On March 13, 2013 the story of Saint Francis re-entered mass consciousness with the birthing of Pope Francis. No matter your opinion regarding the political scandal and gossip concerning the Vatican and the Catholic Church, the horrific accusations and coverings up of sexual abuse amongst priests and other acts of oppression, the choice of the precedent shattering name Pope Francis has brought Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) back into collective consciousness on a massive scale, and there are important insights to be gained from paying attention to him.
Addressing the media for the first time on March 16, 2013, Pope Francis said he chose to evoke Saint Francis of Assisi with his name because he was “the man of poverty, of peace” and that he wants “a poor church for the poor”². In his installation Mass on March 19, the atmosphere was described by media as electric and he transformed the papacy priorities with calls for protecting the environment and helping the most disenfranchised in our communities, pledging that he will serve “the poorest, the weakest, the least important” and that “amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others”³. These themes, like much of the life of Saint Francis, link with the archetypes of Uranus and Neptune.
In relation to Uranus, Saint Francis of Assisi led a life of intense individuation, dissolving an identity of privilege in which he enthusiastically joined the crusades as a Knight, metamorphosing through intense contact and communication with nature and creatures of nature, like birds. He was a radical who honored Natural Law more so than the human-made laws of the status quo, for example encouraging women to take leadership roles and organize communities in Spirit. He had Neptunian visions of the Holy Spirit in his inner space, while in his explorations of the outer space around him he found God in a tree, or in the apprearance of a rabbit. He integrated his Neptune connection with divinity into Uranus work of shifting the consciousness of those around him, being a Spiritual warrior who could battle the elements and build a church and spiritual community from the ground up with his own resources.
Saint Francis is perhaps most special because of his “tender beholding of aspects of Nature as living beings,” as described by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. He is the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment, and his connection with a new Pope and hope amongst the Church to re-connect with younger generations is fitting because Saint Francis came into his personal power during an opposition between Uranus and Neptune, and the generation coming of age at this time (born between 1988 and 1998) all have a conjunction of Uranus and Neptune in their natal birth charts. I teach in a program in which all of my students have been born so far between 1991 and 1996 with this conjunction, and a notable amount of them have dreams and career goals related to working with animals, healing and protecting animals. Many of my students hope to become veterinarians, and many also hope to travel to specific regions of the world to protect specific species of animals (New Zealand or Australia for example).
Saint Francis embodied the archetypes of Uranus and Neptune not just because there was an opposition between Uranus and Neptune when his work and disciples were really catching on, but through his intention of being an instrument of Spirit, his communal activism on behalf of the poor and outcast, and in his refusal to join the organized Christian church. Though the Pope eventually gave him approval, he never actually became a “priest,” never took vows of chastity or demanded all of the regulated rules of the Christian Church upon his followers. He only asked to love God, love Nature, and asked each to love and know God according to their own capacity. He saw the connection between birds, animals, the natural world, and God- he didn’t see the duality of separateness, and intended to live from this belief. He was communal and collective in his spirituality, choosing to live a life of poverty and live by natural law and the true message of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, there was a collective Uranus-Aquarius nature to the Franciscan order he developed, the brotherhood and sisterhood of his followers willing to live in poverty and serve others and find their own spiritual understanding. Radical for the times, he broke away from traditional norms regarding women, helping women form their own spiritual order and find a place within his spiritual following. In Cosmos and Psyche Richard Tarnas analyzed the link between the life of Saint Francis and the orbital cycle of Uranus and Neptune:
The…Uranus-Neptune opposition of 1214-30 coincided with the widespread evangelical awakening led by Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic and the rapid dissemination throughout Europe of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. Here the characteristic archetypal themes of the Uranus-Neptune cycle were visible not only in the decisive spiritual quickening of the era but also in the Franciscans’ and Dominicans’ innovative dissolving of the boundaries between the lay world and the religious, bringing the dynamism of the Christian faith out of the cloister and into the world; in the more democratic forms of government within these religious orders that affirmed greater individual autonomy; in Francis’s sense of universal compassion that extended to a mystical participation in nature as an expression of divinity, subverting traditional Christian tendencies towards a dualism of spirit and nature… (p. 367)
Franco Zeffirelli’s portrait of Saint Francis, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, shows Francis growing up in wealth and privilege, crusading off to war, and then experiencing a mental break in which he questions the entire power paradigm underlying the reality surrounding him since birth, leading him to connect with the natural world, Spirit, God, and the true life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, even experiencing ecstatic visions. The film poetically illustrates how he dedicated himself to a life of poverty and serving those in poverty and those cast out as lepers and other exiles, connecting with animals as well, and emphatically refusing the trappings of wealth and power associated with the organized Christian Church. In the climatic scene in which Francis meets the Pope in person, he catalyzes the Pope to re-connect with his core sense of spiritual self through mere contact. The film was released in 1972 and has an aesthetic informed by the counterculture movements of the 1960s, showing the radical spirituality of this Saint who really was radical and a threat to the established order. The scene below is from his early process of breaking from his past to connect with Spirit:
As in the scene above, Brother Sun Sister Moon portrays a deepening relationship between Clare and Francis, eventually immortalized by the Chuch as St. Clare and St. Francis. Later in the film, Clare is called to join Francis in his work and calls out to him: “I am not seeking to be understood, I want to understand! I am not asking to be loved, I want to love!” This line reflects one of the major themes of the famous “Prayer of St. Francis” which is attributed to St. Francis, but according to historical records was not actually written by St. Francis (although it does encapsulate the major themes of his life and work)¹.
