Was St. Francis a panentheist?

Was St. Francis a panentheist?

It depends on what is meant by panentheism, since the concept is associated with many doctrines about God and creatures, very different from each other.

In reality, the use of the term panentheism is almost always associated with non-Christian realities (for example Hinduism, New Age, Gnosticism) so if we said “St. Francis is a panentheist” we could create confusion.

However, a use of the word compatible with Christian doctrine cannot be ruled out in principle, as perhaps happens in the Orthodox Church (to deepen, I am ignorant).

It is clear that the strong awareness of the presence of God in all his creatures, which St. Francis continually manifests, deserves special attention, and that an appropriate term can be sought.

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Not in the sense that it’s used today. (I’m thinking of the kind of panentheism that permeates the movie ‘Avatar’.)

On the other hand, did St Francis love all of God’s creation because it sprang from the goodness and love of God? Definitely!

I looked this word up and don’t really get it. It seems like pantheism plus. St. Francis certainly would not say creation is God or is a part of God. But he would agree with St. Paul that “in Him we live and move and are” (Acts 17:28).

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I have heard Meister Eckhardt called a panentheist. As an early Dominican he has a somewhat close relationship to St Francis, so might have been influenced by some intellectual currents that had influenced St Francis. It seems like a stretch.

St Francis famously described nature in familial terms, brother wolf, sister moon, etc. That respects differences more than panentheism would, I think.

I have also read some contemporary Franciscans who indicate that St. Francis, and later St. Bonaventure held panentheistic views. Part of the problem I see is that our word panentheism is of relatively recent origin, so in their time they would have pointed to something else: God’s immanence in creation while also transcending creation. God is in everything, but everything is not God.

Saint Francis wasn’t a pantheist, no.

When one reaches a certain state of divine union, one can see in a way ineffable that God is the source and cause of all creatures (in an eternal “now”) and thus see God “in” them while being simultaneously aware that those creatures are not God.

As we sing, “The earth is full of Your Glory!”

I hope that helps a little.

No, he saw God in everything.

“I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world, except his most holy body and blood”

Of course not.

Brother Francis is among the holiest of saints.

He also is the founder or inspiration of dozens of different religious Orders.

We don’t canonize panentheists, and Christ our True God doesn’t let them share in His sufferings through the exceedingly rare gift of the stigmata.

Brother Francis, pray for us,
Deacon Christopher

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