In anticipation of the forthcoming encyclical, my thoughts turn to another Francis. Not the pope or the mendicant of Assisi, but the character of a novel written in 1928 by Miles Connolly, Mr. Blue.
Blue is a Francis-like figure, living in a packing crate atop a building in New York. From there he launches into one of the most powerful meditations on the environment. His message needs to be kept in mind as a preamble to what lies ahead:
My hands, my feet, my poor little brain, my eyes, my ears, all matter more than the whole sweep of these constellations! … God Himself, the God to whom this whole universe-specked display is as nothing, God Himself had hands like mine and feet like mine and eyes and brain, and ears! . . .
Without Christ we would be little more than bacteria breeding on a pebble in space, or glints of ideas in a whirling void of abstractions. … Because of Him, I can stand here under this cold immensity and know that my infinitesimal pulse-beats and acts and thoughts are of more importance than this whole show of a universe. Only for Him, I would be crushed beneath the weight of all these worlds. Only for Him, I would tumble dazed into the gaping chasms of space and time. Only for Him, I would be confounded before the awful fertility and intricacy of all life. Only for Him, I would be the merest of animalcules crawling on the merest of motes in a frigid Infinity. …
But behold! God wept and laughed and dined and wined and suffered and died even as you and I. Blah! For the immensity of space! Blah!—for those who would have me a microcosm in the meaningless tangle of an endless evolution! I’m no microcosm. I, too, am a Son of God!
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