Francis - Saint & Pope : Saving Us and the Earth

Spirituality, October 14, 2020

Expansive wellbeing is not a new concept. Over 800 years ago St. Francis of Assisi embodied the message. Pope Francis is carrying on the Saints work. Live in harmony with each other and the natural world. A timely reminder.

Saint Francis of Assisi is one of my spiritual hero's. A man that championed a simple life, living in harmony with others and the natural world. Francis of Assisi lived the lost message of Jesus Christ; a way of living that was unacceptable to the Roman Empire when Christianity was taken on as the state religion. The present day head of the Catholic church and one of the most recognised, and respected spiritual leaders of our time, has picked up the mantle from his name sake promoting the message once again.  

 

When Francis of Assisi was praying about taking on a profitable family business he heard God's voice.........“Go and restore my house - it is laying in ruins”  Was this the church? Was this the planet? He made a decision to live simply, more in harmony with others and the natural world - taking on board the example Jesus set, along with his direct followers after his death - the Ebionites  (In Aramaic/Hebrew  ’to become poor’). This spiritual message that is 'lost in translation' over the last 2500 years is WE HAVE TO LIVE SIMPLY & in better harmony with each other and creation. WE HAVE TO CONSUME LESS. We have to add more than we take from our surroundings otherwise our ‘house’ will fall down. When our natural world is no longer functioning as it is designed too the most vulnerable will suffer the greatest, and will be the ones to suffer first. 

 

A complete transformation in mindset and lifestyle is called for. Over 800 years ago Francis of Assisi started a new order of men dedicated to the common good. He wanted to follow God's direction and look after the vulnerable along with our natural world. The deeper message is more expansive than a church building. The church was never about a building it was about people. It was more than just a group in a place - it was all of us in this place - OUR planet.  As Pope Francis stated “The world today is mostly deaf” He asks us to get closer with each other and be more involved in people’s life’s.  “Talk little, listen a lot, say just enough, look people in the eye....we must all consider to become a little poorer so more have enough. This is something we must all do......Poverty (or simple living) is at the centre of the gospels” Pope Francis

 

Jesus told us in the gospels that no one can serve two masters. Being enslaved to money leaves little room for service for a greater purpose. Unfortunately our economic framework is driven by capitalistic intent - money, and profit is held in greater esteem than the common workers rights, and the health of the natural world. Our soil and oceans are suffering due to the intense, excessive way we do industry.  I still find it baffling that so many people with the label of Christian subscribe to this materialistic way of being - a way that is in total contradiction to the central teachings of Jesus Christ; the religions name sake. Things are not going well when the air, soil, water, and all living beings of creation are under permanent threat. We need to say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality where money rules and the present economy destroys Mother Earth (In this article I discuss the importance of soil health https://everfit.co.nz/articles/support-nature-to-heal-us)

 

The poorest are the ones who suffer the most from the plundering of the earth. They are discarded by society forced at the same time to live on leftovers, and have to suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. These phenomenon correspond to today’s widespread and growing culture of waste.  All things should live in harmony. Humans require clean air and water as the basis of wellbeing- anything that goes drastically against this is bad for individual and planetary health. Francis of Assisi understood that our relationship with the natural world is out of balance. We are looking at the relationship upside down - we are it’s caretakers not its master. We must care for “Sister earth” as Saint Francis called her. Who is the poorest of the poor? - "I would say Mother Earth. We have plundered her" stated Pope Francis when questioned about this in 2018. 

 

Pope Francis explains the way to escape this consumerism, this corruption, this competitiveness, being enslaved to money. He discusses the 3 Ts

 

1)Trabajo (work) - working on your giftings to create/add to the world NOT to destruct/take away. “When you don’t earn the bread you lose your dignity - lack of work robs us of our dignity” 
2)Tierra (land) - cultivating and caring for the land. We are called to steward the natural world NOT destroy it. 

3)Techo (roof) - home, and family. We have to be more expansive with this - our planet is our home, and all within the earth are our extended family. 

