Francis, Creation, Climate

The feast of St. Francis (October 4th) is a good time
to remember several things:

1. Francis of Assisi’s love of creation and
ability to find God everywhere,100_0359
2.  Pope Francis’ call to everyone to care
for creation,
3.  the urgency of reducing climate change, and
4.  for SHCJ and those who love Cornelia Connelly, to remember how devoted Cornelia Connelly was to Francis.
1. Francis of Assisi is known for his practice of poverty and concern for the poor, his efforts for peace, and his love of all creation. His Canticle of Brother Sun praises all God’s creatures, calling them Brother and Sister – and “our Sister Mother Earth.” Pope Francis’ choice of this saint’s name was very deliberate.

2. Pope Francis, speaking of the journey towards ending mental and spiritual poverty, recently said:
But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

3. In celebration of the Feast of St. Francis, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is sponsoring 
national climate change education events in Catholic parishes, schools, and colleges. They list these goals for education efforts for this feast day:
  • Understand more fully the reality of climate change;

  • Be inspired by Catholic Church teaching about climate change and the call to respond;

  • Deepen awareness that this call is to BOTH care of God’s gift of Creation AND care of those most impacted by environmental neglect, including climate change — namely, creation’s poorest and most vulnerable;

  • Engage both personally and as a community in concrete ways that respond to the Catholic call to care for Creation and protectors of the vulnerable, by taking the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor:;

  • Build leadership for future efforts to integrate Catholic values of environmental care and outreach to the poor.
arcticmeltThe group  recommends two resources to better understand climate change and the necessity of changing it:
– the Pontifical Academy of Sciences ’s Working Group (PAS) statement, Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene, and

– a “TED” talk by James Balog, the science photographer behind the documentary film Chasing Ice, who documented some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change. 
I am happy to note that I included highlights from the PAS statement in the video “Time for an Energy Change” ( as well as in the Lent programs for Air 2012, Water 2014, and Air 2015  (
In their declaration, PAS calls on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land usesDuring the 2012 Lent Air session at St. Gertrude, Chicago, participants were overwhelmingly surprised and elated that the Church was highlighting this issue. They discussed the content with obvious commitment.
4. As for Cornelia Connelly, her call to meet the needs of the times alerts us to combine both the climate change issue and care for those impoverished by it. The following quotes, taken from an article by Aquilla Peterson, SHCJ, in 2003, indicate Cornelia’s devotion to Francis and his influence on the SHCJ spirit:


“To Saint Francis of Assisi she had, from the first, been strongly drawn. Of him she writes: ‘He shows in his contempt for the things of this world the highest elevation of mind; in his profound abasement a heroic courage, in his extreme simplicity, the most noble sentiment; in his weakness and apparent folly, the strength and wisdom of God.’  She repeats with him: ‘There is nothing on this earth that I am not ready to abandon willingly and with my whole heart, nothing however painful that I am not willing to endure with joy, nothing that I am not willing to undertake with all the strength of body and soul for the glory of my Lord Jesus Christ…”   Catherine Gompertz, Life of Cornelia Connelly; 1st  edition, p.85 (London,1922)  




“In her love for St.Francis, Cornelia for a long time entertained the idea of having the Society affiliated to the Franciscan Order. She even distributed the cord of St.Francis to the Nuns in most of the convents in 1876 and was able to obtain for the Society, the privilege of the Porziuncula Indulgence [Franciscan tradition of indulgence of pardon] for seven years.”   Ibid. p. 195




At Derby in 1848, Cornelia used the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of St. Francis for community reading. The Sisters took turns reading stories from it and it was through these “Little Flowers” that the Franciscan spirit was imbued in the Society. “Cornelia, like Francis, was drawn to the stable of Bethlehem where God was strong in weakness and where having nothing, he possessed all hearts.”   Informatio, p.197 
“The spirit of poverty she placed under the patronage of St. Francis. This practice could not, for obvious reasons, be carried out quite on the Franciscan lines but she wished her Nuns to vie with the followers of the Saint in poverty of spirit, and to bear cheerfully any privations that fell to their lot.”   Gompertz p. 195


[O]n Sept.17, 1841 while on retreat, Cornelia took the third degree of humility and wrote “vocation examined and decided.” So it was, that her vocation was decided on the retreat commencing on the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. “We can only imagine Francis looking down on his friend of the Holy Child Jesus for her heart was indeed stigmatized.”   Document #64-70, 52 
According to Buckle and Bellasis the influence of St. Francis of Assisi on Cornelia and the SHCJ was significant, e.g., ‘We now have a good idea of the Franciscan and Jesuit element in Mother Connelly’s soul — that the devotion to the Holy Child and the poverty of the crib was inspired or borrowed from St. Francis and the interior life from the teaching of St. Ignatius.’   Caritas McCarthy, SHCJ, Spirituality of Cornelia  Connelly, p.167 (New York,1986)
In 1854 while in Rome, Cornelia began painting a triptych with St.Ignatius on one side, the Holy Child in the center, and St.Francis on the other side. What was finished of it now resides in Mayfield. This would indicate that she had come to regard these two very different founders as copatrons of the spirit and rule of the Society.   Aquilla Peterson’s article “St. Francis of Assisi and Cornelia Connelly” 2003, p. 2
Finally, at her death in a sparsely furnished cell, was found a crucifix, a picture of the Sacred Heart, a picture of the Blessed Mother with the Holy Child and an engraving of St. Francis of Assisi leading a lamb.   Ibid. p. 3
I can easily imagine that Cornelia would rejoice in all efforts — by anyone — to reduce carbon emissions and thus reduce climate change, one of the major needs of our times that harms and threatens so many. She also would have made the connections of resource scarcity, environmental refugees, and wars. 

For Reflection:

~ If he were alive today, how might St. Frances advocate celebrating October 4th?

~ How can you connect the issues above with celebrating Francis’ feast day?





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