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The Franciscan Way
The Franciscan Way

It’s Time for a Franciscan Renaissance

Friday, September 8, 2023

A Franciscan Renaissance would be ecological, nonviolent, economic, and inclusive. —Brian McLaren and Patrick Carolan  

CAC teacher Brian McLaren joins with Catholic activist Patrick Carolan to call for a renewal of the Franciscan way in Christianity: 

We have a proposal that addresses both the crises in the world at large and the crises in the Christian church: the possibility of a Franciscan Renaissance…. 

First, at this time of ecological crisis, the Franciscan legacy is powerfully ecological…. We need a spiritual vision that integrates love for God and love for our neighbor with love for the earth….  

The ecological vision of Francis was about … the interconnectedness of all creation, so that we see every creature as sister or brother.… 

Second, in this time of violence, this time of school shootings and war in Europe, this time when many politicians seem to believe that the more guns we have the safer we’ll be, or the more bombs we have the safer we’ll be, we need St. Francis’ message and example of nonviolence as never before…. 

Over the centuries, many forms of Christianity have become religions of fear. But Christianity wasn’t always like that. It began as a nonviolent peace movement, a community known for love, a community gathered around a table of fellowship and reconciliation, a people armed with the basin and towel of service, not the bomb and gun of violence. A Franciscan Renaissance would invite us to become, in the language of St. Clare, not violent warriors, but nonviolent mirrors of Christ for others to see and follow.   

Third … the Franciscan vision is deeply economic. Today, a larger and larger percentage of wealth is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals and families…. St. Francis arose in the early stages of modern capitalism, and he saw its potential dangers. He exemplified an alternative value system where the poor, the leper, and the outcast matter more than money, luxury, and power. Our current economic model places no intrinsic value on creation, except as a source for raw materials that we consume…. A Franciscan Renaissance would help us “redeem”—which means to re-assess and revalue—everything, so we rediscover the priceless beauty of the earth and its creatures, including our neighbors and ourselves.   

Fourth, we live in a time of exclusion, division, classism, racism, and religious prejudice. We need the example of St. Francis and St. Clare, who clearly modeled deep inclusiveness and solidarity…. In this spirit of solidarity, I see that my life and your life are interconnected. I refuse to settle for my own happiness, because my life is in solidarity with yours as my neighbor. 

The relationship between Francis and Clare modeled this: we’re all equal—male and female, rich and poor, healthy and sick, well-clothed and clothed in rags, Pope and Bishop and lay person. Francis even teaches us to refuse to discriminate between Christian and Muslim, Jew and Atheist, for we all are beloved by God.  


Brian McLaren and Patrick Carolan, “It’s Time for a Franciscan Renaissance,” Red Letter Christians (blog), January 18, 2023. Used with permission of authors. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Chemistry of Self 3 (detail), digital oil pastels. Izzy Spitz, momentary peace (detail), digital oil pastels. Taylor Wilson, Transfiguration (detail), cyanotype. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Amidst our life complexities, we stop, we breath, we look for the pockets of peace. 

Story from Our Community:  

Recently, I was sitting in my car looking up at the blue sky and watching the clouds float by. Something shifted within me, and for the first time I saw in my heart that all is one. I saw that all of creation is formed—in different amounts and combinations—by the same elements. I was reminded of St. Francis and I understood. Thanks be to God. —Jennifer R. 

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