Saint Francis: Model of Dialogue
Fr. Pierre de Bethune reflects on the witness of Saint Francis of Assisi toward other religions. This excerpt is taken from his article "Christian-Buddhist Dialogue as Spiritual Experience," which appeared in Bulletin 52, (January, 1995).
The image of Saint Francis, painted during his lifetime (1181/82-1226), is from the Sacro Speco at Subiaco, where Saint Benedict lived as a hermit in the fifth century.
As long as our meeting with others is limited to a search for profit, albeit spiritual, a true encounter is not possible, because it is not so much the person of the other believer that we encounter, but his/her riches, received as "things." However, at this point if we consent to go further with our companions on the Buddhist way, we are gradually brought to a change of attitude. We realize that this meeting in depth brings about a real impoverishment. There are the various roads which converge towards this evangelical beatitude. In experiencing other religious traditions we discover other images and names for the Absolute. We see how the spirit is equally at work, and this discovery can help to liberate us from our possessiveness in this domain.
Here St. Francis of Assisi enlightens our path. His biographer, Thomas of Celano, sites the practice of the Poverello to treat sacred texts with great respect, even those from secular authors. A brother asked him one day why he so carefully collected the writings even of the pagans, where the Name of the Savior was not present. He answered: "My son, it is because we find in them the letters that spell out the glorious Name of Our Lord God. All that is good in these writings belongs neither to the pagans nor to anyone else, but to God alone, from whom we receive every good." A particular good does not belong to us. We do not possess the truth. Then we can "rejoice in the truth" that we find in others and purify ourselves of an exaggerated attachment to our truths of the faith.
"Krsna says: tesam satatam yuktanam. Anyone who is sincerely engaged in My service I give him the intelligence. Krsna is the most intelligent. So if He gives the intelligence who can compete with you?"