope Francis’—messages on caring for the environment still ring true today. St. Francis was a pious figure who cared about the environment and wildlife, and made it his mission to spread awareness through his sermons. Through reforestation, environmental education, climate activism, and the protection of endangered species around the world, St Francis’ message and celebration of earth continues today.

 

William Pappas, Intern