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St. Francis: A Message for our Times...Beyond the birdbath images

I consider Franciscan Father Richard Rohr my most influential guide to the spiritual journey. In the mid-1970's, I was led to him after Timothy Leary's sidekick at Harvard - Richard Alpert, in his transformed state as Ram Dass, in his classic "Be Here Now," introduced me for the first time to a loving version of what many people refer to as


In the ensuing decades, Fr. Richard has helped widen my vision to see "G-d" in so many more places than when I first set out on the journey. My role in this post is to provide some bread crumbs that might nourish someone's interest in learning more...

Oh...It was his book on addiction: "Breathing Underwater" that led me to the rooms of the 12 Steps. I've mentioned this in several posts.

St. Francis: A Message for Our Times (10/4/20 to 10/10/20)

Beyond the Birdbath

[from the opening paragraphs] When considering the offer to write this blog, it dawned on me how little I knew about Saint Francis: a wild youth, disowning his father and his inheritance, conversing with a wolf and surrounded by birds. There had to be more than sentimental stories to have such a Franciscan legacy and a popularity among the people. And so began my homework!

St. Bonaventure described Francis as “searching for God and finding him in all the broken places of humanity.” For Francis, holiness required an active engagement with the poorest of persons and attention to all of creation. He desired to live in close proximity to those excluded from society, but no one—rich or poor, saint or sinner—was excluded from his care.

Francis is the saint of “universal fraternity,” the brother of all. He did not believe in hierarchy or any type of superiority. His brothers vowed obedience, not to Francis, but to the Gospel way of life. Francis saw Christ in everything and everyone. All people, all creatures and all creation deserved respect because all reflected the God who made them. Our modern tendency to see humans as the center of creation would not please Francis. His Canticle of the Creatures makes clear the importance of all of creation—humans too, but not exclusively: “I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.”

[from the opening paragraph] Last week, in an effort to continue commemorating and drawing attention to the "Season of Creation," I tweeted the following remark: "Humans are called to care for our Sister Mother Earth, not because she was created for our sole use and domination, but because we as a species have uniquely sinned in abusing her and her other inhabitants. For our ecological sins, Lord Have Mercy! #SeasonOfCreation."

[another segment] A few years back, while delivering a homily at a Los Angles Religious Education Congress liturgy with the theme of "care of the earth," I coined a phrase to explain the origins and perpetuation of this popular vision of St. Francis as a harmless romantic who loved animals: the "birdbath industrial complex."

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 his "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."

St. Francis called all creatures — and not merely those nonhuman animals we classify as sentient, but rocks and trees alike — his sisters and brothers because, in a real sense, they are.

Saint Francis the Mystic

[from the opening paragraph] Francis of Assisi was a simple man from a merchant class family who knew the world of business and rejected an economy of money because it divided people into classes. His father was a cloth merchant and owned a shop in Assisi where Francis worked for some time. He was not only familiar with the daily business of buying and trading cloth but he came into contact with many different types of people--farmers, craftsmen, artists, bakers--people who worked with their hands and valued the material things of the earth. After being wounded in battle, he had a spiritual conversion and began to pray in broken down churches.


Related Post about Francis


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