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The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is the mainspring of human activity—activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man.

—Ernest Becker1

Praised by You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.

—Francis of Assisi2

For many of us, death is our worst fear, while others ignore its existence completely. Still others exploit death for entertainment through television, film, and news media, attracting the curious and bored, desensitizing the viewer to the reality of mortality. However, because Christians maintain eschatological hope of life after death, the inevitability of death should not pose the fear and anxiety it so often evokes. Making the move from unhealthy fear of death to authentic Christian hope is a lesson that each believer must learn, a lifelong process of conversion and peacemaking. Such was the experience of Francis of Assisi during the thirteenth century—early in his life, like most of us, he feared death for its threat to his continued happiness and worldly engagement, but by the end of his life, Francis had made peace with his own mortality, going so far as to call death his “sister.”3

Francis’s understanding of death within the context of God’s creation was a capstone discovery that completed a lifelong process of conversion and seeking God. And at the center of his ability to make peace with his own mortality was his fraternal worldview of creation.4 Today, this fraternal worldview serves as a lens through which we too can look at death and embrace its presence as a constitutive component of creation that is part of God’s plan. In doing so, I believe we will find a source for Christian eschatological hope in an era that is often marked by pessimism, injustice, and violence.

As I explore the Franciscan vision of universal fraternity, I will draw on some recent developments of post-Enlightenment thinkers to better understand the problem that death poses within our (post)modern context. Then I will examine two ways that this contemporary view of death evokes a response, namely, by way of avoidance and exploitation. Considering these common responses to death might help us achieve a balanced view of death as a fundamental reality that directs us beyond our finite end. Finally, I will look at Francis’s view of death. Through an examination of the way he wrote about death initially, we might situate ourselves in a similar position, recognizing our own tendencies toward avoidance and exploitation. I will then study how Francis addresses death toward the end of his life and how an understanding of death in the context of a fraternal worldview has positive implications for our Christian faith.

Grounding Our Understanding of Death

Martin Heidegger’s phenomenological reflection on Dasein as Sein zum Tode (Being-toward-death) in his masterwork Sein und Zeit5 initiated the modern (and subsequently postmodern) quest for eschatological elucidation. His prominent positioning of death in philosophical discourse has bolstered the urgency with which philosophers and theologians have explored its meaning.6 To begin I will examine the work of some contemporary thinkers and their analysis of the condition of death.

The work of Ernest Becker provides a good overview of the contemporary concern about death. Becker’s approach, rooted primarily in the psychological and sociological methods of Marx, Freud, Kierkegaard, and Rank, examines the role of heroism in the human experience, and it is his understanding of heroism that provides Becker with the language to describe the experience of human reflection on death. We can see examples of this supposed connection between death and heroism in the way that we collectively ascribe the title “hero” to and admire those who have “the courage to face death,” or in the way we articulate and pass on the Christian narrative, using phrases like “Jesus Christ has ‘conquered’ death.”7

Closely linked to Becker’s understanding of heroism is his recognition of narcissism as just a human reflex to the overwhelming reality of death. Bill Polizos summarizes Becker’s point well when he writes, “Each of us harbors the desire or maintains the illusion of being like a god, only to find this inclination frustrated by the natural reality that mires us in a world in which life must paradoxically be sustained by death itself.”8 However the presence of death manifests itself in our lives, its existence is undeniable.

We can say that Becker proposes that death is an existential characteristic of humanity, or as he puts it, “the universal human problem.”9 Becker is not simply referring to the fact that all human beings die, he is suggesting that because of the universality of our fear of death—he often uses the word “terror”—we become consumed and overwhelmed when we think of death in categorical terms.

Indeed, this is the source of Becker’s major critique of Sigmund Freud’s analysis of human behavior. Becker believes that Freud’s arguments are weakened by his insistence on the terror of nature and death as an “instinct” while striving to keep his sexual theory intact. Becker’s corrective to Freud is to suggest that human beings carry death within them unconsciously as part of their biology.10 Paul Tillich supports this view of the biological dimension of death when he states that “one must affirm that the moment of our conception is the moment in which we begin not only to live but also to die.”11 According to Becker, death is the condition that makes it possible for humans to grasp at the meaning of life, because without death, we would know nothing of our creaturely existence. And yet, while we are always somewhat aware of death’s inevitable approach, a true understanding of death remains perpetually elusive. Thus, death is the source of humanity’s greatest anxiety, and it is the sole element that all human beings share, an element of unsolicited solidarity that unites both the Queen of England and the poorest person in Bolivia. This truth cannot be denied: everyone dies.

