St. Francis of Assisi and a Profound Intuition

God’s Fool ~ St. Francis of Assisi, by sculptor Frank C. Gaylord, Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery, Naperville, Illinois


St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most beloved of all the saints. Movies, books, and garden statues reflect a love for him in our modern culture. Francis’s intuition was as simple as it was difficult. Francis wanted to follow the teaching and the footprints of Jesus. To do that, Francis listened to the Gospel, especially any passage in which Jesus is speaking. Then he would ask himself, “How can I put this into practice today?” In the same way he looked for what he called the “footprints” of Jesus. These were not words but actions of Jesus in the Gospel – healing the sick, washing feet, fasting, and praying in the desert. Francis would then try to do similar things in his own life.

Living in this dramatically different countercultural way,
Francis attracted others, men and women,
single and married, to his way of life.
Francis is credited with the founding of three orders in the Church
which all still exist today.

We are invited to be inspired by the example of this humble poor saint from Assisi, lover of peace and friend to the poor and sick, and one who had a great affection for the natural world. We do not need to imitate his actions, but to be challenged ourselves to listen to the words of Jesus in the Gospel, and to remember the actions of Jesus, then trying to put these into practice in our lives and in our own way. In that way, we can consider ourselves, like thousands of people before us, friends and followers of St. Francis of Assisi.

Not-so-Hidden Meaning

Sometimes I don’t see the obvious thing right in front of my face. Have you ever seen corporate logos with ‘negative’ space or hidden symbolism? It’s right there but we often don’t see it. Do you see the hidden images in these logos? I just love searching for the hidden meaning in everyday things.

Look carefully and you can see the ‘H’ in the ‘Hidden Brain’ logo, the white arrow in ‘FedEx,’ Batman himself peeking out in the ‘Batman’ logo, the city scape in the Bronx Zoo logo – and of course the pink ‘31’ in the Baskin Robbins logo. The entire logo is present and true – for instance, it’s both an image of giraffes and the city skyline. It’s both ‘Baskin Robbins’ and it has ‘31 flavors’ of delicious ice cream.

Francis had a similar experience. Early in his life when he saw a leper he was filled with terror. Like everyone else, he’d run when he heard the familiar ringing of the leper’s bell. These were not people, but stinky ‘lepers,’ despised outcasts. One day, Francis had an ‘aha’ experience – that moment when he saw things differently. He saw things new again, as if for the first time and with perspective very different from the culture around him. Looking at the same leper, Francis now also saw the Divine. Both realities were present. Both were true. Francis saw God present in this person in front of him suffering from leprosy. He embraced the person, kissed them. Francis didn’t ignore the fact they were suffering from leprosy, but was able to look beyond that label, to transcend it, to see a deeper truth. Reflecting on this experience of Francis, we can see what it means to see the divine in each other. To see what is in front of us with a new perspective.

I invite you this summer to take a few moments each day to look at the world with a fresh set of eyes – to take a moment to see things that might have been hidden right in front of our faces. To look at the ‘other’ and to also see the Divine.

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: