Argentine Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Francis. Francis is a much-beloved Italian saint who is identified with peace, poverty and a simple lifestyle.
Jorge Bergoglio is the first pontiff from Latin America and the first pontiff to adopt the name of Francis -- the name of the rich young man from Assisi who renounced wealth and founded the Franciscan order of friars in 1290.
St. Francis of Assisi is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment.
St. Francis cared for the poor and sick, preached sermons to animals, and praised all creatures as brothers and sisters under God.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II paid tribute to Francis' love for creation by declaring him the patron saint of ecologists.
Each year on or around Oct. 4, Christians throughout the world celebrate the Feast of St. Francis with prayers for creation and a blessing of the animals. Services in the United States occur in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
Writings of St. Francis
Thomas of Celano, a member of Francis' religious order who knew the saint personally, wrote the earliest books about St. Francis. In one famous story, Francis preached to hundreds of birds.
One time as [Francis] was passing through the Spoleto valley, he came upon a place near Bevagna, in which a great multitude of birds of various kinds had assembled. When The holy one of God saw them, because of the outstanding love of the Creator with which he loved all creatures, he ran swiftly to the place. He greeted them in his usual way, as if they shared in reason. As the birds did not take flight, he went to them, going to and fro among them, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.
Meanwhile his joy and wonder increased as he carefully admonished them to listen to the Word of God: 'My brother birds, you should greatly praise your Creator and love Him always. He clothed you with feathers and gave you wings for flying. Among all His creatures He made you free and gave you the purity of the air. You neither sow nor reap, He nevertheless governs you without your least care.'
At these words, the birds gestured a great deal, in their own way. They stretched their necks, spread their wings, opened their beaks and looked at him. They did not leave the place until, having made the sign of the cross, he blessed them and gave them permission. On returning to the brothers he began to accuse himself of negligence because he had not preached to the birds before. From that day on, he carefully exhorted birds and beasts and even insensible creatures to praise and love the Creator.
Another story involves a wolf that had been eating people. Francis intervened when the town wanted to kill the wolf and talked the wolf into never killing again. The wolf became a pet of the townspeople.
St. Francis' The Canticle of the Creatures
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
Source: HSUS, AP