“The purpose of the incarnation was to create heaven here… What does that mean?”

–Patrick Carolan, drawing on the wisdom of St. Francis, St. Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus, during our interview for Guardians of the Earth.

I often struggle with the words “care for creation.” Often I feel like creation cares for me instead. 

When I feel alone or overwhelmed at the state of the world, the buzz of a bee or the flower that sprouts through concrete alerts me to the fact that my life on this planet is interlinked with that of countless other beings that labor, survive, and bloom on a daily basis.

I recently interviewed Patrick Carolan who previously led Fransiscan Action Network. He was also a part of Laudato Si’ Movement’s foundation a number of years ago, which was powerful and important for me to learn. 

But before I sat down with Patrick Carolan, in the early years of my own life, I encountered Franscican spirituality at the National Shrine of Maximilian Kolbe near my hometown. And when I say the shrine, I’m thinking too of the flowers and the birdsong of the shrine’s garden that the friars beautifully cultivated. I think this was one of the first instances that both ecology and spirituality were interlinked. 

The author’s drawing of a Fransciscan friary with reflection notes.

Talking with Patrick Carolan deepened those memories. Despite my struggling internet connection, Patrick reflected forcefully in our interview remarking “What Francis, Bonaventure, and Scotus talked about was being in relationship with creation,” rather than in dominion of creation.

I know the gardening friars of the Kolbe Shrine lived that out fully in the ways they nourished the lives in the garden and those lives, in various ways, nourished the friars as well.  

 This is a moment, as much as to care and agitate and ponder what we learn from our planet, to also confront where our responsibilities lie. Even though I don’t always know what it means to care for creation, I know I want to reflect my care with humility, humor, and dedication that both the friars and Patrick showed. 

I want to see the distinction in that kind of care and care that presupposes superiority. And I trust that we’re capable of growing into that distinction.