Living on the Margins

If you were an elected official or were involved in making policy in the US these days, there’s not much of a chance that the needs of people who struggle at the margins of society and live from paycheck to paycheck would matter to you at all.

That’s even more true of people who’ve already suffered a financial calamity or two; those folks are not on anyone’s radar and their lot in life is grim indeed.

Around nine centuries BCE, the writer of the Psalms was extolling the virtues of an ideal King.

And here, in the 72nd Psalm, he described a King who would be worthy of acclamation and long life:

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.

In today’s political and cultural climate, the plight of people trapped in poverty and living on the margins of society means nothing.

Their plight means nothing to most Americans and certainly not to people who make policy or wield political power.

In Israel, in the time of King Solomon 3,000 years ago, it mattered.

And it should matter in America in the 21st Century, too.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Send Her Forth

In the Book of Wisdom, chapter 9, King Solomon is appealing to God to impart to him Wisdom so he may rule wisely and be worthy of his Father’s throne.

With thee is Wisdom, who knows thy works
and was present when thou didst make the world…

10 Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of thy glory send her…

…for she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me wisely in my actions
and guard me with her glory.

The Book of Wisdom, Chapter 9

It is, of course, wisdom for which Solomon is so well-known. Can the man or woman at the top, the one who’s making all the decisions, ever have too much wisdom?

I think not.

The fact that the book of Wisdom was written approximately nine centuries after Solomon’s reign does not negate its value.

We moderns who have so many critical, historical and literary tools at our disposal know well that there’s little-to-no material in the book to give insight into what Solomon’s reign was actually like.

But just like Solomon and the ancient Israelites nearly 3,000 years ago, we would do well to appeal to the Divine One to send Wisdom, to send Her forth from the Holy Heavens, so we can navigate the often-treacherous terrain of 21st Century life with some wisdom and discernment.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Species are disappearing while humans…

It’s alarming to think about, but it’s nevertheless true that hundreds of thousands of species are disappearing while humans carry on with their ever-expanding enterprise to exploit absolutely everything on God’s green Earth.

In early March of this year–just over two months ago at the time of this writing–the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, issued a Global assessment and highlighted for an ignorant and often-uncaring world just how grave the situation is.

Nature is collapsing at an astonishing rate and many humans are blissfully unaware that this is happening.

The assessment was quite wide-ranging and examined closely many dark trends which we have not yet addressed as aggressively as we must to keep our situation for going from merely horrible to unthinkable.

Among the issues which the assessment addressed are:

  • Land degradation
  • The health of fish stocks
  • Plastic pollution
  • The rapid collapse whole ecosystems
  • The full extent of the threat to non-human species
  • How much of the Earth’s land surface and water resources are devoted to livestock and farming

To read the press release issued by the IPBES at the time the results and conclusions of the assessment were publicized, click here.

It’s past time to stop driving so many plant and animal species into extinction and putting at risk our own survival.

Way past time.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Gratitude and St Francis

On the last two Tuesdays, I published posts on the dual themes of God’s Faithfulness and our response of gratitude which naturally arises from it.

In today’s third and final meditation on those subjects, I want to focus on the gratitude of St Francis, whom we here in the FSF look to as an icon and a guide on our spiritual path.

When Francis returned from a war–fought between his city of Assisi and the competing city of Perugia–he was a changed man.

He was captured in the aftermath of that war and held for ransom by Perugian partisans. It was during this time in captivity–which lasted a full year–that young Francis received his visions and embraced a life of poverty and simplicity and–most of all–a life of service to God and to all humanity.

One of the results of Francis embarking on this path of love and service to all was that he became very grateful to God for his life, his calling and his new way of living–that is, to serve others and, in fact, all creation.

Fr Fausto Gomez, in an essay entitled The gratitude of St. Francis, speaks of this beloved friar’s great gratitude that colored his every thought and action:

“In the life of St. Francis, who is the most popular saint ever, there is a virtue that describes well his whole life: gratitude: The humble saint of Assisi was a grateful son of God, a brother to all neighbors, and a creature of the universe.”

from “The Gratitude of St. Francis”, by Fausto Gomez

If you’re reading this, I doubt very seriously whether you need to read an exhortation or reminder to be grateful.

My object here is merely to point out that St Francis is, indeed, a good and appropriate model for our Fellowship and an excellent example of how gratitude and service to others can inform and give meaning to our lives today.

I’m grateful for the love of God. And for the life of St Francis and so many other holy women and men who point us toward the Divine One and her great love for humanity.

And I’m grateful for the opportunity and the privilege to answer that call. God’s call to love and to serve humanity and all of God’s Creation each day.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc., is a new and independent ministry and is not associated in any way with the Roman Catholic Church or any other body.

A Cheerful Heart and Lots of Coffee

A Cheerful Heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones

Proverbs 17:22

That verse is one I heard many times growing up, and it really has a ring of truth for me. A dash of cheerfulness is definitely an essential ingredient when we’re putting together a plan to live well each day.

May I also suggest you incorporate a couple of cups of coffee into your wellness plan?

Studies that show that the juice of the sacred bean can be a boon for one’s health are not hard to find. A new one published in March in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is the most recent.

The study’s bottom line: quaff up to five cups each day and you’re likely to reap considerable health benefits.

Here’s a link to an article that excerpts that study. It’s an excellent source if you’d like know more without diving into the clinical literature.

Work on cultivating that cheerful outlook, friends, and make sure you don’t slack up on your caffeine consumption!

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Let All Creatures

If you’ve taken a look around here on our site, you’ve no doubt noticed that one of the things we’re all about here at The FSF is advocating for animals. All animals. Any animals. 

We are connected to all life on this planet. It’s simply not tenable to imagine that our species is at the top of some imagined hierarchy and all other animals are here for our pleasure, our amusement or–worst of all–so we can eat or otherwise exploit them.

To have St. Francis as an icon, a model and a patron for our Fellowship is a good thing. His love for animals and for all God’s creation is very well known.

But adoring the Creation certainly did not begin with this holy and humble man.

Roughly 2,000 years before Francis came along, the Psalmist painted a vivid and engaging picture of how all manner of creatures “speak” their gratitude heavenward and join a chorus of voices which include people of faith:

Praise the Lord from the Earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps

Fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars

Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

from Psalm 148

So when we’re feeling a bond with some other-than-human friends who are a part of the created order, it’s nothing new. We are merely engaging in a very human and very constructive behavior–expressing a fervent hope that all of God’s creatures praise him!

And as we do this, may we also root out the pernicious idea that our thoughts, our actions and our voices belong in this chorus but that others’ voices do not.

Brother Ben

At the Bottom of the Ocean! Really?

The deepest point on our planet is appropriately named Challenger Deep. You can find it on the ocean floor in the Mariana Trench, a mere 35,814 ft below the surface.

Intrepid explorer Victor Vescovo reached that point in a submersible last week and the results of that dive were released this last Monday, May 13th.

Although the expedition was a great success in so many ways, one of the things we learned from Mr Vescovo’s ground-breaking mission is that there is–wait for it–there is a plastic bag on the ocean floor, at the absolute deepest point on the planet!

Let that sink in. In Humanity’s mad rush to despoil the Earth, we’ve placed trash on the ocean floor. What an achievement!

If you’d like to read more about Victor’s very deep dive, follow this link.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.