Pope Francis’ new encyclical Laudato Si’ is named after a famous prayer by St. Francis of Assisi. Here are seven things you need to know about the prayer behind the encyclical.
1. Laudato Si’ is the song of St. Francis’ life.
Unlike some other prayers attributed to St. Francis, Laudato Si’ was actually written by the saint. He wrote it after he had already received the stigmata, and would sing the canticle throughout the day.
2. He wrote the section praising death as he was dying.
St. Francis ended the canticle by praising “sister bodily death.” He wrote these verses as he was dying.
“It’s a beautiful example of how we’re called to live,” Father John Lager, O.F.M., Cap., said.
3. It isn’t a New Age anthem.
St. Francis didn’t write songs to the ambiguous force of nature. Instead, he praised God for each individual creature.
In his book “St. Francis of Assisi,” G.K. Chesterton states, “St. Francis was a man who did not want to see the wood for the trees. He wanted to see each tree as a separate and almost a sacred thing, being a child of God and therefore a brother or sister of man.”
Each stanza of the prayer is dedicated to a specific creation, to whom St. Francis assigned a title. He gives the sun an honorific title, calling it “my lord Brother Sun.” Wind, however, is simply his brother. He didn’t jumble all of creation—he thanked God for each individual entity.
4. St. Francis really, really loved all of creation.
St. Francis didn’t love the moon, wind, etc. because they were pretty; he loved them because they revealed their maker.
“To St. Francis, everything in creation reflected back God’s beauty, loveliness and majesty,” Father Lager said. “He had a tremendous love of seeing Christ incarnationally.”
5. St. Francis saw stewardship as a means of praising God.
Father Lager said that Pope Francis echoed this sentiment in his encyclical.
“He wants us to ask how we can give praise to God, like St. Francis did, and give thanks for our common home,” Father Lager said.
6. St. Francis saw connections between everything in creation.
“I think Pope Francis wants us to see how way back in the Middle Ages, St. Francis saw this interconnectedness as a great gift,” Father Lager said. “He sees in St. Francis this great interconnectedness with each other, with God, and with creation. There’s harmony in all of that.”
7. St. Francis didn’t only care about the moon and the trees.
Father Lager said that if St. Francis were alive today, he doubts his first sermon would be about nature.
“I’m sure that he’d want to preach about … the unconcern for the very poor,” Father Lager said. “People are raising their children in garbage heaps—literally. We should care about that.”