Because it seems God chose
one so foolish and so poor
To show that only
openness to God
This poem was inspired by one of the stories about St. Francis of Assisi, a man open to nature, open to others, especially the disadvantaged and diseased, open to God.
The poem “Canticle of the Sun” was written by St. Francis of Assisi – and maybe this is one of the reasons I am so inspired by him – he was a poet!
“…Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.”
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful…”
Francis was open to nature – in a big way.
I grew up in south London, and even there I connected with brief glimpses of nature’s beauty – a kestrel hovering over a reservoir, or a stunning sunset in the skies over the less inspiring suburban sights of the London Borough of Wandsworth…
When I moved into the countryside for my first full-time job, it felt like both finding a new home, but also coming home, to a kind of spiritual feeling at home, connected, more strongly now, with nature.
Walking the Hills
The wild birds inhabit these hills
and I, a walker,
glancing down the valley
dazzled by gleaming lights
flung across the fields like necklaces
I feel connected with the wind
the grass under my feet
God’s sky above my head.
The spirituality of St. Francis, and his Franciscan brothers, was an outdoor spirituality, deeply connected with the natural world. It included praying in the woods – as above – as well as the better-known preaching to birds and talking to wolves.
It was also a felt and lived spirituality, not a dry, theoretical, abstract belief system.
In the Wood
To one praying in the wood
The word of God came
Louder than the human voice
The other saw deeper into Christ
Through his tears
Than forests of theologians.
But the poem with which I began this post – “Why him?” – draws me back to his openness to God, openness to changing his life, and openness to others, including those who were shunned by others.
There is a story about how Francis could not bear the sight of those suffering from leprosy. But through his openness, “that which was bitter became sweet”. His whole attitude of mind and heart changed.
When the sweet
Then you are
on the way,
from darkness to light.
Openness is also about the practice of contemplation, and being open to change through grace.
Like a Droplet
Your nature is absorbed
like a droplet of water
into the mighty ocean
Raised to the infinite grace
of life and love
I plunged into eternity
conscious of nothing created
Absorbed in the infinity
That ocean of light
where nothing is seen
In all things.
Openness is also about being open to others – through listening, through imaginative awareness and through compassion.
We must welcome
Who enters our lives
what we do not know
in unknown ways,
If you have read through to the end of this post, I hope you have learned something about St. Francis of Assisi, and what he means to me.
I hope I might have sparked an interest in you to find out more, and would be happy to recommend some of the books that have inspired me if you are interested.