St. Francis: A Message for Our Times

October 6th, 2020 by Dave Leave a reply »

A Cosmic Mutuality
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Jesus saw God in all that he saw. —James Finley

Let us place our first step in the ascent at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror through which we may pass over to God, the supreme [Artisan]. —Bonaventure (1221–1274)

In stories of his life, Francis is quoted as talking to animals and natural elements. He does not speak to them just as birds or wolves, but as mutual spiritual beings who are worthy of being addressed. He was always telling them who they are, why they should be happy, and why they make him happy. He said they give glory to God just by being who they are! One of his early biographers wrote, “We who were with him saw him always in such joy, inwardly and outwardly, over all creatures, touching and looking at them, so that it seemed that his spirit was no longer on earth but in heaven.” [1] That may sound sentimental to our modern ears, but perhaps that is what a saint looks like—completely attuned to God’s presence everywhere and at all times.

Francis talked to larks, lambs, rabbits, pheasants, falcons, cicadas, waterfowl, bees, the famous wolf of Gubbio, pigs, and hooked fish that he threw back into the water whenever possible. He addresses inanimate creation too, as if it were indeed ensouled, which we know because his Canticle of the Creatures includes fire, wind, water, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and, of course, “our Sister Mother Earth” herself. [2]

So-called “nature mysticism” was in fact a worthy first path for Francis, and also for Bonaventure, the scholar who brought the vision of Francis and Clare to the level of a total theology, philosophy, and worldview. Bonaventure saw all things as likenesses of God (vestigia Dei , fingerprints and footprints that reveal the divine DNA underlying all the links in the Great Chain of Being. Both Francis and Bonaventure laid the foundation for what John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) would later identify as the univocity (one voice) of all being, and what Dawn Nothwehr, a Franciscan sister, calls “cosmic mutuality.” [3]

Creation itself—not ritual or spaces constructed by human hands—was Francis’ primary cathedral. His love for creation drove him back into the needs of the city, a pattern very similar to Jesus’ own movement between desert solitude (contemplation) and small-town healing ministry (action). The Gospel transforms us by putting us in touch with that which is much more constant and satisfying, literally the “ground of our being,” which has much more “reality” to it, rather than theological concepts or ritualization of reality. Daily cosmic events in the sky and on the earth are the Reality above our heads and beneath our feet every minute of our lives: a continuous sacrament, signs of God’s universal presence in all things.Gateway to Action & Contemplation:

LStory from Our Community:
I live in Tasmania, the magic isle in the south of Australia. It is filled with unique birds and animals, ancient forests, awe inspiring wilderness and truly amazing life forms in the surrounding ocean. I also live very close to a forest reserve . . . and my dog takes me for a walk there every day. One day, it dawned on me that this creation, all of it, was the inevitable, the fantastic, and visible life of God. God’s beauty, love and life had to burst out, not just throughout the universe, but also on this little blue planet. Nothing could stop God, who is love and beauty flowing through the universe. —Ginni M.


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