“It is told of St. Francis of Assisi, in whom the love of lovely things was always paramount, how he forced himself to visit the lepers whose sight and smell disgusted him. … For, as he confessed, the sight of lepers ad been so grievous unto him that he had been minded to avoid not only seeing them, but even going near their dwelling. … But through the grace of God he became so intimate a friend of the lepers that, even as he recorded in his will, he did sojourn with them. …
“Also, after his great renunciation of all property, he, once a prosperous young man , … accustomed himself to take a bowl and beg scraps of food from door to door. …
“The object, then, of this self-discipline is, like the object of all purgation, freedom: freedom from the fetters of the senses.” ~Evelyn Underhill
Dealing With the World
Some think that to be spiritual, we must stay away from everything negative and horrible about the physical world. Others think we should embrace and accept everything that happens because there is no good or evil. Both of those extremes are not good choices.
We need to be aware of everything that is happening in the world, even that which is negative. And not just on a superficial level. Just listening to statistics on poverty and homelessness isn’t enough. We need to go out and visit places where there is poverty. We need to see homeless families sleeping in parks and under bridges. We need to see sick people dying of illnesses that could easily be cured with changes in lifestyle rather than drugs. But that doesn’t mean we need to embrace such things and become part of them.
Underhill says that St. Francis likes “lovely things,” and that is probably true. But what does that mean to a spiritual person? He came from a background of wealth. Since his father was a merchant of cloth that he sold to tailors, Francis grew up wearing and liking fine clothes. But after he had his spiritual awakening while watching a sunrise one morning, he gave up the fine clothes and began wearing a simple robe. So what he considered lovely things were not material possessions. It was natural beauty like flowers that he liked to be surrounded with. Also, of course, beautiful people. Again, not the physically beautiful. It was spiritual beauty that he sought in his companions. Continue reading “Lovely Things and Dealing With Reality”