Adoration: The Franciscan heart of a connected creation
by Sarah Hennessey, FSPA
We are called to live out our lives in the steps of St. Francis, with a full awareness of how deeply we are interconnected with all creation. How does our Franciscan heart influence the way we live loving presence both in the chapel and in our lives?
Francis of Assisi saw Christ in every bird, river and person around him, and it led him to a more radical trust in God. I was eating with some people at a local soup kitchen and asked them where they planned to sleep that night. A man replied, “In the arms of Jesus.” I didn’t understand, but he continued, “When you go to your warm bed tonight, I am going to just wrap myself in the arms of Jesus to sleep. I don’t know where that may be, but I know for sure that God will be holding and protecting me.”
He sounds like a modern day Francis of Assisi. For Francis, God is fundamentally the gift-giver. One way to understand how completely God gives to us is through the images of the crib, cross and altar:
Crib—God becomes human to make visible God’s love.
Cross—On the cross Jesus unites us totally with God’s love.
Altar—Through Eucharist we participate actively in God’s love here and now.
God chooses to become a child. God has become flesh because he loves us, to get closer to us, to make visible what we could never imagine—the beauty and humility of God. This is the distinctive Franciscan insight. Jesus came not to fix sin, but because God’s love overflowed so much he wanted to be intimately one with us. This past Christmas, the nativity scene in Assisi was made out of a 21-foot boat used by refugees to escape to the island of Lampedusa. When Pope Francis lit the scene in the presence of 31 refugees and the Italian Coast Guard he reminded us that Jesus is the sign of our hope. We are all in the same boat. In the face of the baby Jesus, in the mother clutching her child to safety, or in the strong arms that helped guide them to shore, we can see and experience God’s tender care.
Through his death and resurrection, Christ makes all of creation family. In the canticle, Francis of Assisi addresses “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon” not as quaint metaphors, but because Christ has changed the whole order of the world. All creation is holy. All creation praises God. All creation is our family. Each grain of sand can reveal Christ in the very structure of the universe, so our task is to reverence the cosmos as family and work toward its fulfillment.
Through Eucharist, we receive God so radically that we ourselves become praise. We are the very Body of Christ in this moment. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis says, “The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration: in the bread of the Eucharist, ‘creation is projected toward divinization, toward the holy wedding feast, toward unification with the Creator himself.’” On the altar we are given back to God with all creation as our family, totally one with Christ.
"To be Franciscan means that participating in Christ’s body is not an activity relegated to the chapel. Adoration is never just our holy hour. We become part of that furnace of Divine Love which infects our every choice into a constant sharing of God’s extravagant love."
- Sarah Hennessey, FSPA
Francis of Assisi shows us the way to live adoration. Following in his footsteps means reverencing the web of which we are a part, so that we act wisely and live justly, in grateful awe for Earth’s abundance. Through the crib, cross and altar, Christ has reiterated the joy and urgency of becoming one with all creation. We are called, then, as reverent witnesses, to fully embrace the family of creation. Recognizing our deep kinship with all creation leads us to act radically to protect our loved ones—to see not stranger, homeless, refugee but brother, sister, kin. In the chirping robin and the heartrending journey of the refugee, in our own daily domestic joys and sorrows, we are all, at the end of the day, sleeping in the arms of Jesus.