Keith Douglass Warner OFM's
In September 2012, The Franciscan Institute published "Knowledge for Love: Franciscan Science as the Pursuit of Wisdom." This essay extends the retrieval of the Franciscan intellectual tradition into the sciences by presenting the vocation and work of three Franciscan scientists. Friar Bartholomew the Englishman taught his fellow Franciscans with the best available scientific knowledge to prepare them for preaching in foreign lands. Friar Roger Bacon conducted research into the natural world to advance scientific knowledge in service of the Church. Friar Bernardino de Sahagún investigated the life, worldview and culture of the Aztec peoples in New Spain (now Mexico) to interpret these for his fellow Franciscans. In the Franciscan tradition, learning about nature helps one grow in wisdom, and thus Franciscan science is knowledge for love. This essay argues that the retrieval of our Franciscan intellectual tradition could and should include the sciences. Fray Bernardino de Sahagun is a terrific example of this tradition. I wrote articles for wikipedia on Bernardino and the Florentine Codex he co-created with his Aztec students --check out the digital images from the codex! I wrote about Bernardino and the global reach of the Franciscan intellectual tradition for The Cord.
Here is a keynote I gave to the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities biennial symposium, June 2010 at University of St. Francis (Ft. Wayne) The Incarnation Matters: Franciscan Education for Ecological Conversion (you can view this free of charge through ITunesU) This was published a version of this keynote in their AFCU journal.
My best known work is Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth, which I coauthored with Ilia Delio OSF and Pam Wood. It has a beautiful cover, which you can see on this nifty flyer for publicity! You can order it from the (2008) publisher, St. Anthony Messenger Press, or Amazon. The following article is an excerpt from the book, Species Preservation Matters! which appeared in St. Anthony Messenger (magazine), October 2007, pp 22-26 (with pictures!). The book won two awards in 2009 from the Catholic Press Association: First place for "Social Concerns" and second place for "Spirituality." I first met Ilia when I presented at the WTU Franciscan Symposium in May 2003: “Taking Nature Seriously: Nature Mysticism, Franciscan Spirituality, and Environmental Advocacy.” It was published in Ilia Delio OSF, ed., Franciscans and Creation: What is Our Responsibility? St. Bonaventure, NY: The Franciscan Institute (2004). Care for Creation refers to the song "Sacred Creation" by Rufino Zaragoza OFM, which you can access through Oregon Catholic Press; some of the words are here and here.
Two of my recent publications in this field are Franciscan Environmental Ethics: Imagining Creation as a Community of Care in Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics (Summer 2011); Living the Gospel on a Climate Disrupted Planet, webpublished by Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in 2011.
I contributed Retrieving Saint Francis: Tradition and Innovation for Our Ecological Vocation to Green Discipleship: Catholic Theological Ethics and the Environment, edited by Tobias L. Winright (Anselm Academic, 2011). Some elements of this were used by the Franciscan order to celebrate the 35th anniversary of St Francis being named patron saint of ecological spirituality.
Here's an article from the Journal of Religion and American Culture titled The Greening of American Catholicism: Identity, Conversion and Continuity
On November 10, 2010 I participated in a Markkula Center for Applied Ethics presntation "The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the Precautionary Principle" and you can watch a recording of that here. I gave a presentation at the University of St. Thomas (Moore, not of Aquinas) Law School Symposium on Catholic Social Teaching in September 2007 titled The Moral Significance of Creation in the Franciscan Theological Tradition: Implications for Contemporary Catholics and Public Policy.
I developed a Franciscan philosophy studium (which operated 2009-2011), a program for friars to learn about our Franciscan tradition while completing pre-theology requirements, with continuing education units through the University of San Diego.Here is a write up of the program. This picture gives you a sense of what it looks like.
In August of 2012, I cotaught a special two week short course with Bill Short OFM and Mary Beth Ingham CSJ: Creation, Humanity and Science in the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition at Old Mission Santa Barbara. The attached brochure explains what we covered.
“Get Him Out of the Birdbath!” In Franciscan Theology of the Environment: An Introductory Reader, edited by Dawn M. Nothwehr OSF. Quincy Il: Franciscan Press, 2003. Republished from “Out of the Birdbath: Following the Patron Saint of Ecology” The Cord. 48:2 March 1998: 74-85.
Poverty & Environmental Justice in Franciscan Perspective with Luke Clause and Stephen Maurano. Published in 2007 in World Poverty: Franciscan Reflections, by Franciscans Intenational, an NGO with observer status at the United Nations.
"Was St. Francis a Deep Ecologist?" In Albert LaChance and John E. Carroll, eds. Embracing Earth: Catholic Approaches to Ecology. Maryknoll NY: Orbis Press, 1994, 225-240.
Here are some preparatory readings for the AFCU workshops, which develop these themes beyond the book Care for Creation:
Over the past 10 years I have developed from scratch and taught four undergraduate courses with environmental themes that fulfill a university religious studies requirement. They have titles designed to appeal to undergraduate interests. I teach them at a Jesuit school, but they all have some explicitly Franciscan content. Most importantly, these courses allow me to draw from foundational themes in teaching Franciscan care for creation and apply these in course assignments and community learning projects that are meaningful to students. This document provides links to the 4 syllabi; 3 foundational themes in teaching Franciscan care for creation; and 15 learning activities. Individual learning activities are tagged with “ES” (can be embedded in a syllabus) or “CC” (can be a co-curricular activity organized independent of a course), or both.
