Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 12, 2009

Nature Boy and The Way of St. Francis (Oct. 4, 2009)




Saw one like this (species unknown) on an Italian prairie in July.

Saw one like this (species unknown) on an Italian prairie in July.


I’ve been haunted by butterflies and birch trees lately.

There’s a St. Francis/Men and Nature event coming up in about a month that I’m helping with, which is one reason the bees and birch leaves are buzzing in my ears. (More on that event below.)  But I haven’t been writing or blogging as much this summer, probably because I’ve been busy enough getting my feet and fingers dirty, and my heart expanded, as I seek something pure and real in various gorgeous landscapes — literally around the world. I was on a 9000 foot Swiss mountain (Piz Nair) in late June, on a horse and picking wild raspberries in rural Italy (Umbria) in early July, and blown away by Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis a few days later. Then, since we’ve been back, I’ve been up at our Wisconsin lake cottage several times, plus on a men’s retreat in Princeton, IL, and out in the “wilds” of Lake, DuPage and Cook County forest preserves about twice a week.

I can’t entirely explain this truth or purity I’m chasing down, but in part it’s about understanding Franciscan theology’s approach to nature, and what it shares in common with Native American and other ancient mythologies, the Sufi Muslim poets I’ve been reading (Hafiz and Rumi, somewhat contemporaries of Francis), and with what the Buddha said and did. Clearly, I’m still walking these paths (and hopping off the path occasionally) with Jesus and Francis sitting on either shoulder. But it’s been curiously beautiful to have my perspective widened by the influence and ideas of these other religious voices and philosophies, across a grand total of three millenia.

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures 
from the shelter of compassion, 
you will have men who deal likewise 
with their fellow men.” - St. Francis of Assisi


Which leads back to that ecumenical St. Francis & Nature men’s conference I mentioned above. It’s part of a two day visit Father Richard Rohr is making to the Chicago area in early October, during which he’ll be in both the south and north suburbs.

Men and Nature
Meeting God in the Rawness of Nature
with Richard Rohr, OFM
Sunday October 4, 2009
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Lakewood Forest Preserve
in Wauconda, IL (45 miles northwest of Chicago)

Registration (includes lunch)
$50 Regular Rate
$25 Concession Rate (students, jobless, fixed income)

To Register:  (or go to the “Richard on the Road” section of the CAC Web site)

So… if you’re a dude in need of a pollenated shot in the arm, then on behalf of Illinois Midwest Men As Learners and Elders (a chapter of Rohr’s Men As Learners and Elders organization) I hope to seeing you for this wonderful day.

*  *  * 

The other Chicago area Rohr event, on the Saturday before, is for the general public. It is sponsored by Mayslake Ministries, and will be held out near Naperville:






“Spirituality in This New Millennium”
Sat., Oct. 3, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. .
Wyndham Hotel, Lisle-Naperville
Registration is non-refundable and includes lunch and coffee service.
$65/$55 clergy, religious, students, seniors. Reserved seating for groups of 20 or more.
Registration now open
Visa/MC over phone at 630-268-9000
The Saturday event is probably going to be more Roman Catholic in tone, but the advantage of a mixed population and a less “rugged” setting should make it worthwhile as well.
Go West, Young Man. (Or go deeper into the woods, Hansel and Gretel…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: