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Our Physical Surroundings Are Holy

We who tend to think of nature as nothing more than a usable commodity can learn a great deal from Francis’s relationship with the environment. He teaches us the liberating truth that our physical surroundings are holy because they aren’t purely physical. Instead, they’re permeated through and through with the Spirit and beauty of God. In a mysterious way that the mind can’t fathom but the heart knows full well, we don’t just dwell in God’s world. In dwelling in God’s world, we also abide in God himself.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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Using Our Creativity for Others

A Christian celebration of humanity consists in lovingly midwifing our fellow humans into full being. One of our God-given endowments is creativity, the ability to cooperate with God in the inauguration of the kingdom. We’re called to use this creativity in nurturing our brothers and sisters as full members of that kingdom, and we do this by going out of our way to help them recognize and affirm themselves as images of God. In concrete terms, this means performing the acts of charity listed in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew: clothing the naked, tending the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty. Celebrating the sheer existence of others often demands that we do the dirty work of easing the material burdens that inhibit them from arriving at a conscious appreciation of their own holiness.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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The Baggage We Carry

When we go into the inner desert, we appreciate for the first time just how much unnecessary baggage we carry around. We see and gasp at the incredible artificiality of our old way of life, the flimsiness of our old values, the duplicity of our old self. The process is harrowing because it rips away everything by which we’ve defined ourselves. But this desert dying, this going under, is a necessary condition for the kind of “ineffable joy” and “wonderful light” that suffused Francis at the end of his time in the pit.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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Embracing Poverty

An embrace of Lady Poverty means that we try to live freely by getting out from under the possessions that own us. This can range from adopting a Franciscan-like life of voluntary poverty to the more common effort to cut down on consumption of needless luxuries. The purpose in either case is to forgo what we don’t need in order to imitate better the holy poverty of Christ, to appreciate better our fellow humans, and to contribute to a more equitable distribution of resources. But genuine freedom—which, recall, is a necessary condition for the joy Francis craves—isn’t simply a matter of throwing off externalities that burden us. It entails a relinquishment of internal acquisitiveness. In addition to ridding ourselves of goods that weigh down our spirits, we must wean ourselves from our psychological desire for them. Doing the one without the other simply won’t suffice. We can steel ourselves to a life of material poverty yet still remain enslaved by our lusts, vanity, and jealousies.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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'My God and My All!'

Unless one truly believes in God, one is incapable of genuinely celebrating God. An observer once watched as Francis prayed throughout the length of an entire night. To his amazement, Francis spent the whole time simply repeating, over and over, “My God and my all! My God and my all!” This simple act, so undramatic, so seemingly modest, in fact was an incredibly intense celebration. Francis truly believed that God was all, and he realized that the only celebration worthy of God is wonder-filled and grateful acknowledgment of God’s allness. Pageantry and pomp and circumstance aren’t needed to celebrate the living God. All that’s required is the heartfelt conviction that nothing—absolutely nothing—is more real or important. When we reach this point (if  we reach this point) our belief in God is a simultaneous celebration of God. Which is exactly how things should be.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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God's Presence in Our Neighbors

The heart of Christianity is the great and incomprehensible truth that God’s true majesty, God’s authentic immensity, consists in God’s willingness to become lowly and forsaken, to pitch a tent among us and become one of us. God’s presence is sometimes revealed in lightning and thunder and smoke on Mount Sinai, but it’s much more likely to show up in the faces of our neighbors. And not just our respectable neighbors, either, but those whom we generally go out of our way to avoid: the poor, the ill, the imprisoned, the aged, the weak, and the despised. In their faces, if we but have eyes to see, we encounter God. In their lowliness and helplessness we discover the real majesty of a God of love and self-sacrifice.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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Christianity Is a Complete Way of Life

Christianity isn’t an abstract philosophy. It’s a complete way of life. Consequently, profession of belief in Christianity isn’t simply an intellectual nod of the head, but a commitment to live in such a way as to express concretely one’s convictions in the everyday world. Such engagement demands a sense of direction, a sense of individual mission and purpose. This is supplied by the particular vocation each of us is given. When we discover our own unique calling, regardless of what it may be, we find the spiritual true north by which to plot our course.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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Jesus Meant What He Said

Francis took Christ’s teaching seriously. He was too honest to read Scripture selectively and too unsophisticated to spin elaborate no-risk interpretations of it. Instead, he championed the radical notion that Christ meant what he said when he spoke of love and poverty and sacrifice. To presume otherwise is to conclude that Christ was in the strange habit of always saying one thing but meaning something quite different.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

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