The book points out that the virtue of poverty, as shown by St. Francis, is to be empty, open to receive the gifts of God. In contrast, the effect of the separation possible through technology is to control and possess, to advance ourselves through appropriating the goods of the world, whether they be property, riches, skills, knowledge or reputation.
This type of clinging to things ultimately leads to injustice and violence. The environment then seems hostile and we become hard-hearted and self-absorbed, driven by fear of others and defensive behavior.
However, the realization of the presence of God within our fragile humanity and in the natural world leads us toward compassion, according to the author. As Francis left the city and the marketplace for the woods and countryside, so we can also escape the limited world of cyberspace to spend time in nature.
Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin suggested that we seek the larger space in the unexplored wilderness to find ourselves “where the soul is most deep and where matter is most dense.” Sr. Ilia shows that Francis found inner space for his soul in the outer expansion of nature.
The book suggests that since our basic belief is in Incarnation, the way to find God is to “look inside where God lives.” The divine presence in an embodied world calls for a conscious choice on our part to spend time with the mundane and ordinary as Francis did, who saw “brothers and sisters” even in the elements of nature. Hence, the connectedness of all things calls forth compassion in binding us with the deepest reality, which stretches beyond the boundaries of gender, race, tribe, religion or creature. Through love we experience others’ suffering, leading to both their and our own transformation.
Sr. Ilia’s book offers a clear path out of the present complex web of technological “progress,” egotism, political power and injustice. Finally, she quotes Fr. Henri Nouwen, who wrote that the world will not be changed through a new idea, project or plan, but only if we “can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves.”
Sr. Mona, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has taught English for many years in Los Angeles. She is the author of “Under the Skyflower Tree: Reflections of a Nun-Entity,” published by iUniverse.