Inspired by St Francis of Assisi

Welcome back to you all. I hope you had a lovely break and that during the beautiful spring weather last week, you made some time to wander under trees, looking at flowers and listening to the birds singing. I certainly felt so grateful that the Botanical Garden opened up again – it is truly a remarkable place of great beauty.

Last Sunday, 4 October, was the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi. Francis devoted his life to work for the poor and vulnerable. He loved nature and communed with animals in a time when it was not fashionable to be interested in nature. Francis’ deep love for the earth and its creatures is beautifully described in his song, ‘Laudate Si’ or Canticle of Creatures in English, in which Francis reminds us that the earth is our mother who opens our arms to embrace us. As Pope Francis wrote in his Encyclical, Laudate Si, “Francis’ response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists”.

There is much to learn from St Francis and the Anglican and Catholic Church, therefore, every year sets aside the week following Francis’ feast day particularly to give thanks for and pray and work for the preservation of the earth.

With the global pandemic rightly occupying our collective focus across the world this year, sadly some of the more pressing global and political issues have received less focus. For example, the movement for stronger action on climate change with marches in all the major cities of the world on Fridays led by Greta Thunberg has had to go online and has therefore been less effective.

However, the ongoing melting of the icecaps, the large-scale destruction of the rain forests and the continuing burning of fossil fuels to name but a few of the problems causing global warming are not presently front-page news.

But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with the associated slower pace of life, less travel and almost no air traffic, perhaps we are re-learning something precious about a more simple, quiet and less polluting way of life.

When the COVID-19 crisis releases its pervasive grip on our world, we will still have to face the pressing and important issue about how to live more sustainably on this earth. Perhaps the inspiration from the man from Assisi about the need to embrace a simpler life and a love of the earth and its creatures is something we can all connect to more than we perhaps could before. Certainly, that remains my hope.

On the note of nature, I wish to inform you that during the holidays we donated $11,163 to a farmer in Gelantipy in far East Gippsland so he can begin to rebuild some of his fences which were destroyed in the bushfires last summer. The money was raised by our Melbourne Grammar School Bushfire Response Committee and we hope to be able to visit Gelantipy in the future and we are very thankful to all the people who donated funds for this important cause.

To conclude, take good care of yourselves during this Term. Remember to be grateful for each day, despite the difficulty of the lockdown, and spare a thought for St Francis of Assisi and the ‘Great Work’ of healing, preserving and loving the earth – a task of which we are all called to be part.

Rev’d Hans Christiansen