Franciscan Spirituality: Week 1
For Francis of Assisi, the true “I” first had to be discovered and realigned (the prayer journey into the True Self). Then he had to experience himself situated inside of a meaning-filled cosmos (a sacramental universe). Finally, he had to be poor (to be able to read reality from the side of powerlessness). (Sunday)
Saint Francis is what some call a “prime attractor”—one who moves history and humanity forward just by being who he is. (Monday)
Francis’ pure vision of Gospel life attracted thousands to a new freedom in the Church and in ministry. (Tuesday)
Francis seemed to realize that there is an intrinsic connection between violence and the need to protect one’s possessions, perks, and privileges. He concluded that the only way out of such a world was to live a life of voluntary poverty. (Wednesday)
Francis also felt that he had to live in close proximity to and even solidarity with the excluded ones in his society in order to find a way out of the world of comparison, competition, greed, and the violence that comes with it. (Thursday)
Imagine what the world would be like if we treated others with inherent and equal dignity and respect, seeing the divine DNA in ourselves and everyone else too—regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, appearance, or social class. Nothing less offers the world any lasting future. (Friday)
Practice: Letting Go into God
It is said that Francis’ great prayer, which he would spend whole nights praying, was “Who are you, God? And who am I?” Contemplative prayer helps us to live into these questions.
Who am I? As we observe our minds in contemplation, first we recognize how many of our thoughts are defensive, oppositional, paranoid, self-referential, or in some way violent. Until we recognize how constant that dualistic mind is, we have no motivation to let go of it. Contemplation teaches us to say, “That feeling is not me. I don’t need that opinion to define me. I don’t need to justify myself or blame someone else.”
Gradually, we learn to trust the wounds and the failures of life, which are much better teachers than our supposed successes. It’s all a matter of letting go and getting out of the way. Thérèse of Lisieux would call it surrender and gratitude. She said, “It is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God’s arms.”  Until we discover this “little way,” we almost all try to gain moral high ground by obeying laws and thinking we are spiritually advanced.
The nondual mind can accept and surrender to the mystery that I am to myself; it doesn’t need to quickly categorize this mystery as sinful, wrong, and evil or as good, meritorious, and wonderful. It just is. When I can no longer hold myself up, I fall into the Mystery of God and let God hold me. When I no longer name myself right or wrong, I let Someone Else name me. This is the beginning of true spirituality, of the true mutuality of the God/human love affair.
Who is God? When I allow God to keep revealing the deeper Mystery of Mercy and Grace and Love to me, I don’t categorize or hold God too easily, too quickly, as if I understand God, as if I’ve got God in my pocket. Those who allow God to reveal God’s Self are the very ones who know that God is Love. They know that God is not a harsh judge or conditional lover.
Those who experience the depths within contemplation know that God’s love is an endless sea of mercy and unconditional acceptance. The deeper you go, the more you fall into the Mystery. As you fall into the Mystery of an ever-loving God, you are able to accept the mystery of yourself. And as you accept the mystery of yourself, you fall into the Mystery of God. You don’t know—and it doesn’t matter—which comes first. People who love God love themselves and everybody else. People who love themselves and everyone else also love God.
You see, love is one. Love is the whole. Love is an endless sea that you fall into. And once you fall into it, you can’t fall out. It’s not something you do. It’s something that is done to you, and all you can do is let go.
Gateway to Silence:
Who are you, God? And who am I?
 Letter from Therese of Lisieux to Father Adolphe Roulland, May 9, 1897. See Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, volume 2, 1890-1897, translated by John Clarke (ICS Publications: 1982), 1094.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 4 (Sounds True: 2010) CD.
For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St. Francis (Sounds True: 2010), CD
Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014)
Richard Rohr with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2001)