This week’s Daily Meditations focus on the Franciscan unified vision of contemplation and action. Father Richard recounts an early story about Francis of Assisi’s (1182–1226) vocational path:
One of the foundational charisms of St. Francis of Assisi was the way he integrated contemplation and action. Early on, he is attracted to contemplation and to living in silence out in nature. But he’s not sure if this is what God wants him to do. So Francis sends two brothers to Sister Clare and Brother Sylvester to ask each one to pray for an answer: should he live in prayerful seclusion, or should he travel through Italy and minister to people as a preacher?
When the brothers return, Francis is ready to do whatever they say. Both give the same reply: Clare and Sylvester each said that it was God’s will “that the herald of Christ should preach.” Francis gets up, and quickly takes to the roads in obedience to God. 
Francis’s eagerness to serve God by preaching did not limit his deep love for meeting God in prayer. When he needed rest from the crowds who gathered to hear him, it was customary for Francis “to divide the time given him . . . to spend some of it to benefit his neighbors and use the rest in the blessed solitude of contemplation.” 
Father Richard describes how Francis desired the same combination of contemplative and active ministry for his friars:
The Franciscan worldview is that the Christ is everywhere. In fact, this was my Bachelor of Arts thesis in college. I wrote it on the quote from Francis where he says, “Don’t speak to me of Benedict; don’t speak to me of Augustine! The Lord called me to a different way.” 
Francis didn’t need to create a monastery, as the Benedictines and Augustinians had done. He didn’t want us to be enclosed monks. He wanted us to be friars, living in the middle of the people. To this day, Franciscan friaries are in the heart of most major European cities.
Over thirty-five years ago, when we named our organization the Center for Action and Contemplation, I was just being a good Franciscan. It was St. Bonaventure (1221–1274) at the University of Paris who had to debate the secular (diocesan) priests who said that the Franciscan way of putting action and contemplation together would not work. They wanted Franciscans to choose one or the other. The secular priests worked with the people in the parishes, while the “true” religious people went off to monasteries. Francis and his followers thought there had to be a way to do both.
That was unique. It’s almost like human consciousness just couldn’t imagine that anyone could find God except by going into the desert, into the monastery, away from troubles, away from marriage, away from people.
And eight hundred years later, we’re still trying to learn how to balance contemplation and action.
 See Bonaventure, The Life of Blessed Francis,chap. 12, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents,vol. 2, The Founder (New York: New City Press, 2000), 623–624.
 Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis, chap. 2, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents,vol. 1, The Saint (New York: New City Press, 1999), 261.
 See The Assisi Compilation, chap. 18, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, The Founder (New York: New City Press, 2000), 133.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard’s book Eager to Love on Franciscan spirituality.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Daily Meditation 2022 Series (detail), 2022, photographs, Colorado. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.
This year we invited a few photographers, including Carrie, to share their vision with us in an artistic exploration for the Daily Meditations. The inspiration questions we asked each artist to create from were: How do you as an artist connect to and engage with (S)spirit and/or tradition(s)? How can we translate deeper truths through a lens? and How can we show our inherent connectedness (of humans, nature, other creatures, etc.) through imagery? This week’s images by Carrie Grace Littauer appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: What intersects most with my contemplative practice – [is] to venture into my backyard for contemplative walks and photography of what I find there. I’m often stunned. Finding the beauty in the every day and right under my nose seems like the greatest spiritual invitation. —Carrie Grace Littauer
Story from Our Community:
I appreciate the Franciscan insight into oneness and interconnectedness. I love the night. As darkness shadows, distance seems to disappear. Everything is here, where I am encompassed by sound and touch. In night’s solitude, I reach out to the open sky and beyond to the unknown. I celebrate that I am one with All and All is one with me.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.