Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

Expansive Faith

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IMG_1807It’s been an intense week for me. I attended a conference called “The Francis Factor,” which discussed the impact on our world of both St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, who took his papal name in honor of the saint. I spent hours listening to three wise teachers of the modern age: Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (where I used to work), Franciscan Sr. Ilia Delio, a professor of science and religion and author of numerous books, and The Simple Way founder Shane Claiborne who, like St. Francis, is attempting to live as Jesus did, with intention toward taking Jesus’ teachings to heart, not just in word, but also in deed.

One of the threads weaving through the conference (and there were many!) was of our universal connectedness with all of the cosmos. St. Francis’ connection with creation is often romanticized (what Richard Rohr calls Bird Bath Franciscanism), but St. Francis recognized what modern quantum physics and the reality of climate change are now bringing home to us in powerful ways: we cannot live as if we are independent beings.

Some other snippets that I gleaned from the conference include:

  • We are relational interbeings, overlapping waves like the ocean
  • The Gospel swims in an ocean of grace
  • God put skin on love in the form of Jesus
  • Evangelism is fascinating people with love
  • Our interdependence muscles are atrophied
  • Technology (the web, mobile devices) can actually help to connect us, and remind us of our integral interdependence
  • If we surround ourselves with people who are further on the journey we wish to take, they will inspire and draw us further on the road

Each of these, and many more, could become the focus for many days of prayer. So often, I’ve found myself attending a conference, taking notes, then filing them away and forgetting. This time I intend to keep some of these at the forefront of my heart. I also bought some books to read, to explore these ideas in more depth.

On a different, but very related, note, I also learned this past week of the death of one of my former spiritual directors, the Rev. Eldridge Pendleton, SSJE. Like St. Francis, he paid attention to all of creation, including the least, the last, and the lost, and found grace and beauty everywhere. While I mourn his passing, and it’s been many years since I have seen him in person, I recognize our interdependence and know that he helped to shaped me as a spiritual director and a child of God, even as I once wove him a stole for his ordination. That mutual giving and receiving is a powerful image of our intertwined universe, in which each of us plays a vital part.

This week, I invite you to choose one of the snippets or images in this blog, take it to prayer each day, and see where it takes you. Feel free to share snippets of your own journey here.

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