Allied closely to the thought of Becker, and those from whom he gleans inspiration from in his work, is the twentieth-century contribution toward development of a theology of death. One pioneer in this field is Karl Rahner. Although he never completed a comprehensive and sustained treatment of the subject, Rahner’s work did, from time to time, address questions of death and dying, especially in the context of transcendental theology.12 Rahner’s work was also strongly influenced by such ideas as the post-enlightenment condition of secularity (which assumes that all knowledge is grounded in finite reality),13 the demythologization of culture (which reflects an increased focus on science and reason),14 and the privatization of eschatology (which views public discourse concerning eschatological subjects as irrational, futile, or at best naïve).

Rahner responded to these emerging tendencies of the twentieth century with an eye toward the transcendental theological project with which he was so strongly associated. His basic conviction was that where the supernatural is dismissed or forgotten, we are left with nothing more than a finitude for which there is little hope or reason. We see then where the nihilism of the later existentialists and some of the early deconstructionalist thinkers is rooted: As one becomes more and more entrenched in an operating paradigm of secularism, technology, and scientific inquiry at the cost of theological reflection, despair in life increasingly leads to fear of death. This is not to suggest that science does not have a place in our world—Rahner would have been one of the first to attest to its value—but to warn against seeing science and technology as the monolithic and complete response to all of our problems and concerns. As much as science and technology can answer the question of “how?” they cannot answer the question of “why death?” Emerging from this modern worldview is an understanding of death as the ultimate, inescapable end of our finite existence. Death is simply annihilation.

Avoidance and Exploitation

To consider death as an existential of human being naturally raises questions about the manner in which we respond or react to the universality of death. I propose that when we are faced with death as a constitutive element of human life that is conceived outside of a theological context, we most often respond with fear and anxiety that is manifested in two ways. The first way is through avoidance, through what Becker would call the denial of death, and the second way is to exploit death. While it can be argued that one’s response to death might be culturally and historically conditioned, I believe that avoidance is always present in the human response to mortality, thereby transcending particularity. With regard to the cultural and historical conditions that influence or shape my second suggested response to death, I recognize the limitations associated with the concept of exploitation. It may be present in different cultures to a greater or lesser degree, but my concern here is with the current state of American culture and the omnipresence of death in an exploitive manner. This essay is less concerned with universal structures of human response to death than recognizing contemporary and problematic reactions to that existential.

Unlikely bedfellows, the deconstructionalist Jacques Derrida and the Catholic theologian Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), have recognized the place of avoidance in the human response to death. In his reflection on death, Derrida draws on Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.15 Picking up the theme of trembling, he notes, “Hence I tremble because I am still afraid of what already makes me afraid and which I can neither see nor foresee.”16 Here we can see the anxiety that arises in the face of death; the trembling is a response to the stark reality of the existential nature of death in life. For Ratzinger, this notion of absolute fear is seen in the repression, avoidance, and denial of the truth of death. He believes that facing death necessarily requires us to reconsider the manner in which we live. It challenges the ordinary quality of daily life, raising our awareness to a plane of metaphysical and eschatological reflection.17

In the place of conscious consideration of death, we seek to avoid or deny its existence, we seek new ways to extend life and avoid facing our own demise. Indeed, the extraordinary lengths we take to avoid death in our culture is staggering. We buy aesthetic surgeries to maintain our exterior youthfulness, and we spend our lives attempting to establish a sort of legacy by which to be remembered. Derrida’s observation suggests that it is because death is always before and within us that our fear and avoidance of death is so strong. Ratzinger’s insight is that stopping to consider the meaning of death would call us to move beyond the banality that is often our daily existence. Neither prospect—living in trembling fear or moving beyond the banality of life—is particularly appealing, so we buy and sell, eat and drink, and work and sleep in an attempt to avoid the unavoidable.

