An artist friend to the popular American physicist, Richard Feynman, remarked that the scientist’s view of a flower (a rose) was dull and boring because a scientist deconstructs physical objects into ever smaller parts and thus lacks appreciation of the object’s beauty itself. Feynman replied that being a scientist didn’t subtract from the experience of appreciating the single rose, but only added to it. He understood the excitement and mystery of the minuscule world that produced such an object, and thus gazed in awe at the beauty that goes unobserved. Not everyone views the things of this world as we might expect, and history takes notice when someone drastically departs from our common world views.
St. Francis of Assisi was just such a person. We celebrate the life of this most beloved son of the Church today, whose name currently and deservedly occupies the chair of Peter. The man who stripped himself bare in the middle of town, renounced the riches of the world, and became an itinerant preacher perceived the Gospels much differently than his contemporaries. Where most saw beauty in the Jesus of scripture, this man saw the unnoticed beauty of Christ alive and staring back at him in the faces of the poor men, women, and children he dedicated himself to serving. He lived and loved like no other.
The call to radically shift one’s lifestyle, as St. Francis did, is most likely not our same call. We may not be able to imitate his lifestyle, but we are able to easily imitate his world view: It’s all gift. From a red rose, to the first sip of wonderful coffee in the morning, to that feeling of satisfaction from a job well done, to the comfortable silence in the presence of another, to the fragrance of a crisp and fresh autumn day–to the….you name it….it’s all gift. What might be God’s reaction to seeing us view all creation as gift? How do we respond?
—Richard Schuckman, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago