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A Prime Attractor

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Franciscan Spirituality: Week 1

A Prime Attractor
Monday, June 5, 2017

One day, Brother Masseo approached Brother Francis to test his humility and asked in a pointed way “Why after you? Why after you? Why does the whole world come running after you, Francis?” [1] We are still asking that question eight centuries later. Francis is what some call a “prime attractor”—one who moves history and humanity forward just by being who he is.

More than any other follower of Jesus, Francis of Assisi has been called a “second Christ.” He is taken seriously by all world religions. When Pope John Paul II wanted to gather the leaders of all the world religions to have a respectful interfaith dialogue in the 1980s, the only city that they could agree to meet in was Assisi, because the memory of St. Francis does not carry any negative baggage, even to other religions.

I live in New Mexico, where the first Franciscan arrived in 1539, beginning a long and checkered history here. I am afraid the Order had lost much of Francis’ simplicity by then, because, like the Church itself, we had aligned ourselves with power, war, and empire (in our case, the Spanish Empire) for protection. Strange, since this is precisely what Francis refused to do in order to keep his structural, Gospel, and personal freedom. But at least we still accompanied the poor, the indigenous, and the immigrants, and had not lost Francis’ sense of adventure into ever-new worlds.

In Francis’ worldview, the sun, moon, animals, plants, and elements are all shown reverence and even personal subjectivity as “brother” and “sister.” He is the patron saint of ecology, animals, and peacemaking—because he understood that the entire circle of life has a Great Lover at the center of it all. He is the only Christian man ever known to attempt two or three trips to dialogue with the “enemy” during the tragic Crusades against Muslims in the Holy Land, telling the Christians they were wrong for crusading and persecuting these children of God! He is truly a universal man, addressing the same issues that are still urgent and important in our own time: creation, nonviolence, and the foundational justice issue—living a simple, shared life in this world—which alone makes sisterhood and brotherhood possible. Francis knew there is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.

Gateway to Silence:
Who are you, God? And who am I?

[1] The Little Flowers of St. Francis, chapter 10.

Adapted from Richard Rohr’s foreword to Mirabai Starr’s book, Saint Francis of Assisi: Brother of Creation  (Sounds True: 2013), vii-ix;
The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St. Francis, disc 1 (Sounds True: 2010), CD; and
Richard Rohr with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2001), 109.

Image credit: Saint Francis of Assisi Is Wed to Lady Poverty (detail), Fresco attributed to Giotto di Bondone, c. 1330, Basilica di San Francesco (lower level, over the altar), Assisi, Italy.
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