by Fr. Antonio Maria Rosales, OFM
St. Francis Friary, Cebu City
October 4, the Feast of Saint Francis, is actually the end of the SEASON OF CREATION proclaimed by Pope Francis.
The Season of Creation, which started on September 1, is as a yearly reminder of the message of Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, LAUDATO SI, an advocacy dear to St. Francis and the Franciscan Movement worldwide.
Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis' New Encyclical
The celebration of St. Francis on his Feast Day this 2020 is intimately connected with the new encyclical of Pope Francis which he signs on October 3, after celebrating Mass at the tomb of the saint in Assisi.
The encyclical, again borrowed from the spirit and words of St. Francis, is entitled FRATELLI TUTTI, translated inclusively as "We are all Brothers and Sisters."
The Pope calls all humanity to rediscover this basic truth about ourselves: that regardless of our race, culture, belief system, economic standing, educational attainment or any other factor we present to build walls among ourselves, the truth is that we all came from the same God, whose loving kindness and mercy has brought us where we are.
Therefore Pope Francis calls us to build our common response to Covid-19 on this universal truth: We are all brothers and sisters, without exception, whether we accept this or not.
This is one of the foundations of the Franciscan Movement: the universality of our common humanity, as well as of our salvation in Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the salvation of all.
Repair My House
St. Francis was convinced of this when he experienced a mystical vision of the Risen Lord, that gave him the mission "Go and repair my house," in that run-down church of San Damiano in Assisi in 1207/08.
He later spent his life repairing the brokenness in people's hearts through conversion and penance; repairing the divisions on society, by giving testimony to unity and reconciliation not only among Christians but even with the enemies of the Church at the time, the Moslems; giving the Church a new awareness of the universality of mission through testimony of life and dialogue; and, ultimately, in his realization that the repair has to be extended to all creatures in God's creation.
St. Pope John Paul II proclaimed him Patron of Ecology in 1978.
Pope Francis' UN Address
Pope Francis in a video address to the UN General Assembly challenged the world to prioritize the needs of the poor in our response to Covid-19 and, when the vaccine will be available, he tells us to that "if anyone should be given preference, let it be the poorest, the most vulnerable, those who so often experience discrimination because they have neither power nor economic resources".
I wonder if by the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, the response to these words of Pope Francis would come first from us, who have proclaimed ourselves as belonging to the Church of the Poor, and that there will be a collective response from our bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, to make sure that the vaccine goes first to the poor before we avail of it ourselves.
This is a challenge and a powerful testimony of our concern for the less privileged and see in them the person of Jesus Christ, as St. Francis literally believed when he ministered to the lepers, the outcasts of his time.
Let me conclude with the words of St. John Paul II:
"You who brought Christ so close to your age, help us to bring Christ closer to our age, to our difficult and critical times. Help us!"
What better time than now, with the scourge of the pandemic.
May the Lord give us peace.