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A Franciscan Revolution

Friday, June 23, 2017

Franciscan Spirituality: Week 3

A Franciscan Revolution
Friday, June 23, 2017

. . . A man like St. Francis of Assisi, for instance. What does he really mean? . . . A complete break with the pattern of history. . . . A man born out of due time. A sudden, unexplained revival of the primitive spirit of Christianity. The work he began still continues. . . . But it is not the same. The revolution is over. The revolutionaries have become conformists. The little brothers of the Little Poor Man are rattling alms boxes in the railway square or dealing in real estate to the profit of the order. [. . .] Of course, that isn’t the whole story. They teach, they preach, they do the work of God as best they know, but it is no longer a revolution, and I think we need one now.Morris West [1]

I hope these meditations can help reignite the Franciscan revolution, for that is what it was—and will be again. We are extremely blessed to be living in the time of a pope who most beautifully exemplifies Franciscan life (even though he is officially a Jesuit), because it is so much harder to do in our time. Pope Francis shows us that the Franciscan vision is possible at every level and in every age. Not only did he take the name Francis, but he seems so eager to proclaim both the “foolishness” and the wisdom of the Gospel to every level of society. He has the passion, love, and urgency of St. Francis himself and has moved the papacy from the palace to the streets.

I hope these reflections will help us recognize one helpful truth: There is a universal accessibility, invitation, and inclusivity in an authentic Franciscan spirituality. It surpasses the boundaries of religion, culture, gender, ethnicity, era, class, or any measure of worthiness or education. Like the Incarnation itself, the Franciscan reading of the Gospel “brings everything together, in the heavens and on the earth, behind Christ who is leading the way and in whom we are all claimed as God’s own” (Ephesians 1:10-11).

This is not an elitist journey, not a separatist or clerical journey. It is not based in asceticism or superiority but in the elements that are universally available to all humans: nature, embodiment, solidarity with the necessary cycle of both life (“attachment”) and death (“detachment”), the democracy of love, and most especially with a God “who is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14). This is what divine grace is—always given unawares and unearned and everywhere.

Gateway to Silence:
I am that which I am seeking.

[1] Morris West, The Shoes of the Fisherman (William Morrow: 1963), 270. The ellipses without brackets are from original text.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 265-267.

Image credit: La Franceschina (detail), c. 1474, Biblioteca Augusta, Perugia, Italy. artist unknown.
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