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Creation and Connectedness
Creation and Connectedness

A Grateful Disposition

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving Day (USA)

Father Richard describes the gratitude that flows from Francis of Assisi’s relationship with nature and God:

I don’t think that Western civilization realizes what a high price we pay for separating ourselves from the natural world. One of the prices is certainly a lack of a sort of natural seeing or contemplation. My Lenten six-week retreats in solitude and nature invariably re-situated me in God’s universe, in God’s providence and plan. I felt realigned with what is. I knew I belonged and was thereby saved!

Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) praises the creatures because of the Creator. He praises God through the world. It’s easy to imagine him looking at the stars and wondering, “If these are the creatures, what must their Creator be like?”!

For Francis, animals and nature are addressed not merely as animals and nature, but as spiritual beings who are part of the necessary harmony, the connectedness. Francis himself is part of a great chain of being and he has no doubt that the other-than-humans are endowed with a kind of comprehension. He has no hesitation in talking to them—not in a cute or poetic way, but in a sort of sustained homiletic fashion.

In most of his talking to the created world, Francis sees an interdependence between the different layers of creation, and he always praises them for what they give one another. In a sermon addressed to birds, Francis said,

Birds, my sisters, you owe God a great deal. You ought to praise [God] always and everywhere for the freedom you have to fly everywhere, … for your ornate and colorful clothing, … for the song given to you by your Creator.… You neither sow nor reap, yet God feeds you. [God] gives you the rivers and springs for drink; the mountains and hills, the rocks and crags as refuges; the high trees for nests; and even though you do not know how to sew or weave, he gives you and your children the clothing you need. Therefore, your Creator who gave you all these benefits, loves you very much. You be careful, my little birds, don’t be ungrateful, but try to praise God always. [1]

The birds are to live in gratitude, which, of course, undoubtedly reflects the disposition of Francis’ own soul. We also see in the “Canticle of the Creatures” that Francis claims all the world as family. Everything becomes brother or sister. I think that comes out of a mystical and contemplative insight that recognizes we are all part of this great chain of being, that these are brothers and sisters, and therefore we may not disrespect them. God loves these creatures. God has given them so many good things. Of course, the assumption is that since God loves them, they are objectively lovable; therefore, we are to love them. This becomes the beginning of Francis’ universal worldview: all created things are a mirror that reflects the Creator.  

[1] The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions16, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, The Prophet(New York: New City Press, 2001), 469–470.  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Christianity and the Creation: A Franciscan Speaks to Franciscans,” in Embracing Earth: Catholic Approaches to Ecology, ed. Albert J. LaChance and John E. Carroll (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994), 132–133, 134–135.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Alma Thomas, Red Abstraction (detail), 1959, oil on canvas. Loïs Mailou Jones, Shapes and Colors (detail), 1958, watercolor on paper. Madison Frambes, Untitled 4 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

The squares, circles, triangles, reds, blues, yellows, patterns and textures are all part of the same great whole.

Story from Our Community:  

I have been receiving and reading the Daily Meditations for a few years now. Finding the CAC and Richard Rohr was one of the best things that happened to me. Today’s meditation on Gratitude came at the perfect time. I have really been struggling with the things that are going on in the world at this time—just typing that brought tears to my eyes. I have wondered what I can do from my small town to help change things. Being reminded of the power of gratitude and how it can move from my heart to action was just what I needed. Thank you! —Lora C.

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