I’m writing this blog while sitting on a patio at an AirBnB in Sedona, Arizona overlooking a beautiful landscape of red rocks and green trees. My sister is walking hand-in-hand in the grass with her 10-month-old daughter who just learned how to walk. The sun warms my skin, and the breeze cools my face after a challenging hike this morning. Being immersed by the great outdoors draws my mind to St. Francis of Assisi. I chose him (or some say that he chose me) to be my Confirmation Saint because of my love for peace and creation.
The views of town from this house on a hill remind me of the small mountain town of Assisi. When I visited there, I could feel St. Francis’ presence as I was awestruck by the beauty around me and the peace within me. His tomb is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. The energy of his presence is palpable in that room, and his legacy continues as people flock to where his bones eternally rest in peace.
Energy is a popular term around Sedona since this area is believed to be a “vortex.” A vortex is a “swirling center of energy that can produce a range of physical, emotional, and spiritual effects.” (Sedona.net). According to VisitSedona.com, “Sedona has long been regarded as a place both sacred and powerful. It is a cathedral without walls. It is Stonehenge not yet assembled. People travel from across the globe to experience the mysterious cosmic forces that are said to emanate from the red rocks.”
Energy is indeed a scientific reality; all creation gives off a certain energy. A woman has a feminine energy that complements a man’s masculine energy. Someone can either bring enthusiastic energy into a room or suck all the positive energy out of it. The Church embraces science and affirms scientific truth as God’s truth.
St. Francis loved creation and had a deep spirituality. At the front door of a Sedona New Age shop, a St. Francis statue welcomes patrons. The New Age belief is that “there is no spiritual authority higher than personal experience.” St. Francis loved creation because he loved the One who created it all. He encountered God in all things, even though everything is not God.
On one of the main vortexes surrounded by valleys and mountains rests The Chapel of the Holy Cross. It proclaims peace over all who enter. The larger-than-life crucifix is a reminder that Jesus is who we must seek in the heart of all creation.
The Pontifical Councils for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue released a document in 2003 entitled “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the New Age.” The following is a brief excerpt:
"Gaia, Mother Earth, is offered as an alternative to God the Father… there is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent… belief in cosmic powers and some obscure kind of destiny withdraws the possibility of a relationship to a personal God revealed in Christ. For Christians, the real cosmic Christ is the one who is present actively in the various members of his body, which is the Church."
We all have different ways of praying and experiencing the power of God. If you have a spiritual encounter with nature, give thanks to the Holy Spirit for this beautiful connection to God’s creative energy. St. Francis loved being outside, but he did not make an idol of nature. We should not replace the Creator with creation. The Trinity invites us into a beautiful dance of love that is called “perichoresis.” In a humble attempt to create a metaphor, I could suggest that creation is the ballroom, dance floor, and the music that the Triune God created in order to help us dance with Him more beautifully. Creation brings us joy, peace, and refreshment, but it is not the ultimate source. We need to let God lead.
Like an astonishing view on a mountaintop after an arduous hike, the Chapel of the Holy Cross radiates the message of mercy. Mercy is most beautifully defined as love touching misery. Though we suffer in this life, the love of God is always pursuing us.
After the Feast of St. Francis, we celebrate the Feast of St. Faustina. She was an advocate for Divine Mercy and the Church has embraced her diary. She writes:
“Creation is contained in the inmost depths of the Divine mercy more deeply than an infant in the mother's bosom.” (Diary 421, 1076)
“Rejoice, all you creatures – she wrote – for you are dearer to God in His infinite mercy than a baby to his mother's heart.” (Diary 423)
“Jesus, Eternal Light, enlighten my mind, strengthen my will, inflame my heart and be with me as You have promised, for without You I am nothing.” (Diary, 495)
St. Faustina and St. Francis were both aware that without God they were nothing. Autumn reveals that beauty can come from “falling” or “dying.” As the leaves die and fall to the ground, they fill the sky with beautiful color before landing gently on the firm foundation. As this new season begins, I invite you to go on a walk outside and take Faustina or Francis with you. They are wonderful companions and would love to help you find the love, peace, energy, and mercy of Jesus Christ. Any nature that captures your attention is just a tiny glimpse of the masterpiece that God created in YOU!
Here is a PDF of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures:
Here is a sung version by Donna Cori Gibson: