Thanks to Dritanje at Rivertrain for pointing me in the direction of French Catholic writer and poet Christian Bobin. I started with The Very Lowly: A Meditation on the Life of Francis of Assisi, translated by Michael H Kohn. What a joy and revelation this book is, startling in its immediacy, poetic in its religion, liberating — even revolutionary — in its anti-materialism, in its attention to the humble and the holy poor, in its celebration of a careless, selfless, singing, childlike love of all things.
From as early as page two we are stopped in our tracks: We say, for example, 'Francis of Assisi'. We say it like someone sleepwalking, without coming out of the sleep of language. We do not say it, we let it say itself. We let the words come out. They come out in an order that is not our own, which is the order of a lie, of death, of life in society. Very few genuine words are exchanged in a day, really very few. Perhaps we only fall in love in order finally to begin to speak. Perhaps we only open a book in order finally to begin to hear.
The sleep of language! Something mystical is going on here, something beyond the reach of language. Language is suspect, duplicitous, is something over which we do not have complete control. Language does not serve our deepest purpose. True, deep language is perhaps only spoken between lovers, or heard in the echo of a book's hieroglyphs.
Francis believed instinctively in the equality of all living things: He (Francis) never experienced anything that was not in perfect accord with this belief in the absolute equality of every living being with all others, with the same dignity of existence allotted to each one — beggars, burghers, trees, or stones — solely in virtue of the miracle of having appeared on the earth, all bathed in the same sun of sovereign love.
God is to be found in the refrains of childhood, in the lost blood of the poor, or in the the voice of plain, simple people. All of these hold God in the hollow of their open hands, a sparrow soaked like a piece of bread by the rain, a sparrow chilled to the bone, squawking, a chirping God who comes to eat from their naked hands. God is what children know, not adults. An adult has no time to waste feeding sparrows.
All of us are significant, are worthy of our place in creation: One cannot say of anyone that he is insignificant, because he is called to see God without end. This quote (cited by Bobin) comes from the French mystic Marguerite Porete, who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church in 1310 for her heretical book The Mirror of Simple and Annihilated Souls.