It will come as no surprise to many that Franciscans have a certain affinity for justice issues related to the environment. In light of recent scientific scholarship that provides incontrovertible evidence that the earth’s climate has begun to shift as a result of human industry and pollution, various efforts to raise awareness of the need for social transformation and environmental justice have been inaugurated by different groups. One such effort was the “Polar Bear Plunge,” which took place on January 22, 2011 in the Potomac River near Washington, DC.

Among those who took the plunge into the icy waters (the air temperature was 17 degrees F) was a number of Franciscan friars from my province (Holy Name, New York, NY). A video depicts these friars and includes interviews with parishioners who came out from our parish in Silver Spring, MD, to support the effort. 

In one sense my Franciscan brothers come across as crazy for their willingness to jump into water in the middle of winter at below-freezing temperatures. But in another sense these Franciscans exhibit a zealous spirit and dedication to matter of all creation and the environment. They may in fact be crazy Franciscans, but they’re my brothers. They also happen to be creation fanatics, not unlike God who, as we know well, saw that it was good.

Enjoy this very well-made video that chronicles the event and highlights the importance of raising environmental justice issues!



  1. I really connected with this post, and was enjoying the video – until a confusing statement was made. Why did the Franciscan brother say that we have a renewed purpose to serve God, Mother Earth?! Perhaps he meant for the two names to be separated, but this is not clear at all and sounds like they are inextricably linked. Of course, my own distaste for the term “mother” earth probably taints my understanding, but is there really such an endearment among the Franciscans? To me, that’s scary!

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