The opposite approach is equally unbalanced. It is a rare day that one can turn on a television, open a newspaper, or listen to the radio and not encounter an expert, pundit, or concerned parent discussing the degree of violence and death that is present in our contemporary American culture. Some scholars of postmodernity have commented on the increased presence of the “spectacle” in today’s society: In its most simplified form, the transformation of contemporary American culture into a “society of the spectacle” refers to the ongoing morphing of individuals into consumers and the manipulation of those consumers by various industries that are specifically attempting to constitute the desires and needs of the population in order to exploit them.18 Each day, we are presented with an array of spectacles that attract us in order for others to profit while at the same time allowing us to feel in some way satisfied regarding a desire or need. It is in this way that I suggest that death has become exploited.

For as much as we avoid facing death, the desire to confront it and control it remains ever present. Thus, markets have been created to sell and distribute a product that fulfills this desire. One of the many problems with this sort of reaction to death is that it produces a division of reality and artificiality. The consumption of grotesque films, music, literature, art, video games, and other media does not actually remedy the anxiety and fear that emerges from the intrinsic presence of death in our lives. However, the temporary cathartic quality of consuming spectacle eases our suffering. As Steven Best and Douglas Kellner keenly (and frankly) note, “of course, ‘virtual’ and ‘interactive’ technologies merely seduce the viewer into an even deeper tie to the spectacle, and there is no media substitute for getting off one’s ass, for interactive citizenship and democracy, for actually living one’s life in the real world.”19 This view helps to interpret the increasing attraction of people to horror films and violent video games. No matter how appealing artificial or virtual spectacles of facing death appear, exploitation ultimately leaves us dissatisfied and longing for a means to reconcile this constitutive part of our existence.20

The exploitation of death has yet another consequence. Ratzinger has observed an increased effort to turn death into a commodity in today’s culture. In addition to selling death as a spectacle, our culture also attempts to render death as mundane, palatable, and matter-of-fact. Ratzinger shares, “On television, death is presented as a thrilling spectacle tailor-made for alleviating the general boredom of life. In the last analysis, of course, the covert aim of this reduction of death to the status of an object is just the same as with the bourgeois taboo on [or avoidance of] the subject.”21 The exploitation of death seems to convince us that control over death is possible. This objectification of death completely dismisses its metaphysical and eschatological relationship to our lives. Like the attempted avoidance of death, the exploitation leaves us empty-handed. And in some ways, exploitation of death is a more painful ruse, one that deceives a person in such a way that they are (sometimes quite literally) sold a bill of goods. A person never faces the existential reality of death because he or she goes about thinking of it as entertainment, a product, or simply inconsequential.

All of this fear and anxiety, this avoidance and exploitation, is ultimately caused by our hopeless interpretation of death as the finite end of our existence. No one can deny the inevitability of death, but our understanding of its meaning shapes and informs the way we respond to its constant presence in our lives. Nihilism is not the only recourse for those who choose to face death for what it is. Instead, Christianity provides us with a view of this existential that provides both hope and meaning. Moreover, the fraternal worldview of Francis of Assisi provides us with a great example of an integrated, authentic approach to understanding, encountering, and reconciling our relationship to death.

Francis of Assisi and Death

From the beginning of his life until close to his death, Francis, like most people, appears to have dealt with the reality of death largely through avoidance and exploitation. This response was rooted in his fear of death. Sometime between 1209 and 1215, when Francis was in his early thirties, he writes, “And you think that you will possess this world’s vanities for a long time, but you are deceived because a day and an hour will come of which you give no thought, which you do not know, and of which you are unaware when the body becomes weak, death approaches, and it dies a bitter death.”22 This fearful tone is echoed in his Later Exhortation23 where he writes, “But let everyone know that whenever and however someone dies in mortal sin without making amends when he could have [done so] and did not, the devil snatches his soul from his body with such anguish and distress that no one can know [what it is like] except the one experiencing it.”24 These are but two examples of Francis’s early thoughts on death. Although the language is spiritualized and denotes a certain religiosity, the underlying attitude toward death is strictly negative. There are two themes that come across strongly in these early writings of Francis, namely, the inevitability of death and that death is both painful and to be feared. The first theme is of little note, as all who reflect on death come to this conclusion, but the second theme is highly problematic.

