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Center for Action and Contemplation

Franciscan Spirituality: Week 3 Summary

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Franciscan Spirituality: Week 3

Summary: Sunday, June 18-Friday, June 23, 2017

The Franciscan philosopher and theologian Bonaventure teaches that to really see things, we must “consider all material things in their origin, their process, and their end.” Everything comes from God, exemplifies God, and then returns to God. (Sunday)

John Duns Scotus’ idea of the univocity of being gave us a foundation for understanding the sacredness of everything and our connection with everything. We are already connected to everything—inherently, objectively, metaphysically, ontologically, and theologically. (Monday)

Francis decided to live a life focused on alleviating the needs and the suffering of others instead of a life of self-advancement. Freedom for both Jesus and Francis was purely and simply freedom from the self which is precisely freedom for the world. (Tuesday)

“If each one of us practiced Gospel simplicity, voluntary poverty, and downward mobility, like Francis, we would share the world’s resources with one another, have nothing to fear from others, and live in peace with everyone.” —John Dear (Wednesday)

True growth in holiness is a growth in willingness to love and be loved and a surrendering of willfulness, even holy willfulness (which is still “all about me”). (Thursday)

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. (Friday)


Practice: Moving toward the Margins

Francis and Clare found freedom living “on the edge of the inside,” moving to the bottom where the outcasts, poor, and marginalized lived. They lived differently by emphasizing alternative values and not participating in Church and society’s systems. CAC Living School alumnus, Mark Longhurst, reflected on the powerfully transformative space of “margins” in a recent Oneing article:

The spiritual practice of befriending margins is uncomfortable, terrifying, and yet contains transformative power and beauty. . . . To pay attention to margins is to pay attention to how boundary lines are constructed in our world and lives—and then to cross those boundaries. The psyche draws boundaries around what it is willing to face, so exploring unconscious desires through shadow work is a way of welcoming the Holy Spirit to our inner margins. Christian traditions have often neglected, shamed, or marginalized the physical body’s wisdom. To begin conscious re-membering of our bodies, then, is essential for integral wholeness. Today, more people are awakening to the way social systems have marginalized society’s most vulnerable populations. Prioritizing insights, friendships, and leadership from people on the margins is a way of yielding to holistic political transformation.

For contemplatives to engage margins, especially contemplatives accustomed to the comfortable, majority center, will require the heart’s nimble resilience across social space. . . . Margins are nothing less than what Richard Rohr calls “liminal space.” From the Latin limen, threshold, in liminal space we dwell before, and sometimes dive through, a doorway of transformation. As Richard writes in Adam’s Return,

Liminality is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where people can begin to think and act in genuinely new ways. It is when we are betwixt and between, have left one room but not yet entered the next room, any hiatus between stages of life, jobs, loves, or relationships. It is that graced time when we are not certain or in control, when something genuinely new can happen. [1]

. . . The present moment may be asking us, now and always, to embrace the power and wisdom of the margins—or, as writer-activist Teresa Pasquale Mateus says, to “center the margins.” For white people coming from privileged backgrounds, this may mean non-defensive, open-hearted listening to the marginalized life experiences of black and brown Americans. Once hearts are cracked open, for example, to hear the horror of African American experiences, first of slavery and lynching, and now of incarceration, the war on drugs, and gun violence, it becomes a transformative human response to affirm with weeping, prayer, solidarity, and action that black lives matter. Once hearts are cracked open to hear and honor immigrant and refugee stories, our hearts become broken at America’s long legacy of turning away or disenfranchising those who differ from the white mold. And, once hearts are broken, it ceases to become an ideology for people of privilege to stand with the marginalized. Solidarity with the different is transformed into simply a natural human response of compassion, reflecting our inherent, yet fragmented, oneness.

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

[1] Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation (The Crossroad  Publishing Company: 2004), 135.

Mark Longhurst, “Transformation at the Margins,” “Transformation,” Oneing, vol. 5, no. 1 (CAC: 2017), 103-106, 108.

For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (Sounds True: 2010), CD
Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014)
Richard Rohr, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking (CAC: 2012), CD, MP3 download

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