BENGHAZI, Libya, June 10, 2015—A modern son of St. Francis believes the Holy Father’s choice to name his forthcoming encyclical on the environment after a line his namesake from Assisi made famous is perfectly fitting, given that its words inspire and challenge humans to protect God’s creation whose stewards they all are.
“I think [our] Holy Father Pope Francis took the inspiration of this encyclical from this poem entitled ‘Canticle of Creatures.’ One of our Filipino friars, Fr. Andres Ranoa, OFM, set this into music also called ‘Canticle of Creatures,’ and it is indeed beautiful,” Fr. Amado Baranquel, OFM told CBCP News in a recent interview.
The missionary based in war-torn Libya shared this poem of praise is one of the “most beautiful legacies” the founder of his congregation left to posterity.
In it, he explained, St. Francis reveals himself as one who loves and respects all of God’s creation even so far as calling the sun his brother, the moon and water his sisters, the Earth his mother, and so on.
“He [St. Francis] praised God for all of it [Laudato sii],” he stressed.
This image has been associated with St. Francis of Assisi since.
Baranquel, however, admitted the danger of “pigeonholing” his seraphic founder, noting how complex and colorful a personality the saint was.
“There are countless books about this Poverello of Assisi, but you have to really study the ‘Omnibus of Sources’ by Blessed Thomas of Celano in order to capture the different facets of this enigmatic man of God,” he said.
“Authors have their own approach and focus. But not one of them can fully capture the spirit and charisma of this little man of God from Assisi. All I can say is that Francis of Assisi was way ahead of his time. He could have been mistaken for a heretic if he was not truly a man of God and obedient to the Pope,” he added.
The Bicolano religious agreed St. Francis “revolutionized” the Church of his time, showing his contemporaries what the “Imitation of Christ” really meant.
“He was a revolutionary within the Church. He embodied in his person what many leaders failed to give. Here lies his uniqueness,” the Franciscan said.
According to Baranquel, while many groups in the Middle Ages clamored for much needed changes in the Church, only St. Francis’ own band of little friars has had a lasting impact because they themselves practiced what they were advocating.
Living out the Gospels
“[But] Francis lived out all that he thought was from the Gospels … And [he] was ever faithful to the office of the Pope. This is the reason why he was not considered heretical at that time,” he said.
“Franciscanism is a course [of study] in itself. If one wants to know more of Francis of Assisi he has to take this course as well,” he added.
The Vatican announced the “eco encyclical” Laudato Sii (Praised Be) is expected to be released on June 18. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)