Pope a new voice for simplicity, spirituality

In the newly elected Pope Francis, we have another encourager for simplicity and spirituality for our daily life.

In The Lessons of St. Francis, John Michael Talbot reminds us how we can incorporate the Franciscan traditions into our daily existence that embrace the simple virtues of humility, community, compassion, service, prayer, and creativity.

Named patron saint of ecology by the Catholic Church, Francis took the words of Jesus to his heart, understood what they meant in his mind, and found ways to practice them in his life.

Of all the words used to describe St. Francis, a most consuming one is, “compassion.” “He was ready to spend himself,” wrote Thomas of Celano.

St. Bonaventure, who wrote about Francis years later, saw the same thing. “He wanted nothing more than to spend and be spent himself, in order to fulfill the duty of being compassionate towards others.”

That’s why Francis and his friars gave to the poor, cared for the lepers, suffered persecution, and offered themselves for the benefit of others.

Theologians have debated for centuries about God’s role in human affairs. Some wonder how God allows tragedies like crime, war and famine. Others exhort that such evils prove that God doesn’t exist at all.

While Francis was no theologian, his answer to the eternal dilemma of evil was both profound and practical, and it can be summarized in four simple words: We are God’s hands.

Talbot tells of a brother praying as he walked a mountain path and he asked God, “Why do you allow poverty?” After a long silence, God answered the brother with a still, small voice that shook his soul: “Why do you allow poverty?”

God cares about our problems, and wants us to use the freedom we’ve been given to spread healing and love. We are God’s hands.

James the brother of Jesus, said that faith without words is dead. Spirituality that doesn’t reach out beyond our selfish selves is like a body without hands. Love that isn’t communicated through demonstrating acts is love unexpressed.

Like Jesus, Francis turned people’s assumptions about greatness upside down. The biographies of the saint are overflowing with examples of his servant spirit and his teachings on the importance of downward mobility.

Jesus said whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.

Our eternal fate is determined by the millions of mundane daily decisions we make through the course of our lives. If we’ve lived in sync with God’s will and served our brothers and sisters in need, we will inherit heaven.

But, that doesn’t mean we have to wait until after death to enjoy any benefits of service. Every time we help someone, we receive help from God.

Bonnie Donnelly