St Francis of Assisi is perhaps the world’s most well-known and best-loved saint. But the popular postcard perception of the man doesn't quite tap the true worth of his wisdom for our modern times, writes Br Samuel SSF.
The rich young man who gave away all his possessions (and some of his father’s too!) to go and live among lepers, the nature mystic who preached to the birds, the peace-maker who travelled to Muslim lands to try and convert the Sultan of Egypt, the contemplative who, towards the end of his life, received in his body the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s Passion – all this and more puts Francis among the Top Ten of saints; even school children know about him.
But there’s a danger in popularity; Francis’ story is easy to sentimentalize; plastic statues with doves abound, and his romantic appeal can make him a kind of ideal ‘true Christian’ on behalf of the rest of us, ‘if only everyone was like St Francis’ etc.
In fact I believe that Francis has something much more important to offer us than surrogate sanctity, something that is particularly significant and even essential at this point in history when the world is facing a future precariously balanced between hope and disaster.
Through the small collection of his own writings and through the chronicles of his life written by others, and also through the writings of those who were influenced by him, most especially the medieval theologians St Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus, who developed a Franciscan tradition of theology and spirituality, Francis offers us a way of seeing the world that is different from our own.
It’s a way which, on the one hand, is critical, even subversive, of much in our western contemporary culture, and yet at the same time it’s emphatically world-affirming rather than world denying.
It’s this different way of seeing which I believe can offer wisdom for a global future and which I want to share with you in this lecture. I’m not suggesting that this will be exclusively ‘franciscan’; it will resonate, I hope, with other traditions and disciplines, with poets, artists, theologians, environmentalists and people of different faiths...
Read full reflection: A Franciscan View of Creation – wisdom for a world going mad by Br Samuel SSF (www.franciscans.org.uk)
Seven centuries of St Francis - Michael McGirr (Madonna Magazine)
IMAGE credit: St Francis and the Birds painted by the Franciscan, Br Patrick Henigan / from Madonna Magazine.