Looking for a Boost? Try Nature!

We’re all probably well aware of the increasing amount of time we spend with technology, in traffic, on screens and inside the office (or home office). Amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, a little bit of nature can provide a welcome respite. There’s also a growing list of the positive effects of spending time in nature, according to the American Psychological Association. Even a short while with creation is linked to benefits such as improved attention, lower stress, better mood and improvements in empathy and cooperation.

An appreciation for the world around us contributes to our overall happiness and offers an energy perk even when we’re no longer physically near natural elements. Exposure to nature, in any form and for any length of time, fosters a sense of connection to creation. And there’s good news for the environment too. People are increasingly likely to take ecological action when they feel more connected to creation.

One of our Franciscan Ministries has developed a unique way to get some time with nature as part of their commitment to Laudato Si’ and caring for creation. At the Franciscan School of Theology, Director of Student Services and Spiritual Formation Joe Lonergan offers a weekly nature meditation in a campus garden. This intentional time of silence encourages connection to the nature nearest to them and nurtures their other Laudato Si’ action steps.

Click here to read the full story in the Laudato Si’ Spirit Winter newsletter.

Key Takeaways:

  • Spending time in nature is associated with increased happiness, improved attention, lower stress, better mood, overall well-being and a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
  • Take advantage of the nature around you—both green spaces (gardens, trees, parks) and blue spaces (ocean, beaches, lakes, rivers) of any size have positive effects.
  • Even if you can’t physically get outside or to a view of nature, virtual exposure like looking at photos or videos of nature can also produce positive effects such as improvements in attention, positive emotions and the ability to reflect on a life problem. – Looking for more Laudato Si’ inspiration? Check out Laudato Si’ Spirit for a library of resources and encouragement for your journey of caring for creation.
Holy Gossip – Elizabeth of Hungary

Time Magazine recently featured a story about how people gossip – and how gossip can be a good thing! Darleen Pryds of the Franciscan School of Theology seems to agree – and shares some ‘holy gossip’ with us. Darleen proposes that our untamed and counter-cultural faith as Christians and Franciscans depends on us ‘spilling the tea, ‘ sharing our gossip, and in the process, overturning expectations.  Ready for some scandal? Listen to Darleen’s short story about St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Not only did this saint lovingly share her bed with her husband, but she also shared her bed with strangers – definitely overturning expectations! St. Elizabeth’s feast day is on November 17th.


Rose of Viterbo – Speaking Truth to Power

In September we celebrate the feast day of St. Rose of Viterbo, a fearless Franciscan lay woman. Darleen Pryds of the Franciscan School of Theology shares the story of Rose, a strong, articulate, young woman who answered the call to be a truthteller by preaching in the streets. Even as a child, she was fearless in speaking truth to power.

How to Read Someone Like a Book

A neighbor of mine recently told me that the people living in the canyon below my home are all mentally ill, carry guns, and want to be homeless. When I asked her how many homeless people she knows, she admitted that she doesn’t know any. I do, and her description doesn’t accurately describe a single one.

I don’t judge my neighbor harshly because I know that I too have all kinds of assumptions and stereotypes about people I don’t know. Franciscans focus on the uniqueness of each individual and avoid lumping people into groups based on a single characteristic. But how do we get to know individuals who are very different than us?

In Copenhagen in 2000, Ronni Abergel and his brother Dani tackled this problem by creating the first Human Library where people who have experienced prejudice volunteer to be open books. Books are available for half an hour. The ‘book’ and reader sit face to face and the reader is encouraged to ask questions, including awkward ones.

The books change based on which volunteers are available, but some common titles are:

  • Wheelchair user
  • Gave my child up for adoption
  • Transgender
  • Immigrant
  • Police person
  • Muslim
  • Polyamorous
  • Sober alcoholic
  • Schizophrenic
  • Former Gang member

There are currently Human Libraries in 80 countries including the US. Many take place in regular libraries, public gardens, and at conferences but the funding comes largely from corporations who are focused on diversity and host events where their employees can have the experience of meeting people they wouldn’t normally encounter or who they are uncomfortable with.

I am inspired by this way of getting to know people and can image that if St Francis had been born in the 2000’s he might very well be found in a human library taking to a book titled, Leper.

If you are interested in finding out more, here is a link to the organization

Introducing St. Francis Retreat Center, San Juan Bautista, California

St. Francis Retreat is a full-scale retreat and conference center, offering varied conference spaces, highly rated food service and dining room, overnight guest accommodations and various outdoor amenities. We welcome all faiths and religions, non-profits and individuals to this “Franciscan” setting to reflect, refresh and grow.

Back in 1947, our founders realized that people and groups want (and need) the time and space to push pause on their daily routine. That is why St. Francis Retreat Center was created, so our community of participants can self-reflect and reconnect with themselves in a beautiful and serene atmosphere.

To learn more, click here to visit their website.

The Best of 2021 Franciscan-style

Inspiring. Challenging. Funny. Here are the books, TV shows, movies,
and podcasts that some of our friars, ministry leaders and friends
enjoyed most this year.

Introducing Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California

Mission San Luis Rey is a national historic landmark preserving educational and cultural sites including a museum, historic church, burial grounds, with soldier barracks and Lavanderia archeological sites. Alive as ever, Mission San Luis Rey is also home to an active community of Franciscan friars, Historic Church, a gift shop, along with an operating cemetery and retreat center open to all people of good will for spiritual renewal.


Introducing St. Francis Center, Los Angeles, California

St. Francis Center’s mission is to feed, serve, and walk with the poor as a community of hope in the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Since 1972, St. Francis Center has provided relief and support to homeless and extremely low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles. Much more than a soup kitchen or a food pantry, we offer a unique range of services to sustain and empower those in need and engaging volunteer opportunities in Los Angeles. Welcoming all with joy, dignity, and compassion, we dedicate ourselves every day to Serving Hope in our community.

To learn more, watch St. Francis Center’s Impact Video 2020:

Introducing Old Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

Old Mission Santa Barbara is a community of many parts, but one spirit. The Mission has served as a gathering place and spiritual home for many since its establishment in 1786. Today the Mission operations include a museum, gift shop, cemetery and mausoleum, and several historic gardens, as well as being the home to a community of Franciscan Friars on about 15 acres. The Mission is also home base for Saint Barbara Parish, which operates under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library, a separate Franciscan-sponsored non-profit, and a Novitiate which provides the first year of educations for Friars in training from across the United States.

Old Mission Santa Barbara bears witness to the Franciscan missionary spirit through service to God and God’s people; as stewards of the Franciscan heritage in the West, we welcome all and strive to build a future based on reconciliation and justice which honors all creation and all people.

The Art of Photography


For the final edition of our “Sharing Our Artistic Gift” series, this month features the photography of Giovanni Dominguez, staff member at Mission San Luis Rey and Parish in Oceanside, California. For Giovanni, photography is a way to relax, slow down a bit, and appreciate the scenery around him. See below for a few examples of Giovanni’s night photography.




Where do you find inspiration?
Life is inspiring. Taking photos is a way of capturing moments of life to savor them and to share with others. I do natural landscapes, portraits, and event photography and they’re all about catching a moment…no two photos are the same.


Why is photography meaningful to you?
It is a way of relaxing, especially when I photograph landscapes and can spend time outside in nature. It’s also about community, not competition or being the most popular.


What is your hope for someone who sees your photographs?
I hope they get inspired to go outside and appreciate nature too. Anyone can enjoy taking photos. Photography is for everyone!


Thank you to all those who shared their artistic gifts with our Province-wide family. We hope this series has encouraged everyone in their own creative hobbies and perhaps inspired a few new ones as well.