In “Canticle of the Sun,” Saint Francis of Assisi (c1182-1226) praises God for some of the wonders of the earthly world. Saint Francis was a Monk whose life and writings had a significant influence on the Church as did the orders of nuns and monks he founded. Francis believed that everything in the natural world was a gift from God and, as such, deserved to be appreciated and valued. His deep care for everything which exists was also borne out of a feeling of intimate connection with all creation; Francis refers to the sun, wind, air, and fire as his brothers, and to the moon, stars, earth and water as his sisters.
Saint Francis is the Patron Saint of Ecology and also a figure much loved by non-Christians. Pope Francis named his second encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, invoking a phrase from Francis’ Canticle of the Sun (Praise be to You). In it, the Pope wrote that Francis served as both a guide and an inspiration, in particular highlighting his invitation for us to ‘see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness’.
Canticle of the Sun
Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
Questions for reflection
- St Francis sees light, wind and fire as tools through which God influences the world. How might that change your view of them?
- What can we learn about God and His plan for humanity from considering the natural world?
- How connected do you feel to the elements of creation which St Francis sets out?
- What could we do today to recognise the value of all creation?
- What lessons can we learn from the Canticle of Creation?