Francis of Assisi: Francis and Nature, Part I

St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of Italy, merchants, stowaways, ecology, but most famously, of animals.  If one searches the internet, you can easily find all kinds of pious, ecologically insightful, and often amazingly-modern sounding quotes from St. Francis. And they are inevitably without a citation from one of Francis’ writings or at least a later Franciscan source writing about Francis. As I noted in the beginning of this series, Francis has always been reinvented and marketed as needed.  Perhaps the one book most responsible for casting Francis as the lover of animals and nature is a collection of stories – many miraculous and all very saintly – that first appeared in 1390 in Tuscany: the Fioretti (The Little Flowers). But can we say about St. Francis, the patron saint of animals? Continue reading

Is there a reason for human suffering?

Today’s gospel raises a question that often haunts us: “Does God punish us for our sins?”  We ask it in lots of different ways. It seems to arise in periods of reflection such as Lent offers.

In the verses just before our gospel passage, Jesus spoke to crowds: “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Luke 12:56) Some in the crowd quickly rose to the occasion, stating a case of unjust suffering with the implication that Jesus should interpret its meaning. They told him about some Galileans that Pontius Pilate had murdered in a ghastly event. No question is stated explicitly, but a question is surely implied. What is one to make of that? Did those Galileans deserve it? Was Pilate the instrument of divine judgment against them and consequent punishment? Continue reading