We’ve got to give the material world back its power, its importance, its soul, and its sacredness. This whole earth is indeed a “land of enchantment” as we here call New Mexico. St. Francis would not step on a little worm knowingly, but would pick it up and place it by the side of the road.
Francis of Assisi is the first known Christian to openly address creatures with the relational titles of “brother” and “sister.” Animals, sun, moon, plants and the very air were soulful and mutual subjects for him and not just objects for his use. One cannot overemphasize the importance of this to a world that severely suffers from what Richard Louv calls NDD, “nature deficit disorder.” We forgot how to read and reverence the first Bible of God.
Such reverential seeing will lead to the beginnings of true enlightenment, love for that tree, joy in that animal, awareness in that breeze, God in that pain. Soon you yourself wonder what this communion is that is passing back and forth between you and everything else. I will tell you. It is the largest and the very best “communion of saints.”
Richard Rohr, adapted from the Medicine and Ministry conference (out of print)
It seems to me that this is the basis for all we do as Franciscans in relation to the creation in which we find ourselves. It contains no easy answers, nor pre-packaged solutions, to questions about vegetarianism, sustainable agriculture, or environmental renewal—but it does give us room to think, to try things out, with God’s word his lamp to our feet, his light for our path. Truly God has not left us all alone in the world. The blind watchmaker is just a nightmare. The creation in which we live may be broken and wounded since its very beginning, just as we ourselves are, but by the cosmic healing of the Cross (Colossians 1:20), we who are redeemed become floodgates through which God’s love, and his mercy, can flow into the world (Romans 8:18-25).
I find myself thinking yet again of the Hilfield Project: it is tiny, sometimes messy, always hard work and always joyful. By itself, it is next to nothing compared with the huge acreages of commercial agriculture, and the endless harm of the petrochemical industry—and yet it is of far greater significance than its surface appearance. It is God’s little laboratory in the Dorset hills—a place where we can see what might happen when his mercy extends to our life on the land and in the world.