Thursday, October 17, 2019

So Why Celebrate St. Francis?




[N.B., A sermon delivered at St. Richard’s Episcopal parish, Winter Park, FL, Oct. 6, 2019 on celebration of The Feast of St. Francis and Animal Blessing]

Cross in San Damiano Chapel which spoke to Francis: "Rebuild my church."


“Both here and in all your churches around the world, we adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross [+] you have redeemed the world.” (Traditional Franciscan prayer upon entering and departing a church) AMEN.

Blessed Feast of St. Francis, everyone! This is a special day on the church’s calendar and a special day in the life of our parish. It is a day I, as a third order Franciscan, look forward to each year.

But why do we celebrate this day on which Francis of Assisi died? What is so special about Francis? I think that with the exception of this particular feast day, this parish follows the church calendar devotedly. While we may celebrate the feast days of other saints at our morning and evening prayer services, our Taize services, and the special services we hold throughout the year, this is the only main Sunday service of which I am aware that we deviate from the Church Calendar to celebrate a saint. For the record, this would ordinarily be the 17th Sunday after Pentecost.

So why Francis? What is so special about this feast day?



 The life of Francis offers us some clues. He was a man of privilege who gave it all up to serve the poor and the sick. A real hell raiser in his younger life, he was called the Prince of Fools by his drinking buddies who often drank on Francis’ dime. But after being captured during one of the ongoing wars against nearby city-state Perugia, Francis spent a year in a dungeon awaiting his ransom. There he had time to reflect. And when he came home to Assisi, he was a different man.

One of the changes in Francis was a newfound compassion for the poor, especially the lepers. A man born into a life of leisure, he had come face to face with the disturbing lesson that many of us must come to grips with: lives of privilege often come at the expense of the poor. As the prophet Jeremiah says in today’s lesson: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbours work for nothing, and does not give them their wages…” Jeremiah says the just king is he who is conscious of “the cause of the poor and needy.”  

Francis would devote the rest of his life to working with the many impoverished people who lived in the shadows of the prosperous city-states like Assisi.

So the first reason we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis is that he is a living example of human transformation, of redemption, and of ongoing human development ever more into the likeness of G-d.  If Francis can grow and change, so can we.

Another change in Francis was a shift of his attentions from the transitory pleasures gained from his own 13th CE version of a consumerist society to the immense treasures of the natural world all around him. In doing so, Francis rejected the fearful vision of the medieval church that saw the world as fallen, sinful and full of evil just waiting for an opportunity to spring itself on unwitting victims. The psalm for today reflects a bit of the vision that Francis saw: “Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged birds; Fire and hail, snow and fog, [even] tempestuous wind, [all] doing his will…”


 
Where the medieval church looked around the world and saw sinfulness, evil and danger in every direction, Francis’ vision saw beauty, goodness, joy. Everywhere Francis looked, he saw the image of the Holy One.

So the second reason we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis is that he lifts up our gaze from our own transitory, consumerist lives and redirects them to the beauty of the natural world around us. And in a time when “this fragile earth, our island home” is in serious need of our attention, the wisdom of Francis’s vision is surely needed.   



 Along with the natural world, Francis’ understanding of the goodness of creation decidedly included us human animals. He held an exalted vision of human nature and an accompanying appreciation for the human body. This was a clear departure from and a badly needed corrective to the fearful visions of the human body that informed the medieval church and still informs the vision of many religious conservatives today.



There are many humanities scholars who believe this new appreciation for the human body was one of the causes of the Renaissance which would sweep Francis’ Italy a mere two centuries later. Indeed, in the Basillica in Assisi which bears Francis’ body, a number of frescoes depicting the life of Francis by artists with names like Giotto and Cimabue would demonstrate the first stirrings of the great gift to the world of the Renaissance – the use of perspective in art.

Similarly there are scholars in the social sciences who trace some of the roots of notions of human rights to Francis’ insistence upon respect for the image of G-d borne by every human being, beginning with those for whom his own society held little regard. Matthew’s Gospel today reports Jesus speaking to the little ones of his own time whom he loved. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to these little ones, for Father, such was your gracious will.”  

 
The cherishing of the little ones, the least of those in his own society, strongly informed Francis’ insistence that underneath the veneers of poverty and illness, the image of G-d was present on every human face, whether we could see it or not. Mother Theresa would later echo Francis’ vision in her work with the dying in inner city Calcutta whose divine image she insisted hid beneath “the distressing disguise of the poor.”
           
