The Doorway to the Invisible
St Francis of Assisi was given to the world as an authentic spiritual guide. He brought a wonderful newness to living and witnessing to the Gospel.
Francis knew, at least intuitively, that there is only one enduring spiritual insight and everything else follows from it: The visible world is an active doorway to the invisible world, and the invisible world is vastly larger than the visible.
Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness – and holiness. The result is deep joy and a resounding sense of coherent beauty.
What was personified in the body of Jesus was a manifestation of this one universal truth: Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit. Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7).
Francis carried this mystery to its full and lovely conclusion. Or, more rightly, he was fully carried by the mystery. He somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depths of here.
We see that Francis was at once very traditional and entirely new in the ways of holiness – a paradox:
He stood barefoot on the earth and yet touched the heavens.
He was grounded in the Church and yet instinctively moved toward the cosmos.
He lived happily inside the visible and rejoiced in the glory of creation, and yet he both suffered and exulted in what others thought was invisible.
Francis was at home in two worlds at the same time, and thus he revealed it was all one world.
He teaches us: We are only afraid of death as long as we do not know who we are. But once we truly know ourselves to be a cherished child of God living always in the divine presence, we are already home, and our inheritance is given to us ahead of time.
Francis lived from this reality. That is why he could stop grasping, proving, or defending. And he invites us to let go also and begin to enjoy the abundance of life already present to us.
Richard Rohr OFM
The 4th October is the Feast of Saint Francis.