Syllabi of the courses in which these educational activities were developed:
Foundational themes in teaching Franciscan care for creation, with examples below
ES = appropriate for embedding in a course syllabus.
1. Vocational discernment
b. Write a spiritual autobiography of your relationship with the Earth. Reflect on a significant experience and its influence on your spiritual journey. See Uhl chapters 1, 2, 3. ES.
c. Show a movie about environmental problems to 2+ peers, and engage them in a reflection on the deeper causes and spiritual implications of these problems. I used “An Inconvenient Truth” for years to this end. Many students would roll their eyes at Al Gore, but I wove the concept of a “flawed messenger” into the reflection assignment. It is morally inconsistent and intellectually dishonest to use Gore’s personal inconsistencies as an excuse to ignore climate disruption. ES, CC.
d. Administer a simple ecological footprint quiz, and discuss its implications with peers. I usually assign this in partnership with the movie assignment, above. This frames environmental questions in terms of personal choices and personal impacts, thus shifting the discussions from ideological debates to personal and collective moral choices and their consequences. This is helpful for framing vocational choices. Here is a good footprint calculator http://www.myfootprint.org ES, CC.
e. Concluding vocational reflection. At the end of a course, I typically ask students to express what they think they have learned in the course, and how they plan to integrate it into their vocation. I provide prompts that clarify what I expect, and ask them to draw specifically from the text books, but to interpret the meaning of these ideas for themselves, and explain how they could apply them to their own life. ES. Here are some other examples from Environmental Justice in the Catholic Imagination and Spirituality & Sustainability
2. Relational spirituality
b.Take students to a place in nature where they can consider the relationship of the Earth to the cosmos. This may involve watching the sun come up or go down, or going to observe the moon travel the sky or the milky way on a moonless night. This can prompt reflections on cosmology. See Uhl chapters 1, 2. ES, CC.
c. Lead fellow students in an Earth meditation. I lead some of these for my class, drawing from the story of Francis in Care for Creation chapters 3, 6 and 9. I then explain to students how to plan an earth meditation, execute it, and analyze its impact on peers. ES, CC.
d. Take students to a place of environmental harm, show them what environmental damage looks like, and ask them to reflect upon destructive human behavior and how their choices are implicated. I have taken students to clusters of toxic superfund sites in poor neighborhoods, and to farmworker camps where they have interviewed workers sprayed by pesticides. I have taken them to see places where California state’s water infrastructure sucks water out of the Sacramento River Delta to send it 300 miles south to Los Angeles. ES.
e. The Innovation Diffusion Game. This tool for encouraging participation in positive cultural change is very effective for helping students to wrestle with the practical challenges of environmental leadership. Students play roles of leadership for social change, apathy, or resistance, and then discuss the experience of trying out these roles. ES, CC.http://www.context.org/iclib/ic28/atkisson/
f. Create a portfolio, or a multi-part assignment that examines religious environmental ethics at a local level. In two classes, Environmental Justice in the Catholic Imagination, and Faith, Ethics & the Biodiversity Crisis, I have designed the entire interdisciplinary religious studies course around a multi-part assignment that requires students to articulate religious beliefs, environmental problems and solutions in local communities. These require substantial investment in gathering context-specific case study materials, but can be very rewarding. ES. Here are materials from Environmental Justice in the Catholic Imagination (One, Two, Three, Four, Five) and Faith, Ethics & the Biodiversity Crisis (One and Three).
3. Sharing good news
b. Create a popular education tool -- or catechetical tool -- such as an imovie. This requires students to present some mix of scientific, social, ethical and religious messages. A popular educational tool can be created as, for example, a powerpoint, a poster, a webpage, or an imovie to reach nonacademic audiences. The very short period of time, say 3 minutes, requires the students to make strategic choices about what to include, what to exclude, and how to integrate these different kinds of knowledge in succinct and powerful ways. I used to assign posters, but I now assign imovies, either about climate justice or environmental justice. The creation of imovies is a very effective technological structure to support learning. ES. See sample student imovies from Spirituality & Sustainability here.. Here is the assignment, the creation of digital narratives, copyright information for images, and worksheet. Here is material about the Imovie for Environmental Justice in the Catholic Imagination
c. Learn from and support local agriculture. Arrange for students to visit a local small organic farm, and over the course of a season, they arrange for some novel community-oriented marketing effort. I helped students organize several farm to church programs. See: Alba's Farm to Church Stand ES, CC.
d. Teach undergraduate students how to conduct religious education classes on Franciscan care for creation themes in local parishes and give them an opportunity to learn from this. I created and directed the Environmental Vocation Internship for several years that did this. Here are two reports. The 2004-5 Environmental Vocation Internship Central Coast Report -- emphasizing biodiversity conservation ethics and The 2004-5 Environmental Vocation Central Valley Report -- emphasizing Environmental Justice. This EJ work is contextualized and described here The Greening of American Catholicism: Identity, Conversion and Continuity ES, CC.
e. Partner with local religious leaders to organize a religious environmental conference. In the third year of the EVI (described above), I collaborated with the Living Ocean Initiative, which is described in this journal article: "Facilitating Religious Environmentalism: Ethnology plus conservation psychology tools can assess an interfaith environmental intervention" ES, CC.
Here are some pictures of me with Franciscans I met in South Africa.
For information regarding this website please contact Keith Douglass Warner OFM