Death, as understood within the context of these early texts, is devoid of a hopeful or purposeful connection to the divine or to something beyond human finitude. Instead, Francis seems to link death to punishment for sinfulness and to portray death as a condition of human creatureliness. Additionally, during this period Francis interprets death as the threat of annihilation, the negation of existence.25 Although this view of death does not necessarily fit the contemporary models of avoidance and exploitation, it does indicate an uneasiness with the very subject that Francis acknowledges as inevitable. If this is where his view of death had remained, Francis would have joined the ranks of those who, in the face of the fear and anxiety of inescapability, never see death as anything beyond the natural end to finite existence. However, Francis’s view of death does not continue on a static trajectory; it develops and matures over the course of his life.

At the end of his life, as Francis drew near to the death that he feared for so long, the tone of his expression of death changed noticeably. Along his journey of life, prayer, and ministry, Francis remained convinced of death’s inevitability, but he started to view its meaning and his relationship to death rather differently. Where once he saw death as painful, as something to be feared, he now dared to call death his “sister.”

Francis’s salutation to Sister Death is found in verse twelve of his fourteen-verse Canticle of the Creatures. It reads, “Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.” The canticle was constructed in three stages, over several years. The first part (vv 1-9) is the earliest section, which highlights six natural elements from the sun and moon to wind, fire, and earth. Each of these natural elements is addressed as brother or sister. Each is named both in relation to Francis (or the reader) and as a part of God’s creation. There is a fraternal and filial connection expressed that links all of creation to Francis and both creation and Francis to God. It is also through creation that Francis sees God made present, and it is likewise through creation that Francis wishes to praise God. The second section of the canticle (vv 10 and 11) speaks to the need for reconciliation, solidarity, and peace. This stanza was written in response to a power struggle that was taking place in the medieval town of Assisi between the mayor and the bishop. Francis served as mediator, and he wrote this section of the text to prayerfully address the conflict and inspire a resolution. The concluding section (vv 12-14), which contains the line about Sister Bodily Death, was composed on Francis’s deathbed.

The transformation from fear of death to a place where Francis—awaiting his own impeding death—could welcome death as “sister” is clarified by looking to the threefold construction of the canticle, which illustrates Francis’s process of learning to embrace death. The first section of the canticle in many ways summarizes what I have referred to as Francis’s fraternal worldview. What we find in the first nine verses is not a flowery poem or simple artistic expression, but an invitation for us to join him in the hymn of praise to God, a hymn that is rooted in our fellowship with all of creation. Human beings, like the sun, moon, and earth, are created by God and are brought into existence through God’s own gift of love.26 Franciscan scholar Ilia Delio explains this view of Francis well: “If God is the source of my life and the source of your life as well, then the fullness of my life can only be found in you and in all that is in this world, because the fullness of God is expressed in humanity and all of creation.”27 Transformation from avoidance and exploitation of death to a welcomed embrace must begin with a realization that we are connected to all of creation in an intrinsic, holy way. Immediately, the notion of nihilism seems inadequate as the final recourse for questions of life and death. Not only does my life have meaning, but all life has meaning.

The second section of the canticle naturally builds upon the foundation that is laid in the first section. Reconciliation and peace can only be found where there is authentic relationship. The relationship that Francis identified as shared among all of creation is sometimes referred to as kinship or fraternity. It is a relationship that extends beyond dominance, control, or even stewardship. Francis’s fraternal worldview situated his own life within the natural order of creation, in which he saw the intrinsic dignity of being created by God. This dignity is present in all of life, including the lives of other men and women and the life of the world. Recognizing the dignity of all life should compel us to see beyond our own needs and desires, our own fears and anxiety, to appreciate the connectedness that calls us to support one another and care for all creation. Thus peacemaking does not become an activity that one does out of kindness or sympathy, but becomes a mode of acting that is part and parcel of what it means to be a follower of Christ and a believer in the God who is love. When Francis composed the section on peacemaking for the dueling mayor and bishop, he said, “Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation. Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.”28 He was reminding them (and us) that God is glorified when we enter into right relationship with each other, our selves, and our world. The recognition of that right relationship challenges us to move beyond our desire to avoid or exploit those parts of our lives that frighten us. Then, not only do we see our rightful place among the rest of creation, but we see that our life does not end only in death.

