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St John Paul II, as one of the most recent saints in the Catholic Church, compelled us to care for creation and to undergo an “ecological conversation”.
In 2001 he said “If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations. Man especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth’s habitat, made the air unbreathable … We must therefore encourage and support the ‘ecological conversation’ which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading.”
This week’s Eco Comment is a list of saints who (according to the internet) might help our prayers on environmental matters. Some are quite well known, others not so.
Top of the list is of course St Francis of Assisi (1226-1230) who was declared patron saint of the environment and ecology by Pope John Paul II in 1979. In the bull Pope John Paul wrote, “Among the holy and admirable men who have revered nature as a wonderful gift of God to the human race, St Francis deserves special consideration.”
The female patron saint of nature is St Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) who was raised in the Iroquois nation that managed the fields, forests and wildlife of their homeland. She is the first Native American to be recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Saint Medardus (c456- 545) is the patron saint of weather, both sunshine and rain. It is said that as a child he was once sheltered from the rain by a large hovering eagle. We in England however more probably think of the Anglo Saxon Bishop of Winchester on whose feast day July 15th, a day on which, according to folklore, the weather for the next 40 days is determined. He is of course St Swithin (c800-863).
Saint Marina (c500), an early Christian martyr is the patron saint of Sozopol on the Black Sea and is the patron saint of water, harvests, fields and sowing.
The saint associated with light, without which nothing grows and without which we can’t see, is Saint Lucy or Lucia (died 304). Her feast day is held in the darkest part of the year and invariably centres around candles and celebrates hope and light.
People who work the land are blessed with a variety of saints to pray to.
Saint Fiacre (600-670) was born in Ireland but established a hostel for travellers in France having (according to legend) cleared an entire forest in one day. He is the patron saint of gardeners, growers of vegetables, plants and trees.
Farmers and people in rural life have two saints, Isidore (1070-1130) and his wife Maria, later known as ‘Santa Maria de la Cabeza’. They are always portrayed as peasants and were committed to working the land, service to the poor and their deep spirituality.
To remember that creation is a thing of beauty there are saints of flowers and flower growers. These include Saint Rose of Viterbo (1235-1252) and Saint Rose of Lima (1586-1617) and Saint Theresa of Lisieux (1873-1897).
Where you have flowers you hope that there will be bees.
The patron saint of bees is Saint Ambrose (c339-397). Legend has it that a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father is said to have considered this a sign of his future eloquence and he is often portrayed with a beehive and bees. He is also said to be ‘The father of church hymnody’ and as well as writing hymns he created a form of antiphonal chant. He is credited with the hymn ‘Deus creator omnium’ which inspired a beautiful stained glass window Creation of the Universe at Church of the Benedictines at Couvrechef – La Folie (Caen).
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