A Spirituality of Sacred Siblings
The Canticle of the Creatures was written by St Francis of Assisi at the end of his life. It gives us an insight into a spirituality distilled in the unfolding of his life.
When we pray the Canticle we can feel as if we are being immersed into a deep wisdom that is known and embraced in the deepest part of us. The Canticle invites us to both expansiveness and humility as it opens our vision to the possibility of that interconnectedness which is at the heart of the unfolding universe, and which invites us to remember our place within the vast immensity of space.
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory,
and the honour, and all blessing,
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with
coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who
give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
The Canticle reminds us of the two great insights that were integral to Francis’s spirituality. The first insight is the simplicity of his recognition that the created world is the first revelation of God. Creation, the entire cosmos, is God’s handiwork and it is also God’s dwelling place. The spark of divine presence which flares forth from all of creation can be recognised in the elements of the earth and in all of the creatures that live upon her. The spark of the divine can also be experienced in the expression of our highest selves through respect, openness, forgiveness and acceptance. The second insight is that acceptance of kinship with all that is created challenges us to a deep loving concern for the well-being of every other sibling in God’s family.
Francis’ Canticle invites us to remember that gratitude for the gift of creation is not enough. As sisters or brothers to the earth, the wind, the flowing waterways, and every living thing, we have a family responsibility to actively care for and protect our “family” members. We must live in such a way as to ensure their well-being as we do our own.
Today our own praise expands to embrace revelations of kinship unknown to Francis. Since humans first ventured into space our understanding of the universe has expanded exponentially. Francis was a man of his time and knew only the world he saw around him. His gift was not so much that he saw far into the horizons of the universe, but that he saw every person and every aspect of creation with eyes of faith and so recognised and loved the other as kin.
Today our vision has been sharpened by telescope and space craft and we see sacred siblings unknown in Francis’ time. We see with greater clarity the immensity of all that has unfolded across billions of years, and know the creative energy that continues to flare forth in its work of expansion and creation. As we look at the pictures of our earth home, floating like a tiny speck of dust in the vastness of space we learn a new humility.
Let us give praise for the unfolding universe story and for the new relationship between science and spirituality. Let us give praise for our new siblings, the galaxies, black holes, unseen matter and energy, the supernova and exploding stars, the colours of deep space in its unfolding. Let us also give thanks for the consciousness of mystery and meaning and for the possibility for expansion within ourselves. All praise to you Most Holy Mystery in all the sacred siblings of this universe.
The writings of so many of the great mystics of the Church, St Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich) reveal an implicit understanding of the new spirituality that is unfolding in our own time. Centuries before, their communion with God, led them to understand the mysteries of God’s presence in the whole of the created world.
In our time the writings of the great French theologian Teilhard de Chardin are being rediscovered across the world and being recognised as foundation for this new cosmic spirituality.
The coming together of science and religion and the unfolding understanding of the new universe story and the invitation to a new spirituality can be traced in the writings of: Diarmuid O’Murchu, William Berry, Brian Swimme, Michael Dowd, Connie Barlow, Sallie McFague, Craig Hamilton, Judy Cannato, Denis Edwards, Carter Phipps, Jean Houston, Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, Barbara Marx Hubbard.