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On Friday 4th October, the Church celebrates the feast day of St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), patron saint of Italy and of the environment. Born into a wealthy family, the young Francis was a playboy who loved to party with his friends. As a young an he enlisted in the local army and fought a battle against Perugia, the neighbouring town. Wounded and imprisoned, Francis' life began to change. He became more contemplative and began to think deeper about what his life was about. In a famous public incident with his father, Francis renounced his birth-right and his inheritance by swapping his expensive clothes of silk for a habit of sack. From that time onwards, Francis dedicated himself to prayer and the poor and was soon joined by other brothers who wanted to live in community with him.

Francis had a great love for nature and for animals. He had a wholesome sense of being connected to all of creation. This spirit of communion comes across in his famous 'Canticle of the Creatures' which he wrote shortly before his death:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,

all praise is yours, all glory, all honour, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.

No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

All praise be yours, my Lord,

through all you have made,

and first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day;

and through whom you give us light.

How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendour;

Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All Praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon

and the stars; in the heavens you have made them,

bright, and precious, and fair.

All praise be yours, my Lord,

through Brothers wind and air, and fair and stormy,

all the weather's moods,

by which you cherish all that you have made.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,

so useful, humble, precious and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,

through whom you brighten up the night.

How beautiful is he, how cheerful!

Full of power and strength.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through our Sister

Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us,

and produces various fruits with coloured flowers

and herbs.

All praise be yours, my Lord,

through those who grant pardon for love of you;

through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy are those who endure in peace,

By You, Most High, they will be crowned.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,

From whose embrace no mortal can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin!

Happy those she finds doing your will!

The second death can do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks

And serve him with great humility.

In this hymn of praise to God the Creator and Father of all, St Francis has become an inspiration for those prophets of care for the earth and climate justice. In this interview Bishop Robert Barron explores the life of St Francis of Assisi, the great reformer of the Church and much loved saint who intuited long before science confirmed it, that all created things are interconnected.

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