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Seeing Differently: Franciscans and creation, by Simon Cocksedge, Samuel Double, and Nicholas Alan Worssam

by
03 September 2021

Dominic Walker reads Franciscan reflections on the world God made

THE significance of this book is aptly described in the words of the authors: “Our book has been written in the belief that Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan tradition have an important contribution to make in transforming worldviews that have become dangerous to life and to all creation, both human and non-human.”

The American Roman Catholic theologian, Fr Richard Rohr OFM, has in recent years popularised Franciscan theology and spirituality. He describes the Franciscan approach as heterodox or as an “alternative orthodoxy”, and so the title of this book, Seeing Differently, written by three Anglican Franciscans, reflects the importance for Christians not to be indifferent to the world around us, but to see things differently.

The authors have lived as Franciscans for many years and in different ways. Simon Cocksedge is a married member of the Third Order (TSSF). His experience is as a GP and parish priest. Brother Samuel and Brother Nicholas Alan are friars and members of the First Order (SSF). Brother Samuel has served at home and overseas, and is now living in the East End of London, while Brother Nicholas Alan has for two decades lived a contemplative life at Glasshampton Monastery.

Together, they bring personal wisdom, born from their Franciscan roots, for a world that needs, in the words of St Francis, “to repair my house which as you see is all being destroyed”.

The fifth mark of mission for Anglicans is “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. One writer describes the challenge that he has found in teaching this to ordinands who cannot see the care of creation as “mission” and assume that it is a niche interest for those who have a “green” agenda. He has to show them how a theology of creation is foundational to the rest of Christian theology.

One of the riches of this book is that not only does it describe the lives and teachings of St Francis and St Clare, but also those of Franciscan theologians such as John Duns Scotus, Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, and the mystics Angela of Foligno, Jacopone da Todi, and Francisco de Osuna. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection — either personally or for a group.

This book, like Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, addresses the ecological challenges that face our planet, most notably global warming and its economic and environmental consequences, and currently the Covid pandemic. Being mercifully free of the sentimentality that is sometimes associated with St Francis, and being rooted in Christ’s presence in a suffering world, it encourages us to be like Francis and to learn to see things differently and to recognise Christ in all people, all animals, and all things.


The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS is a former Bishop of Monmouth.

 

Seeing Differently: Franciscans and creation
Simon Cocksedge, Samuel Double and Nicholas Alan Worssam
Canterbury Press £16.99
(978-1-78622-300-5)
Church Times Bookshop £13.59

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