In today’s Epistle St. Paul speaks of his “carrying the marks of Jesus branded on my body.” Francis’ extensive work with lepers may well explain the famous stigmata that he bore as well as the loss of his vision as he neared a premature death at the age of 45. In his dying words, Francis said that if he had to do anything differently he would have been kinder to Brother Ass, his name for his own body. Not surprisingly, one of the many legacies of the Franciscan movement is the string of hospitals that his order operates around the world.

So a third reason we celebrate St. Francis this day is that he has called us to value our Selves, our bodies and all other human beings as very good creations of G-d.

Finally, the legacy of Francis offers us a positive vision of our relationship with G_d, Creation and the Afterlife. While Franciscans have not been known for their scholarship, St. Bonaventure, a peer of Saint Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris, would articulate an alternative orthodoxy from the Augustinian vision that had dominated western Christianity.

Bonaventure envisioned a G-d whose relationship to human beings begins at our creation, continues throughout our lives and ends with our reunion with G-d. He insisted that our connection to G-d is inseverable, even by human sin, even by our decision to ignore or reject that connection.

 Thus, for Bonaventure, it seemed obvious that we come from G-d, we find our existence in G-d and ultimately we return to G-d. I have to say as a Franciscan that I find that understanding much more compelling than any of the theologies which speak of separation from G-d and any conditionality of G-d’s relationship to us. My guess is that many of you do as well.

  
So a final reason we celebrate Francis and his Franciscan legacy this day is because he offers us a theology of hope, of connectedness, of divine presence, that is not conditioned upon anything. That, in my view, points toward a G-d worth worshipping and a saint worth venerating.

 So why celebrate St. Francis? He is a saint who models for us the possibilities of redemption, of transformation, of ongoing development ever more into the likeness of G-d. He is a saint who call us to cherish the natural world we have been given to lovingly maintain, where the goodness of G-d can be seen everywhere we look. He is a saint who calls us to value our own lives and our bodies, just as they are, and to see the image of G_d in every child of G_d, the image that is always there even when it is buried beneath the distressing disguises of poverty, disease, addiction, and, yes, even the political ideologies with which we violently disagree. Finally, he is a saint who reassures us we can trust G-d with our very lives, both in this world and the next.

This is a saint worth breaking out of our Sunday calendar to revere. For me and for many, Francis models a spiritual path worth following. And for all of us, to the degree that path incarnates the Way of Jesus, it is a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. 



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

frharry@cfl.rr.com

hcoverston.orlando@gmail.com

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d? (Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures)

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages (1993)

 © Harry Coverston 2019
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Friday, October 04, 2019

Encountering the Prince of Fools on His Feast Day


We were headed into the pet store to get our weekly rations for the three dogs and three cats currently living in our household. While I don’t credit Francis with my life-long love of animals, I was overjoyed to discover that there was a name for this kind of craziness years ago when I was introduced to the Third Order of St. Francis.

Right at the doorway to the pet store was a man sprawled out on the sidewalk. He appeared to be unconscious. Whether asleep, passed out or perhaps comatose was unclear. His body did not impede the doorway and people came in and out, some with dogs on leashes, largely ignoring him.



The Prince of Fools 

I could not ignore him.

He lay on his side at an angle to the sliding glass doors opening and closing a mere few feet away from his head. And he wasn’t moving.

As I slowed down to look at this man, my husband took off, headed to the dog food section of the PetsMart, leaving me behind. As I stood looking, I saw there before me a white, bearded man who looked a lot worse for the wear, dirty jeans and tee shirt, face on the pavement itself.

Truth be told, I could not tell if the man was dead or alive. His breathing was so shallow as to barely move his chest from the pavement. What alarmed me was a tell-tale stream of fluids from his mid-section, trickling across the sidewalk to the asphalt beyond. This man had clearly lost bodily functions, or at least a concern for them.

Francis was often called the Prince of Fools in his younger days. Prone to carousing and entertaining his bourgeois friends, no doubt Francis had himself been no stranger to awakening on the streets of Assisi, passed out, frightening passersby wondering if this young scion of Assisi was dead or simply facing the morning after another night of reveling.

What does one do in such a situation? I have virtually no medical training at all. I had no authority to rouse the man nor did he appear interested in being woken. What he did appear to be was in trouble. But I wasn’t sure whether my own clumsy interventions would be perceived – or even actually be – helpful.



I went through the doors to the check-out counter. A young woman with a beautiful name, Santina, asked me if I need help.

“Actually, I don’t but I think this guy by your door does,” I replied.  

“Oh yes, we know about him. Don’t worry. We’ve checked him out. He’s not going to hurt anyone,” she said.

I smiled.

“I’m not worried about him hurting someone else. I’m actually worried about him,” I said. “He’s lost control of his bodily fluids. And I cannot tell he’s breathing.”

The woman’s face paled and she said she would call someone to help immediately. I thanked her.

Respecting the Dignity He Had Left

At that point I left it in her hands, heading to the back of the store to find my husband. He was gathering up the last of the dog food at that point, cat food already in the cart. As he took the last cans from the shelf and began pushing his cart to the front of the store, I asked “So how do you know what to buy?” I said.

“I spend a lot of time on line trying to find healthy food they’ll eat.”

“So it’s a two step trial. One to pass the healthy food test online. Two to pass the test of whether they’ll actually eat what you buy.”

“Right.”

By now we were back up to the counters. The same woman with the kind face was there to check us out. She began ringing up our purchase.

Outside, a rather chubby African-American woman in the uniform of the shopping center’s security force had arrived on her golf cart. I went out to watch the interaction.

The guard was cautious. She shook the man to wake him and he began to try to stand up.

“Sir, are you OK?” she asked.

What the man said in response was unintelligible. But what was clear was that the security guard was insistent upon respecting his dignity. She inevitably called him sir. And, somewhat surprisingly, he responded with Ma’am each time.

Amazing what honoring the dignity of another can do, regardless of how dire the situation.

Within minutes he was up and walking, and after several assurances to her questions of whether he was OK, the officer finally left.

"I know. I was there..." 

Upon returning to the counter, I said to the woman, “I think he’s going to be OK.”
What she said then caught me completely off guard.

“You know we should not judge him,” she said. “Anyone could be in his place,” she continued.

I responded, “The statistics suggest that many of us are one paycheck, one event of being fired from our jobs, away from the streets.”

She nodded. “I know. I was there.”

She then went on to relate how her Mother had lost her job and, as a result, their house. “She had three children. We lived in the car for a long time,” she said. “I was homeless. Anyone can be.”

I didn’t ask her whether she was still living in her Mother’s car or how they had turned that around. It was none of my business. So I simply said thank you for being concerned enough to call for someone to help this man.

I then told the young woman that I was a Franciscan and that this was his feast day. “Francis truly cared about the poor,” I said. “That’s where he did most of his work.”
She smiled and said, “I didn’t know that. That’s so cool.”

Francis Smiled.... 

By now our transaction was ending. I told her once again thanks for her help with this poor soul who by now had disappeared around the corner, perhaps looking for a less traveled space to once again lose consciousness.

“Happy St. Francis Day,” I said. She repeated it back to me. But in her small act of kindness to a stranger and her willingness to relate to his desperate situation from her own life story, she had made that day more real than she could possibly have imagined.

Somehow, it seems only too appropriate that this encounter happened on the Feast of the Prince of Fools. And as I walked to the car with bags of dog and cat food in hand, I swear I could see Francis smiling.



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

frharry@cfl.rr.com

hcoverston.orlando@gmail.com

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d? (Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures)

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages (1993)

 © Harry Coverston 2019
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Thursday, October 03, 2019

READING BETWEEN THE LINES: FRANCIS OF ASSISI


READING BETWEEN THE LINES
OCTOBER 4: FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Friar and Deacon, 1181-1226

OUR TEXTS
Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV)
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.


28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Luke 10:21-22
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”


Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon 
of St. Francis of Assisi

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours,
all glory, all honor and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy
         to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially our Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful
and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You
and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be
 crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin!

Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

ENTERING THE STORY

Francis, the son of a prosperous merchant of Assisi, was born in 1182. His early youth was spent in harmless revelry and fruitless attempts to win military glory.  Various encounters with beggars and lepers pricked the young man’s conscience, however, and he decided to embrace a life devoted to Lady Poverty. Despite his father’s intense opposition, Francis totally renounced all material values and devoted himself to serve the poor. One morning in February 1208, Francis was hearing Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near which he had then built himself a hut. The Gospel of the day was the "Commissioning of the Twelve" from the Book of Matthew. The disciples are to go and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic, the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, he tied it around him with a knotted rope and went forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace. Francis' preaching to ordinary people was unusual since he had no license to do so.[3] In 1210, Pope Innocent III confirmed the simple Rule for the Order of Friars Minor (Lesser Brothers), a name Francis chose to emphasize his desire to be numbered among the “least” of God’s servants.  

            The order grew rapidly all over Europe. But, by 1221, Francis hadlost control of it, since his ideal of strict and absolute poverty, bothfor the individual friars and for the order as a whole, was found to be too difficult to maintain. His last years were spent in much suffering of body and spirit, but his unconquerable joy never failed.  In his later years he was ordained as a deacon, but he resisted all efforts to persuade him to become a priest.
          
  Not long before his death, during a retreat on Mount La Verna, Francis received, on September 14th, Holy Cross Day, the marks of the Lord’s wounds, the stigmata, in his own hands and feet and side. Pope Gregory IX, a former patron of the Franciscans, canonized Francisin 1228 and began the erection of the great basilica in Assisi where Francis is buried.  

            Of all the saints, Francis is perhaps the most popular and admired but probably the least imitated; few have attained to his total identification with the poverty and suffering of Christ. Francis left few writings;but, of these, his spirit of joyous faith comes through most truly inthe “Canticle of the Sun,” which he composed at Clare’s convent ofSt. Damian’s. [1]
A hundred years before Francis’ birth the Italian Renaissance burst forth from the Middle Ages, an epoch of the Crusades, the rise of towns and the earliest city-states in Italy.  It was the culmination of Romanesque art and the beginnings of Gothic.  It saw the emergence of vernacular literature, the revival of Latin classics and poetry and Roman law, the recovery of Greek science with Arabic additions; and the origin of the first European universities .

Legal historian Vanja Hamzić noted:
The eventful twelfth century was, in many ways, a veritable paradox. On the one hand, it saw a sudden surge in academic works and universities in western and southern Europe that sought to bridge the worlds previously thought entirely incommensurable and usher in an age of scholasticism that would eventually lead to the fourteenth- to seventeenth-century Renaissance. For this reason, it has been a staple of mediaevalist scholarship to describe those thorough-going changes as the 'renaissance of the twelfth century'. On the other hand, the same century also reads as a striking catalogue of most violent acts and disasters: from the rise of inquisition and merciless Christian infighting, over the first expulsions of Jews and the intensification of the Reconquista on Muslim Spain to the blood and gore of the Second, Third and German Crusades. Might it not be more appropriate, then, to characterize this period as an age of profound crisis, in which the true contours of a 'persecuting society' were drawn?[9]
 
British art historian Kenneth Clark wrote that Western Europe's first "great age of civilization" was ready to begin around the year 1000. From 1100, he wrote, monumental abbeys and cathedrals were constructed and decorated with sculptures, hangings, mosaics and works belonging to one of the greatest epochs of art and providing stark contrast to the monotonous and cramped conditions of ordinary living during the period. Abbot Suger of the Abbey of St. Denis is considered an influential early patron of Gothic architecture and believed that love of beauty brought people closer to God: "The dull mind rises to truth through that which is material". Clark calls this "the intellectual background of all the sublime works of art of the next century and in fact has remained the basis of our belief of the value of art until today".[8]
 
EXPLORING THE STORY

1.    Read again the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon again after hearing about the period in which Francis lived. Underline the verses that stir you in this second reading.

Vanja Hamzić says the eventful twelfth century was, in many ways, a veritable paradox. 
·         A paradox is describes as a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
·         As you hear the overview of the time of Francis’ life and his canticle what would you name as the veritable paradox?

How might his words stand in contrast with what you know about the spirituality and theology of the Middle Ages?  Where might Francis’ words have been consistent with the Italian Renaissance, whose air he was breathing all around him in Assisi and Umbria?

·         Even today there is criticism of this text and its reference to Sister Moon and Brother Wind, Air, and Fire and Mother Earth and Sister Death as being pagan.  What is the nature of something that is pagan? How might critics use the term pagan in denouncing this text? 
·         What might have been so threatening in his words? 

Imagine those who heard his words?  What do we know of the people who responded to him?  From what walks of life do you imagine these people came?

Richard Rohr, in his daily on-line meditations, has been focusing this week on the Franciscan Way, himself being a Franciscan Friar.  On Monday he wrote:

Francis’ holiness, like all holiness, was unique and never a copy or mere imitation.  In his “Testament,” he said, “No one showed me what I ought to do,” and then at the very end of his life, he said, “I have done what is mine to do; may Christ teach you what is yours!”[2]

·         Imagine yourself listening to Francis in these two statements:  How would you respond?  What permission, freedom and space, to use Rohr’s words, did Francis give his listeners?
·         How does this contrast to what we know of the Medieval Church or the Church in many ways over the last 800 years?
·          
Towards the end of his life Francis finally puts into print this canticle.  Rohr refers to the words of Francis as “his testament,” or we might say “gospel” – good news.   Rohr goes on to say

The visible world is an active doorway to the invisible world, and the invisible world is much larger than the visible world. [3]

·         What might Francis have been saying about what was hiding in his outer world?
·         What other words would you use to describe his testament/his gospel?
·         What might they have been communicating about Creation?

The Franciscan Way was a movement within the Western Church, which remember had not been torn apart by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. To understand this movement we must include Clare of Assisi if we are to comprehend the “Franciscan Way.” 


Clare was born on July 16, 1194, whose wealthy parents were descendants of ancient Roman families.  She was among the first followers of Francis.  Like Francis, who gathered many men around him, Clare gathered many women and founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order.  She wrote their Rule of Life, the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman.  After her death the order was renamed in her honor as the Order of St. Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.  The first missionaries to California were Franciscans under Fray Junipero Serra with San Francisco and Santa Clare carrying forward the memory of these two saints.

So deep was the spiritual love that Francis and Clare shared together that it was said that when they were praying together that those who were outside said it was as though the whole room was on fire.

Clare wrote:

“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God's compassionate love for others.”

What might this have added to the women and men who were becoming followers of Clare and Francis?

In John 10:7 Jesus says, “I am the gate,”, Rohr says,

Francis and Clare carried this mystery to its full and lovely conclusion.  Or more rightly, they were fully carried by the mystery. They somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depth of the here.[4]

What do you hear him saying?  What made the Way of Francis and Clare so radical in the 13th Century?  Why might it be so radical today?

2. Francis’ thoughts were revolutionary in an age of Holy Crusades and acquiring wealth, with an emphasis on the poor, the naked and the marginalized.  Francis agreed with Luke’s understanding of “perfect” as meaning merciful or compassionate. [5]

·         Where are there parallels in our world today?
·         Who are the revolutionaries who are emphasizing mercy, compassion and a preference for the poor, naked and marginalized?

 The visible world is an active doorway to the invisible world, and the invisible world is much larger than the visible world.

·         What are the doorways that they are looking through? What do we hear about what they see through the ordinary?
·         How would you describe the much larger invisible world they are pointing to?
·         What reaction do they have to people around them and beyond?  Why might that be?

What in your visible world do you know of doorways that lead to an invisible world that is much larger than the visible world?

·         How do you consider or value these doorways?  What have they meant to you in the past?  How did you regard them?
·         How have you entered them and what “world much large” did you find?
·         How has this effected your life?   How might you say that you were carried by the mystery?

What are the doorways in your visible world today might you spend more time in? 
·         What keeps you for making this a priority?

Consider setting aside a certain amount of time each day at one of these doorways and entering in.


READING BETWEEN THE LINES

Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness—and holiness. The result is deep joy and a resounding sense of coherent beauty. What was personified in the body of Jesus was a manifestation of this one universal truth: Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew. Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7). Francis and his female companion, Clare (1194–1253), carried this mystery to its full and lovely conclusion. Or, more rightly, they were fully carried by the mystery. They somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depths of here.   Discovery Anew  - R. Rohr  September 29, 2019

I hope to show what Francis of Assisi clearly changed and did differently and what flowed from his unique wholeness. We will see that Francis was at once very traditional and entirely new in the ways of holiness—a paradox. He stood barefoot on the earth and yet touched the heavens. He was grounded in the Church and yet instinctively moved toward the cosmos. He lived happily inside the visible and yet both suffered and rejoiced in what others thought was invisible. Francis was at home in two worlds at the same time, and thus he revealed it was all one world.    – One World – R. Rohr  Sept 30, 2019

Most Christians believe that God created the cosmos for our species alone and that any reference to nonhuman creation as related to us is to be taken as naïve or romantic at best, or “pagan” or “anti-Christian” at worst.  Instead, we are told to believe our species is not only the pinnacle of creation, but also the only aspect of the created order that really matters…By “birdbath industrial complex” I mean all those diffuse factors and judgments that go into keeping St. Francis a caricature of the profoundly insightful theological vision he articulated in “Canticle of the Creatures” and throughout his entire life.  Anytime we reduce the saint to a medieval petting-zoo mascot or state simply that he “loved animals” without regard for the radical truth about God and creation he intended, we are contributing to and operating according to the logic of the “birdbath industrial complex.”    

– Father Daniel P Horan, OFM “Beyond the ‘birthbath industrial complex’ is the radical St. Francis of Assisi.”  Commonweal, September 2019


[1] In part from Lesser Feasts and Fasts of the Episcopal Church. The Feast of St. Clare of Assisi is August 11.  She died in 1253.
[2] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, Monday, September 30, 2019 “One World” – Franciscan Way-Part 1
[3] Rohr, Sunday, September 29
[4] Rohr, Sunday, September 29.
[5] Father John Quigley, OFM




+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

frharry@cfl.rr.com

hcoverston.orlando@gmail.com

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d? (Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures)

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages (1993)

 © Harry Coverston 2019
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