brother sun who brings the day

Francis of Assisi, proclaimed by Pope John Paul II as the patron saint of ecology, is iconically remembered by most as a simple holy man surrounded by birds.

Francis of Assisi, proclaimed by Pope John Paul II as the patron saint of ecology, is iconically remembered by most as a simple holy man surrounded by birds. His Canticle of the Sun, one of the first recorded works of Italian literature, sings the praises of God’s works of creation “through my lord Brother sun, who brings the day … our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us.”

A less sanitized historical Francis in reality presents us with an uncomfortable saint. His radical poverty, stripping naked before the powers and corruption of his day, challenged authority. Francis carried his message of the brotherhood of all peoples even across Crusader and Saracen battle lines in Egypt to speak of peace to the Sultan al-Kamil. He offered warriors an alternative road forward. His message with the most resonance today, called on humanity to protect the environment as stewards of God’s creation which we are part of, not apart from.

Vatican Radio reported on an address that Benedict XVI gave last Monday to students and teachers representing an ecologically focused foundation called Sister Nature inspired by the witness of Francis of Assisi. The Pope’s message reiterated the environmental patron saint’s message when he told the young people: “If in his work, man forgets he is God’s collaborator, then he can cause violence to creation, which always has a negative impact on humans, as we have seen, unfortunately … it has become apparent that there will be no good future for humanity on earth if we do not educate everyone to a more responsible way of life for creation.”

Meetings of the United Nations Climate Change Conference have begun in Durban, South Africa. They seek to try to renew the Kyoto Accords aimed at limiting the global emissions of the greenhouse gasses warming the planet today with dangerous consequences. They also serve as an important rallying point for global education and action.

On the eve of the talks representatives of many different religions met at a Durban stadium close to the UN conference site. They came together to pray for the world delegation’s recognition of their role as the stewards of creation and to act accordingly.

An IPS press article on Tuesday noted that they “were joined by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who called for the world to prepare itself for the battle against global warming. Tutu criticized those countries refusing to sign the Kyoto: “God wants us to live in a garden, not a desert.” Archbishop Tutu and other South African leaders pointed a collective finger at Canada as one of those wayward, nonco-operative countries in a full-page in the Globe and Mail the day before yesterday.

Our own church leaders from bishops to imams have spoken out as well. On October 25 a wide array of faith communities issued a statement entitled “Canadian Interfaith Call for leadership and Action on Climate Change (”

In it they declare that they “are united in our conviction that the growing crisis of climate change needs to be met by solutions that draw upon the moral and spiritual resources of the world’s religious traditions. We recognize that at its root the unprecedented human contribution to climate change is symptomatic of a spiritual deficit: excessive self-interest, destructive competition and greed have give rise to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.”

They urge our leaders “to put the long-term interest of humanity and the planet ahead of short-term economic and national concerns” by seeking climate justice through agreeing to binding emission targets and instituting a national renewable energy policy. Will they?

Daniel C. Maquire, Professor of Ethics at Marquette University and author of The Moral Core of Judaism and Christianity, wrote, “If the current trends continue … we will not. If religion does not speak to this, it is an obsolete distraction.”

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read