 

“How good is it to be welcomed with love, generosity and joy. When we are generous in welcoming people, and sharing with them some food, a place in our homes, our time, we are no longer poor - we are enriched.” Pope Francis

 

At times, the speed of the modern world, its frenzy, keeps us from listening well to what others are saying. We want to jump in with an answer before they have finished taking. We must not lose the capacity to listen.  Francis of Assisi and the Pope today were and are listeners. They listen to the voice of God, the voice of the poor, the voice of the sick, and to the voice of nature. They transformed all this into a culturally different way of living. Much like Jesus did before them. We live with the accelerator down from morning to night. This ruins mental, spiritual, and physical health. More so it affects and destroys families and therefore society. This state of 'busyness' can lead to a dehumanisation.  We have to guard against the globilisation of indifference which leads us to slowly get used to the suffering of others as if it was something normal. Inequality in economic terms creates marginalisation. Biosphere breakdown (climate change, deforestation, ocean acidification, pollution, pandemics, population increase) causes war and food scarcity - this in turn creates migrants searching for a better way to live. Wouldn't we do the same if our family faced violence and starvation? The process of integration is difficult. There is the challenge of differences. Differences always scare us because it is uncomfortable and it makes us grow. Uniformity doesn't allow for growth. It doesn't scare us. 

 

'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is.' Romans 12:2

 

800 years ago Francis of Assisi traveled to the holy lands during the Crusades - the most ravaging war of his time. He put his life on the line to create peace between Christianity and Islam. He put himself at great risk by going to the highest authorities in the Islamic world, the Sultan of Egypt to broker peace. The Sultan was impressed with the Saints moral clarity, and simple living. After the conversation the sultan let Francis go unharmed with each man learning from the other. They were able to talk about God fraternally. We are all children of Abraham - therefore we are all brothers and sisters (check out my article on the connection between Islam and Christianity https://everfit.co.nz/articles/the-beautiful-connection-between-judaism-christianity-and-islam) We need to stop labeling and start conversing. It is a shame to define ourselves by attacking someone else's way of viewing the world.  None of us is an island, autonomous and independent from others. We can only build the future together without the exclusion of anyone. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would usher in equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be while we spend billions on discovering faraway planets, we spent time on rediscovering the needs of our brothers and sisters who are orbiting around us presently

 

Our worlds leaders need to take some pointers from Francis - of Assisi and the Pope. They need to look to build bridges rather than walls. The more powerful you are the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more you are called to be humble. Otherwise your power will ruin you, and you will ruin others.  Tenderness and kindness is not weakness, it is strength. Tenderness makes us use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to hear from those who are afraid of the future. Having expansive kindness and compassion also allows us to listen to the silent cry of our common home - our sick polluted, and dying earth. 

 

If more of us take lessons from the past and present that create authentic well-being for ourselves and the planet then change will happen. Our most vulnerable need us in the top 20% to live more simply. Our planet needs us to live with less consumption and waste. Our souls health needs us to live in harmony with the natural world, and not be corrupted by money and the 'profit at all cost' economic systems that have pervaded all aspects of operation.  We rush around trying to keep up with the mythical Jones's. It's time to slow down, live lighter, be more, and care more. Our worth is not wrapped up in where you live, what you own, and the titles you have. Our worth is determined by the actions we take to positively impact on our vulnerable, and the 'love in action' we show in action for our extended family and our home. 

Please check out my book 'Holistic Human' for more information on expansive wellness habits https://www.amazon.com/Holistic-Human-Enhancing-Expansive-Wellness-ebook/dp/B08DTL813Y/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=holistic+human&qid=1596336710&s=books&sr=1-1 

 

References

 

Books

For the Love of Soil – strategies to regenerate our food production system (2019) by Nicole Masters
 
The Garden Jungle – Gardening to save the planet (2019) by Dave Goulson 
 

Doughnut Economics – Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (2017) by Kate Raworth

The Lost Religion of Jesus Christ (2000) by Keith Akers
 
Disciples - How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church (2013) by Keith Akers
 
A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (2005) by Eckhart Tolle.

 

Netflix

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018) Produced, co-written, and directed by Wim Wenders