It is through peacemaking and self-emptying that we return to our place as children of God and brothers and sisters to one another and the rest of creation. In doing so, we no longer see death as something alien and to be feared, but as another dimension of ourselves.29 This is what is meant by the notion of facing our own death, of radically encountering that constitutive part of ourselves that cannot be avoided, or as Francis says, “[that] from whom no one living can escape.” Death is always before us and always a part of us, much like we remain always connected to the rest of creation and to one another. Death maintains its fearful place as a threat to those who refuse to see themselves as intimately connected to that which is other and to that which is wholly (and Holy) Other. For Francis, abandoning the belief that we are isolated individuals—entitled to and deserving of more than others—allows us to share in the experience of connectedness to and dependence on God. And that recognition of God’s presence in our lives is the beginning of the hope that arises from the fraternal worldview of Francis in the face of death.

In addition to seeing God’s presence and work in the world, Francis never forgot the central truth of the Christian message, which is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.30 Because of the resurrection, death is no longer the absolute end of life. Rather, although death remains a mystery that can only be fully understood through personal experience, Francis’s transformative view of death paints death as a source of hope. Francis saw, through his connectedness to creation and his relationship to God through all of creation, that death was a natural part of God’s plan for humanity. Yes, death is inescapable, but it does not mark an end as much as it marks the liminal experience of a new beginning. This is the hope that transcends the worldly limits of our finite experience. As Doyle notes, “By calling death his sister, Francis is reminding us that the Christian faith has a sacred message about human death.”31 The challenge that lies before us is to embrace this vision of death and to believe that life has been radically altered and redeemed through the resurrection.

As he approached his own earthly end, Francis, recalling the love of God made manifest in the gift of creation, looked forward with hope to his share in the resurrection of Christ. There was no longer a need to avoid or exploit death, because death was his sister, closer to him than the fear of the unknown. With arms extended, Francis did not cower from his destiny in fear and anxiety but embraced his sister bodily death with his whole heart and left this world in peace.


Living in light of a fraternal worldview that honors the connectedness of all creation helps to free us from the fear of death which otherwise mitigates the fullness of life and influences our actions toward self-preservation and selfishness at the cost of authentic relationship. The transformation from fear to hope in the life of Francis of Assisi as he approached death provides us with a model for Christian living in an increasingly secular, violent, and pessimistic world.32 In welcoming death as our sister, we might serve as beacons of the Christian hope of new life and live the prophetic call of the Gospel, proclaiming “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Once we appreciate the existential nature of death in human life, we are left with a choice. We can look at death as the end of a meaningless and limited existence, a perspective that of course evokes fear, anxiety, and responses of avoidance and exploitation. Or we can look at death as a part of the natural order, as something that is unavoidable yet represents a truth grounded in hope, not fear.33 We can look at death as alien and enemy. Or we can look at death as our sister. We can see in death the ultimate problem of humanity. Or we can see in death the hope of new life.

1. Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1973), xvii.

2. Francis of Assisi, “The Canticle of the Creatures” 12, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, ed. Regis J. Armstrong, J.A. Wayne Hellmann, and William Short (New York, NY: New City Press, 1999-2001), 114. Further citations of this source will be noted as FAED followed by the page number.

3. See Francis of Assisi, “The Canticle of the Creatures” 12, in FAED, 114.

4. Francis’s most famous work, The Canticle of the Creatures, written near the end of his life, illustrates this aspect of his spirituality. Please note that my use of the word fraternal is not to the exclusion of women. Instead, it is used as the English derivative of fraternitas, which is meant in this context to refer to all of humanity from a perspective of solidarity and familial relationship that is shared among all women and men as children of God, especially as understood within the Franciscan tradition. Because Francis uses fraternitas in his own writing, I have chosen to adopt this term. However, fraternal may also be read as “sisterhood and brotherhood.”

5. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 17th ed. (Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 1927, 1993). For the preeminent English translation, see Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1962). Further citations of this source will be noted as Being and Time, followed by the page number. For a recent study of the interpretation of Heidegger’s “Being-toward-death,” see Havi Carel, “Temporal Finitude and Finitude of Possibility: The Double Meaning of Death in Being and Time,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15 (2007): 541-556.

6. The existential phenomenological turn that Heidegger helped advance in the early twentieth century also bolstered this energy. For a helpful overview of the theological history of death, see John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994).

7. Becker, The Denial of Death, 11-12.

8. Bill John Polizos, “Christian Orthodoxy and Existential Anxiety: The Problem of Materiality and Finitude in the Pursuit of Authentic Religious Faith” (MA thesis, Washington Theological Union, 1997), 15.

9. Becker, The Denial of Death, 8. Original emphasis.

10. Ibid., 99.

11. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology: Volume 3 (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1963), 53. Tillich also engages Freud’s Todestrieb as Becker later does (see 54-57).

12. See Karl Rahner, “On Christian Dying,” in Theological Investigations Vol. VII, trans. David Bourke (New York, NY: Seabury/Crossroad, 1977), 285-293; “Ideas for a Theology of Death,” in Theological Investigations Vol. XIII, trans. David Bourke (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1983), 169-188; On The Theology of Death, trans. Charles Henkey (New York, NY: Herder and Herder, 1961); and Foundations of Christian Faith, trans. William Dych (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1978/2002), esp. 431-447.

13. Here we think of Kant’s critique of reason and the subsequent belief that we can know only what is before us because we substantially shape our experience of reality, thereby disregarding a human capax infiniti.

14. Some scholars suggest that this trend serves as a foundational influence on the contemporary condition of postmodernity in that the present culture rejects the veracity of metanarratives and is suspicious of anything that is not grounded in empirical evidence.

15. See Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, trans. Alastair Hannay (London, UK: Penguin Books, 2005).

16. Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, trans. David Wills (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2008), 55.

17. For more see Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, 2nd ed., trans. Michael Waldstein (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988), 69-72.

18. Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn (New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 1997), 83-85.

19. Ibid., 89.

20. See Eric Doyle, St. Francis and the Song of Brotherhood and Sisterhood (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 1997), 172-174.

21. Ratzinger, Eschatology, 70.

22. Francis of Assisi, “Earlier Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance” 2:14, in FAED, 43.

23. The dating for this text is less certain than for “Earlier Exhortation.” For our purposes here, we will assume it was written near 1220.

24. Francis of Assisi, “Later Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance,” 82, in FAED, 51.

25. Eloi Leclerc, The Canticle of Creatures: Symbols of Union; An Analysis of St. Francis of Assisi, trans. Matthew O’Connell (Chicago, IL: Franciscan Herald Press, 1970), 179.

26. See Daniel Horan, “Light and Love: Robert Grosseteste and John Duns Scotus on the How and Why of Creation,” The Cord 57 (July/September 2007): 243-257.

27. Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004), 171.

28. Francis of Assisi, “The Canticle of the Creatures” 10-11, in FAED, 114.

29. Leclerc, The Canticle of Creatures, 179.

30. Doyle, St. Francis and the Song of Brotherhood and Sisterhood, 177.

31. Ibid., 176.

32. For a contemporary and personal narrative of the transformation of one Franciscan in his own journey toward death, see Robert Stewart, Making Peace with Cancer: A Franciscan Journey (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2001).

33. Paul Ricoeur draws on this notion in his work, describing a “Fraternal tension within a unity of creation” that is understood as “The Franciscan knowledge of necessity: I am ‘with’ necessity, ‘among’ creatures.” See Ricoeur, Freedom and Nature, trans. Erazim Kohak (Chicago, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1966), 481.

About the Author

Daniel P. Horan
Daniel P. Horan, OFM, is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province (NY) and a graduate student at the Washington Theological Union (Washington, DC). He has written articles on Franciscan theology, philosophy, and spirituality that have appeared in such journals as America, Spiritual Life, The Cord, and Seminary Journal. His current research interest focuses on Radical Orthodoxy and the recent uses of John Duns Scotus. For more information visit

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