St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

         St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)            (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Franciscan Realism and honesty both fascinates and challenges humankind today. Many want to identify with, and connect with Francis and his story. From Franciscan Spirituality we can derive naïve spiritual honesty. This Spirituality is not a matter of superficial and spontaneous naivety, but rather one of depth and commitment. Franciscan Spirituality does not constitute the point of departure, but rather the point of arrival, through hard work which separates out deceitful passions and resolves itself in a heart-filled benediction or bowing in obeisance before the whole of creation. Only when we walk in the footprints of Brother Francis will we be able to transcend from worldly frivolities to mystic introspection. The Franciscan Revolution has a solution to the Ecological Disconnect of today. Franciscan Spirituality is a Spirituality of Relationships.


Cover of "Brother Sun, Sister Moon"

Cover of Brother Sun, Sister Moon



Francis related to all of God’s creatures which is why, he could colloquy with Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, Sister Water, Brother Fire, Sister Mother Earth and even Sister Death. Way back in the 13th century Francis (1182-1226) was aware that the Cosmos was not a collection of objects but a communion of subjects. He was part of a whole-the huge cosmos.



This realism that Francis comprehended made him come across to others as a great paradoxical figure. Hailing from a rich cloth merchant’s family, he chose to dump it all and embrace Sister Poverty. Being a man of passion who loved women, he willingly vowed his life to chastity. By temperament he was an artist, who loved the pleasures of the natural world, yet he decided to live an austere life. He was willing to give up everything, to the extent of portraying himself as clown, who stood on his head in order to see the world aright and he did see the cosmos aright! Yet he often described himself as God’s fool. Only posterity can decipher that he was not mad, but a sane creature who comprehended God’s ways.


St. Francis leads the Wolf to Gubbio

St. Francis leads the Wolf to Gubbio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Francis knew that in the great adventure of life on Earth all of God’s creatures have a role to play. Every species has its place. No one is either useless or harmful. We all balance one another. It was this deep insight that compelled Francis to say, “Let the Sister Weeds grow”- being the first human to call the weeds, Sister Weeds and to care for them too, to grow. This realism encouraged the Holy Cross Hazaribagh sisters in Bettiah (North India) to decide during their National Chapter in 2009 to create a “Franciscan Forest” by setting aside 5 acres of land for natural growth. Like Francis they believe that all of God’s creatures have a right to grow and bloom including the weeds, the mosquitoes, the snakes, the rats, the worms et al.



In a Spirituality of Relationships all our problems can be sorted out, by talking with each other, by adjusting and accommodating, thus giving space to all. Francis set the example. When the wolf of Gubbio troubled the villagers, to the extent that they all lived in fear and trepidation, the villagers decided to complain to Francis. Francis who had attained the ability of communicating with all God’s creatures, gently called the wolf and explained to him, how his bad behaviour had become a source of nuisance for the villagers. The wolf bowed down in shame and humility before Francis. It was finally amicably settled and agreed upon that the wolf and the villagers live together in peace and harmony. The villagers gave the wolf food and he stopped terrorising them. What was more, it is reported that when the wolf died, the whole village cried for him. He had become a part of the village family. A strong bond was created between him and the villagers. We too need to create strong bonds with Mother Earth, feel for her and care for her and cry with her and with all other creatures of God.


Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendic...

Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendicant Order of Friars Minor, as painted by El Greco.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



As we celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, the Patron of Ecology on 4th October 2012, let us adopt the Hindu and Bahai ideology of Vasudhaivakutumbakam-the whole world is one big family. Let us make the Franciscan Spirituality of Relationships a reality in our lives by reducing our carbon footprint, increasing our Hand Print and living in peace and harmony with all around.



Dr (Sr) Mudita Menona Sodder RSCJ



(With Inputs from Dr (Fr) Robert Athickal SJ, Director Tarumitra Bio-Reserve, Patna.



25th September 2012
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  1. Phil Kenkre said,

    September 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Do not generalize issues to include others (We) when you are expressing your opinion. You have made your point clear that you are unable to compromise with your conscience, because of the doubt held down in your egoistic self.
    Sure you are aware the church has made a vernacular approach to its services and traditions prevailing in different regions in the world, Indian or otherwise. The Almighty is but One Universal Truth. Its mankind who differentiates every issue to suit his superior thinking.


  2. October 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

    […] Franciscan Realism ( […]


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