During the first week of October, the University of Notre Dame will join together to honor St. Francis of Assisi and his lasting contributions to environmental thought across the globe. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and ecology, who saw the love of God manifested in the beauty of creation. Each year, partners across all facets of the University come together to pray, learn, and act in this tradition. Events will commence on October 4th, St. Francis of Assisi’s Feast Day, with a Green Mass offered for all people working to care for our common home and will then continue throughout the week.
This year’s Notre Dame Forum, titled War & Peace, calls different attention to the role nature played in St. Francis’s life. Born to an elite family, Francis’s life was forever changed by war in his home of Assisi. His experiences reordered his spiritual and personal priorities. They also left him in search of a peaceful and simple life with an intensive focus on the poorest among him. This has become a part of his legacy for those who follow his example. On World Peace Day in 1990, Pope John Paul II cited St. Francis as an example of someone discovering peace with God through praising Creation. In recent years, St. Francis’ life and work are often cited by the Catholic Church to further connect these issues of conflict, sustainability, overconsumption, and poverty through the concept of environmental justice, as seen in the encyclical letter Laudato Si’. In this letter, the Holy Father Pope Francis -- whose chosen name honors this same St. Francis -- speaks of St. Francis’ undying love for God’s Creation and how we must engage with Creation to display our love of God. The Holy Father writes,
“[St. Francis] was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace” (Francis, Laudato Si’, 10).
Please join us to learn, pray, and act in the way St. Francis of Assisi did. By celebrating him again this year, may we learn to find peace by working for the health and prosperity of the planet and our communities.
St. Francis of Assisi Week is sponsored by Campus Ministry, the Center for Social Concerns, ND Energy, the Minor in Sustainability, Notre Dame International, the Environmental Change Initiative, and the Office of Sustainability.