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Brothers and Sisters to All

Simplicity

Brothers and Sisters to All
Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My brothers, my sisters, God has called me to walk in the way of humility, and showed me the way of simplicity. . . . The Lord has shown me that he wants me to be a new kind of fool in the world, and God does not want to lead us by any other knowledge than that.  —Francis of Assisi [1]

Franciscan prophecy is at its core “soft prophecy”—which is often the hardest of all! Rather than criticize and shame the evils of his time, St. Francis simply lived differently and let his lifestyle be his sermon. This way of life is counter to the ways of the world, a kind of “holy foolishness” that doesn’t make logical sense to our consumer, quid-pro-quo economy.

My father Francis is probably the poster child for the way of simplicity. It is only fitting that his namesake, Pope Francis, turned to him in the introduction to his encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home:

10. . . I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. . . . He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

11. . . Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason.” [2] His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’” [3] . . . If we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled. [4]

Saints and mystics do not know things subject to object, but they know things subject to subject, center to center, two dignities mirroring one another.

Gateway to Silence:
Live simply so that others may simply live.

References:
[1] Regis J. Armstrong, Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. 2, The Founder (New City: 2000), 132-133.
[2] Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis, I, 29, 81, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. 1 (New York-London-Manila: 1999), 251.
[3] The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 6, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. 2 (New York-London-Manila: 2000), 590.
[4] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (Libreria Editrice Vaticana: 2015), paragraphs 10 and 11.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 33, 41.

Image credit: Claude Monet in Argentuil (detail), Édouard Manet, 1874.
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