A Culture of Emptiness

For St. Francis of Assisi, his interior life took precedence over all else. His primary desire was to have a mindful openness to God at all times.

St. Bonaventure tells us that when Francis was deep in prayer he became “oblivious of all that went on about him” and that he often became “lost in ecstasy.” That does not happen to many of us…and I suspect it doesn’t because we don’t give enough time to prayer. Our prayer is often hurried, squeezed in among other things.

Within himself, Francis created a culture of emptiness, an empty space for God to fill. To become empty, we need to do nothing, need to press the pause button on our society’s addictive need to produce and consume, to always be doing something.

I think we need to create a culture of emptiness more than Francis did. Modern life is so filled with busyness, so cluttered with unfiltered information tirelessly generated by the media and the internet, so over-stimulated by a dizzying array of electronic gadgets, so pressured by the allure of nonstop advertising, and so driven by productiveness, that we are almost incapable of stillness and can’t tolerate silence. It was in stillness and silence that Francis forged his inner cloister of emptiness and flamed his desire for God.

Francis’ form of monasticism had no walls, the world was his cloister; but he was diligent in periodically retreating to places of solitude where he could be renewed and find a clear sense of direction for his forays into the wider world of activity and human commerce.

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