Divinity and Gender

Introductory note: if you’ve read more than one or two posts on this site, you may have noticed that female pronouns–she and her–are sometimes used when describing God and not male pronouns only. If you’ve been wondering why this is so, this post will go a long way towards explaining it.

If you were raised in the Church–as I was–you grew up with a definite idea that God was a dude.

You know what I mean. I think we all imaged “him” as a grandfather-type. A man, say in his 70’s, with a long gray beard and wearing a pretty spiffy robe.

A robe that looked like a cross between the one worn by your favorite priest and that awesome one that Charlton Heston was sporting when they shot The Ten Commandments.

It took a full thirty years or so for me to realize that the way I imaged God was just that and it didn’t affect the actual nature of the Divine One at all.

It took even longer–and completing a year of Seminary–to see clearly that the ways any of us think of God are colored by a thousand different variables, including what our early religious training was like, cultural biases and so much more and vary greatly from one person, one believer to another.

And it’s worth saying, once again, that none of our images or conceptions of God affect God’s true nature in any way! The map is not the territory!

The writings we have embraced and believe contain God’s revelation were written by mortal, fallible men and were the product of the times in which they were written.

The men–and they were all men–who produced the many books of our Bible were immersed in cultures that were thoroughly Patriarchal and saw little-to-no value in the contributions of women to their cultures and their literature.

I’m thinking it would be more accurate to say that none of the men driving the bus in that time had the slightest idea about what womens’ thoughts about the nature of God might have been.

And the writings we see as being sacred and containing the revelations of the Divine One sprang from a culture that was Patriarchal, completely male-driven and that is still influencing the ways we think about God today.

If you are embracing a concept of God as a wise, bearded old dude, let me invite you to take a step back and see this in a new light. It can be truly transformative.

Whatever else we may opine about God’s nature, I think we have general agreement that he/she is transcendent, is wholly-other and that the ways we describe or image “him” tell only part of the story.

When the story we tell about God’s nature and being reflect the whole of humanity and not only the male half, it’s a more complete and more accurate depiction and can help to end the systemic bias against women.

This bias is real, it’s very easy to see and it’s been a stain on religious communities and on the Church since day one.

God’s a man, you say?! Really?

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Great is Your Love

Much has been written about the unchanging love that God has for his creation.

When we think about this, it’s natural to feel gratitude. The Divine One, the Universe, is imbued with a love ethic, with a bias, if you will, for compassion and ever-steadfast love.

When we feel this in our souls and are thankful for God’s love and favor, we keep faith with a community of women and men through the ages who’ve meditated on this and felt that spontaneous burst of thankfulness, a blossoming in the hearts of those who feel that love and benevolence and respond to it.

The Psalmist captures well that sentiment here in verses 9 and 10 of the 57th Psalm:

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

from Psalm 57

Do you feel the love today?

God loves each one of us. Unconditionally.

It’s natural to feel gratitude as we reflect on this.

And to recommit ourselves to spreading the love as we go about our lives each day.

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.

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.

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

A Meditation: God’s Unfailing Love and our Gratitude

Last week I published a brief post about God’s faithfulness and our response of gratitude that can come from reflecting or meditating on it. It was based on verses 2 and 3 of the 26th Psalm.

When I think about God’s love and unfailing goodness, it always reminds me that her love can always be appropriated by all of us, all of her children.

This amplifies my feelings of great gratitude! It’s such a splendid thought–one upon which I often meditate–that each of us bears the image of the Divine One in our soul.

Looking for the Divinity in your fellows will help to align your soul–and your intentions–in a direction of gratitude. And when our intention is aligned this way, our actions will follow suit.

This principle, this truth about human behavior, is as unfailing as God’s Love.

Here’s is a meditation, a mantram that can help to focus your intentions in that way:

Oh God, thank you for your love and unfailing goodness!

A suggested meditation for grateful people

The aforementioned post from last week laid the foundation for this one and can be found here.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Divine One is Faithful

Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

This passage from Psalm 26 is a favorite of mine. And it reminds us that keeping in mind God’s unfailing love and faithfulness is an outlook on life that will serve anyone well.

No one expects life to be that proverbial bowl of cherries. All of us have known moments of pain and great despair. Sadly, some of us have seen more of that side of life than most will ever know.

Nevertheless, cultivating that attitude of gratitude–as the Psalmist does in this passage–reminds us that the Divine One loves humanity. And that each of us was fashioned in the Divine Image.

Looking for and honoring that reflection of God, that Divine Spark, in the people we meet each day will point us in the direction of gratitude. Gratitude and awe.

The unfailing goodness and love of God is all around you and in everyone you meet!

Embrace it. Embrace it and be grateful!

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis