Summer Spirituality

As I see it, summer is a great time to connect to creation and explore Franciscan values in nature. Dewitt Jones, photographer and speaker, explores seeing the ordinary as extraordinary.  He indicates that we are all creative beings, but most of us never explore the opportunities right in front of us.

Dewitt Jones says, "... most of us simply don’t think of ourselves as being creative. For most of us, creativity is something difficult to define and even harder to implement." 

I think that spending time in creation and connecting to nature can help each of us to explore a more creative side of ourselves. Some ways to do that include: sit on the ground at a park, sit with your back against a tree and observe, walk a path, hike a trail, play in the sand, explore the water, or sit on your porch and look up.  

Take the opportunity to pray, meditate, discern, reflect, think, contemplate, or daydream! 

Some writings to help you get started.

Nature is our partner in the truest sense of the word.  The Earth, animals and plants do more than meet our daily physical needs; they are our spiritual brothers and sisters.  They not only do the obvious, feed us and befriend us, but they also help us reach greater heights and understanding, health and spirituality. 

Partnering with nature means understanding that nature reflects the ultimate creative compassionate force in the universe.  Divinity is not of some other place but is found on Earth…in the gentle wind, the life-giving water, the animals, and the plants all around us.

Partnering with nature means opening up to an ongoing conversation, listening to and learning from everything, from the smallest living being to the Earth herself.  We are not meant to exist in isolation as a species.  The path we are meant to take is with all other life on Earth.

Partnering with nature means changing our underlying beliefs about our role in relation to nature and other living things.  It means learning new ways of living and working by applying nature’s wisdom.  It means learning to live closer to the rhythm of the Earth.

(Catrioni Macgregor, Partnering with Nature, The Wild Path in Reconnecting with the Earth)

 

God wills the interdependence of creatures.  The sun and the moon, the cedar tree and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow, the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tell us that no creature is self-sufficient.  Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other in the service of each other.

We are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.  As believers, we do not look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which God has linked us to all beings. This awareness can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm in resolving the world’s problems.

 (Excerpts from the Encyclical by Pope Frances, Laudato Si::On Care for Our Common Home)

 

We have a duty to the earth on which we live.  We are like farmers who inherited from our ancestors a great area of fertile land, a land which can either become fruitful with useful plants and trees that bring forth luscious food, beauty and life or it can go to waste and be filled with weeds and briars. If we care for this land, bless it and pray for it, as well as till it, seed and water it, it becomes a land of beauty and richness.  And then it nourishes us in return. If we neglect this land, it becomes barren, unable to feed or nourish us with its beauty.

                                                                    (Agnes Sanford, Creation Waits)

Living As An Easter People

So, how do we live our lives as an “Easter people?”

For me, I find it helpful to look to St. Francis who was known for many abstract thoughts in his life and how he lived his faith out loud.  In my very basic understanding of Franciscan spirituality, Francis recognized several elements that he would follow.  He found Jesus in the cradle, the incarnation of God, and he embraced the humble child, learning also to embrace everything in creation.  Francis vowed to follow Jesus, the humble servant of the Gospels.  Bonaventure wrote, “Francis the model of humility, wanted his friars to be called Minor and the superiors of his Order to be called servants, in order to use the very words of the Gospel which he had promised to observe….”   Francis was also led to Christ through the cross and resurrection. He especially lived the way of the cross, embracing the Paschal mystery to live in the Kingdom.  

I think that being an Easter people means to live in love, and the best way I know how to do this is reflected in the following letter from Paul to the Colossians:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”       ~Colossians 3:12-17

Living Franciscan spirituality, Francis is so much more than just a friend to the animals.

At the beginning of a new year it’s time to make plans and change how we see the gifts that St. Francis shared with us.   The Catholic social teachings reflect the life of St. Francis or how St. Francis lived and followed in Jesus’ footsteps.  The Catholic social teachings provide a summary of what it’s like to live out Franciscan spirituality.  
St. Francis, known as the patron Saint of Ecology, often is underestimated simply because of his relationship with the animals. However, he also had great respect for all of creation, people in the world, and he understood that we who inhabit the earth must care for the earth.  Francis embraced his relationship with all of creation as reflected in the Canticle of Creatures and he recognized the way to treat all people as we see in his Peace Prayer. 

Quotes are from the seven principles of Catholic social teaching as defined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

1.       Dignity of the human person: “The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.”

2.      Call to family, community and participation: “The person is not only sacred but also social…   seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

3.      Rights and Responsibilities: “Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency”

4.      Preferential Option for and with people who are poor: “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.”

 5.      Dignity of work and the rights of workers: “Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.”

6.      Solidarity: “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace.”

 7.      Care for God’s Creation: “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.”

The Canticle of the Creatures  by St. Francis of Assisi

Most High, All-powerful, All-Good, Lord! 
All praise is Yours, 
all glory, all honor
And all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong. 
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through all that You have made, 
And first my lord Brother Sun, 
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him. 
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor! 
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars; 
In the heavens You have made them, bright
And precious and fair.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, 
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods, 
By which You cherish all that You have made.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through Sister Water, 
So useful, lowly, precious, and pure.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire, 
Through whom You brighten up the night. 
How beautiful he is, how gay! 
Full of power and strength.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother, 
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits and colored flowers and herbs.

All praise be Yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon
For love of You; through those who endure
Sickness and trial.

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

All praise be Yours, my Lord, 
through Sister Death-of-the-Body, 
From whose embrace no mortal can escape. 
Woe to those who die in mortal sin, 
Happy those She finds doing Your holy will! 
The second death can do no harm to them.

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

 

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me bring your love,
Where there is injury your pardon Lord,
And where there’s doubt true faith in you.

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive.
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.