One of the most famous prayers/poems that Saint Francis actually did write is the “Canticle of the Sun,” written when he was recovering from an intense illness in a cottage built by his dear friend Saint Clare. The poem evokes Uranus and Neptune through lyrically describing elements of nature and spirituality as a community of beings he has a personal relationship with. The following translation of it is by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who noted that the “ancient word canticle means to sing,” and so this poem was written in a rhythm meant to be chanted:
the Great Elder of Highest Good–
You’re so deserving of our tender thanks…
You’re so easy to recognize,
and so deserving of fragrant bouquets,
so made happy by our blessings
and offerings of beauty
In you alone, Great Elder,
are all our offerings held by You
in all right ways.
No unawakened human mouth
yet knows how to pronounce
the depths of your name.
Be thanked our dear Creator,
through all your creatures…
especially through *my lord Brother Sun,*
who brings illumination.
And thank you,
for You give us Light
*Brother Sun* is beautiful
and radiant in all his fiery magnitude!
Of You, in your highest altitude,
*Brother Sun* bears your likeness.
Thank you too, through *Sister Moon and the Stars*;
In the heavens you have made them flashing,
so dear to us, and engaging with us.
Thank you dear Elder,
through *Brothers Wind and Air,*
and *Clouds and Storms, and all the Weather*
through which You
offer Your creatures shelter, food, and livelihood.
Thank you also, through *Sister Water;*
for she is so helpful to many
and so without vanity, so precious to us,
and unsullied from first source.
Thank you Creator, through *Brother Fire,*
whom You give to blaze light into the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful,
and commanding and unafraid.
Thank you too, through our *sister Mother Earth,*
who nourishes us and shapes us,
and creates endless fruits
with colored flowers and herbs***.
Thank You Creator
through those who forgive others
out of Love for You,
and thank You also
through those who endure
sickness and trial.
Content are those who endure in peace,
for by You, Creator, they will be garlanded.
Thank You too, through our Sister, *Death of the Body,*
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Distress comes to those who die separated
Fittingly enough, the times during which Pope Benedict resigned and Pope Francis ascended have been dominated by archetypal themes of Neptune and Uranus. On February 11, 2013 when the resignation of Pope Benedict was announced, there was a conjunction between Mercury, Mars, Neptune, Chiron, and the Moon in Pisces. It didn’t take much of a leap of an astrologer’s imagination to connect this intense stellium of Piscean energy with the presence of the Holy Spirit in this shocking decision and announcement. In addition to this Neptune archetypal link, there was also a Uranian omen in the form of this striking sign from nature on this day as St. Peter’s Basilica was literally struck from above:
In the following month, during much projection and prediction among pundits regarding exactly what the Cardinals would choose to do and exactly whom they would choose to anoint as the new Pope, there was an intense wave of Pisces energy with the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Chiron, Neptune, and the Moon moving through Pisces. Mercury in particular stationed retrograde conjunct Mars and then moved backward to form conjunctions for the second time with the Sun, Chiron, and Venus. All of this Pisces energy evoked the Neptune archetype of Saint Francis.
Interestingly, by the time the Cardinals finally made their decision the Uranus archetype of Saint Francis was activated, as Mars had just broken through into Aries and was moving into a conjunction with Uranus, evoking the initiating Uranus archetype of Saint Francis of Assisi. The chart for the announcement of Pope Francis has a balsamic conjunction of Uranus and Mars in Aries conjunct the Descendant- an electric drive that is in service through a relationship with the World. There is an Aries Mars-Uranus drive of Pope Francis to individuate his role from past papacy privileges by making choices like choosing a name without precedent and riding the city bus to be with the people instead of an isolated luxury transport.
The Neptune archetype can be seen through the karmic release and resolution signified by the balsamic Mars-Uranus, the Sun and Venus conjunct in Pisces, and Neptune in Pisces conjunct Mercury retrograde and Chiron in Pisces at the time of the selection of Pope Francis. It has been noted that as a Jesuit he could perhaps “think differently” and there are signs in the announcement chart that indicate an intention to transform some of the set patterns of perspective from the papacy (Pisces Chiron-Mercury-Neptune in trine to Scorpio Saturn retrograde in 2nd), while at the same time there are signs he could stubbornly cling to some of the old dogmatic papacy beliefs that critics of the Church have felt have been oppressive toward women, among others (Pisces Sun-Venus square Gemini Ceres-Lilith-Vesta in 9th; Gemini Jupiter-Vesta in 9th square Pisces Chiron-Mercury-Neptune in 5th). Yet at the same time, these same symbols, plus the potent Uranus energy, reflect a purpose he could have to individuate the Papal role in a true role of service to the People through creatively actualizing his Pisces Mercury-Neptune faith, and many of his early statements reflect this intention:
“Let us never forget that authentic power is service . . . and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.” — Pope Francis³
Just as the selection of the Pope is supposed to be guided by the Holy Spirit, there does seem to be an energy of Divine Intervention about the selection of this new Pope who brings the symbol of Saint Francis of Assisi prominently into our collective consciousness.