Through God we are all one

By Patrick Carolan

Patrick Carolan is a Catholic Activist and served as Franciscan Action Network’s Executive Director from 2010-2019. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Franciscan Action Network


Patrick Carolan

Christians recently celebrated the feast of St Francis of Assisi. We can learn many things from the life and stories of St Francis. Stories that tell us about his encounter with the Sultan Al-Kamal or his embrace of the leper. Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn is from his vision of a world where we are all connected, through God we are all one. Francis viewed all creation as his brothers and sisters. He didn’t see the leper or a Muslim as the ‘other.’ As is the case with most of our holy women and men, we have a tendency to objectively sanitize and place them on a pedestal, while forgetting and/or ignoring the message they teach us. One key concept in every major religion whether it be Islam, Christianity, Sikh, Hindu or Judaism, is the belief in welcoming the stranger. Francis would never have considered anyone a stranger. He would have thought of them as a child of God, his sister whom he has just met. He would welcome them, feed them, and care for them.

We have recently experienced a migration of thousands upon thousands of people from Afghanistan. For a long time, Afghanistan has been a pawn in the global power struggle between super powers. It is a beautiful country that was the birthplace of the great Sufi mystic and poet Rumi. Rumi lived shortly after Francis and it is thought that they were both influenced by the Sufi mystic Shams Tabriz. Rumi, like Francis, believed that all creation was connected through God. They believed in welcoming and helping all God’s creatures in whatever difficulty they found themselves. Ironically Franciscans were sometimes referred to as Christian Sufis by Muslims.

In America we have seen the influx of around 95,000 of our brothers and sisters. They are scattered throughout the country at various refugee camps. In the past some Americans have been generous in traveling to other countries to help at refugee camps. This is the first time in a long time that we have set up refugee camps in our own country. For the past few weeks I have been volunteering at one such camp. The camp has over 5000 of my brothers and sisters. Many came with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Many are separated from family members. They speak Pashto or Dari with a few speaking some English. Each morning as I arrive at the camp I am greeted with the traditional greeting of ‘a-Salaam’ with a bow of the head and a touch to the heart. Though many of the boys that I am working with follow that up with a high five and ‘What’s up.’ A young boy told me his story about how he was in school on the day that Kabul fell. He managed to connect with his uncle and cousins and get to the airport. He came here with only the clothes on his back. His shoes are a pair of sandals that are falling apart and held together by tape. His family is still in Afghanistan. Despite all that he has been through he is filled with laughter and joy. He speaks a little English so he helps teach the other children who do not speak any English. I heard the story of a young man who is married with one daughter. He has a master’s degree. Despite the fact that he has lost everything, he has a contagious smile. I am trying to teach him English while he teaches me Pashto.

I could be overwhelmed by their stories and feel like what can I as one person do. But each evening I remember the story of the young girl walking along the beach. It was right after a major storm so thousands upon thousands of starfish had washed up and were stranded on the sand. The young girl was walking along picking them up one at a time and throwing them back into the water. A man came by and said, “What you are doing is foolish, you cannot possibly save all the starfish.” The young girl picked up a starfish, threw it into the water and replied, “Maybe not but at least I saved that one.”

We are living in a perilous time. God’s beautiful creation is being destroyed by our arrogance. The covid virus is ravishing communities. Our geo-political policies have caused famine, disease and hunger. In every nation the wealthy continue to hoard their wealth while the poor go hungry. We stopped believing in that core principle of welcoming the stranger and started building walls to separate us. The 20th century Catholic priest and one of the founders of the eco-spirituality movement, Thomas Barry once said: “We will go into the future as a single sacred community or we will all perish in the desert.” To go forward as a single sacred community, all we need to do is go back to those two 13th century mystics and poets Francis of Assisi and Rumi.

Peace and All Good.

Published in: on October 23, 2021 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thank you Patrick, so well said and so true. Peace


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