INTERNATIONAL EARTH DAY
2006 -- March 20

St. Francis and the Birth of Earth Day


By John McConnell, 90 year old founder of Earth Day




WHAT WOULD ST. FRANCIS DO NOW?

The global celebration of Earth Day on March 20, the first day of Spring, is a matter directly related to St. Francis and the amazing results of his vision and life. Were he here today, he would undoubtedly focus all his prayer and effort on achieving Earth Day's original purpose.

A little about Earth Day history will illustrate this.

Earth Day is on the March Equinox, which determines the annual date of Easter. (Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the March equinox.)

Not only that, the equinox is also the New Year in Iran and other Islam countries, which makes possible attention for a common purpose - the sustainable care of Earth, with justice and peace for all.

This will help us show real love for our world neighbors and the web of life that covers our globe.

ST. FRANCIS AND THE BIRTH OF EARTH DAY

The first Earth Day was inaugurated in San Francisco - The City of St. Francis. I had long been familiar with the Prayer of St. Francis: "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love..." In 1969 we obtained backing of the Mayor, city officials, churches, schools, businesses - a really all out event with massive coverage in media. While the event was backed by Franciscans and Catholic churches, participation included synagogues and many other denominations. The Red Cross delivered plants to schools for children to take home.

In succeeding Earth Days at the United Nations, we demonstrated that people of diverse creeds and cultures can leave room for their differences and come together for "peace, justice and the care of Earth."

A factor in the choice of the date was my own history. In 1957 I obtained global attention for an editorial in my weekly North Carolina "Toe Valley View" newspaper. The first Sputnik Satellite had just been launched on October 4th. None of the media seemed to note that this was the "Feast Day of St. Francis." And launched by the then Godless USSR! (The person who chose the date must have been a secret Christian.)

My editorial called for a visible "Star of Hope" satellite. It would be launched as a symbol of hope to further understanding and peace on our planet. It obtained front page attention around the world.

My own study and prayer life led to the conviction that we needed a common purpose that would appeal to people of all creeds and cultures - and a way to get attention for it. We needed something that would end history's terrible record of war and injustice.

These thoughts planted the seeds that led to Earth Day.

Another factor was my efforts in 1963 to get global participation in a daily "Minute for Peace." I was responsible for the Minute for Peace on radio world-wide, which followed the period of mourning for President Kennedy. "Peace begins in the mind." We asked for a one minute radio spot on all stations that would carry the sound of a bell and a thought or prayer for peace. We invited all listeners to join in this special minute - to deepen their commitment and increase their efforts for world peace.

Minute for Peace became the centerpiece of Earth Day. When we ring the UN Peace Bell we invite people world wide to join in two minutes of heartfelt prayer that we will overcome "doubt with faith" and strive to be a responsible Trustee of Earth.

Pray that every year St. Francis Day and Earth Day will bring a new sense of identity with the whole human family and a commitment to see peace through understanding and love -- the love that Jesus revealed. And may we put feet to our prayers with action to help make it happen.

John McConnell

303/758-7687

www.earthsite.org

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SAINT FRANCIS PRAYER FOR PEACE

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury...pardon,
Where there is doubt... faith,
Where there is despair... hope,
Where there is darkness... light,
And where there is sadness... joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi



www.earthsite.org

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