In the Footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi

 One of the best-known Saints of the Church whose feast we celebrate in October is Francis of Assisi.  Francis has long been revered as a model of non-violence and love for the poor ... both key principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  But also, Francis has increasingly been upheld as a protector of God's creation, and inspiration for our efforts toward environmental justice, and stewardship of all God has made.  This is especially true since the publication of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter, Renewing the Earth, in the early 1990's. 

To help commemorate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi during October (the actual feast is October 4th), we offer the following prayers and simple activities for classroom use, or as suggestions sent home for their families.  

May Francis’ spirit of love and compassion for all people, the earth, and all living beings permeate your lives and experiences with your students throughout the year!  

In God’s peace,  

Mary Jeanne Lindinger-Olsen

Associate for Parish Outreach

   

Sample Prayers

  Prayer for the Earth¹

  “Eternal God, we believe that our worship draws us to You and toward our neighbors on earth.  We pray for the whole creation.  May we all learn before it is too late to respect the uniqueness, fragility, and beauty of the earth and all its creatures ….  We pray because Jesus is our Lord, and your kingdom is in our midst.  Amen.”

 

Blessing of the Animals²

  The animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea.  They share in the ways of human beings.  They have a part in our lives.  Francis of Assisi recognized this when he called the animals – wild and tame – his brothers and sisters.  Remembering Francis’ love for these brothers and sisters of ours, we invoke God’s blessing on these animals, and we thank God for letting us share the earth with all the creatures:

  “Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, your creatures.  We pray especially for all that are suffering in any way … for the underfed or ill-treated, the hunted, lost, or hungry.  For those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion, gentle hands, and kindly words.  Make us all true friends to animals, and worthy followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

 

Sample Activities

 

Let Us, ALL of Us, Pray³

  The Bible speaks of all of creation praying and worshiping.  Read the following Bible verses.  Identify what parts of creation are praising God in each:

  Psalm 69:35    Psalm 96:11-13   Psalm 98:7-9    Isaiah 43:20    Isaiah 55:12    Revelations 5:13

Evergreen Wreath (craft)

  Children will:  feel and shape clay; feel and smell evergreen pieces; compare texture of  evergreens and clay; make an ornament  

Materials:  self-hardening clay; 2” pieces of evergreen; ribbon

Procedure:  Roll a lime-sized piece of clay into a “snake.”  Attach ends to form a circle.  Push  evergreens into clay to make a wreath.  Let dry.  Tie on a ribbon for hanging.

  Sunny Day Plate (craft)

  Children will:  feel and observe dried plants; identify things God made; draw and arrange a  nature scene; make a sun catcher

  Materials:  markers; glue; tape; dried plants; pre-cut pictures of animals and plants; for each child … paper plate, 3” square of yellow cellophane  

Procedure:  (Teacher prep:  Cut a 2” diameter circle near the top of each plate.)  Turn the plate  to the back.  Cover circle with cellophane and tape in place.  Turn plate to the front.

                   Draw in the sky and grass.  Glue on dried plants and pre-cut pictures to complete a  sunny day scene.   Tape in a window and see the sunlight come through!

  God’s Gifts (echo pantomime)

  Procedure:  Children echo the teacher’s words and motions after each line.

 

“God made the water (make rippling movement with hands),

The ground (touch ground), and the sky (reach up high),

The animals that walk (let your fingers walk up your arm),

And the birds that fly (flap arms),

The fish that swim (swimming motion),

In the blue, blue sea (make rippling movement with hands),

The sun (make large circle), and the moon (small circle),

And you (point to others), and me (point to self)!

Thank you, God (fold hands in prayer, extend upwards),

For our gifts, big (hands far apart) and small (hands close).

Help us, please, to share them all (palms up, extend hands to others).

 

Notes

  ¹ Taken from Loving Our Neighbor, the Earth: Creation-Spirituality Activities for 9-11 Year-Olds by Christie L. Jenkins, Ph.D., Resource Publications, Inc., San Jose, CA, 1991, p. 99    (original source cited as Terry C. Falla, Be Our Freedom Lord, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981, pp. 149-50.)

  ² Taken from Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC, 1989, pp. 174 and 177.

  ³ Taken from Loving Our Neighbor, the Earth: Creation-Spirituality Activities for 9-11 Year-Olds by Christie L. Jenkins, Ph.D., Resource Publications, Inc., San Jose, CA, 1991, p. 99. 

  Taken from Learning by Doing: 150 Activities to Enrich Religion Classes for Young Children, Carole MacClennan, Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT, 1993, pp. 116, 118-119.