This openness to the Spirit in all that we do is itself a gift of the Spirit. It is not something we can attain by ourselves. But it is something that we can ask for and prepare ourselves for. Perhaps the best preparation is making ourselves aware of the reality of the Holy Spirit and of his action in our lives. Along with this awareness we must cultivate a desire to know God’s will. Prayer and recollection are essential for this.
Franciscan contemplation is about learning to see how God is always already right before us, reflected in all aspects of creation. We need to see the world anew, not because God is hidden and waiting for us to take our turn in a “spiritual hide-and-seek,” but because God is always “it” and at play around us. In other words, God is not hiding; God’s footprints are everywhere. We are usually the ones with our heads in the sand or hands over our eyes.
As he approached his own earthly end, Francis, recalling the love of God made manifest in the gift of creation, looked forward with hope to his share in the resurrection of Christ. There was no longer a need to avoid or exploit death, because death was his sister, closer to him than the fear of the unknown. With arms extended, Francis did not cower from his destiny in fear and anxiety but embraced his sister bodily death with his whole heart and left this world in peace.
Poverty invites us to go beyond ourselves, by taking from us everything on which we might tend to lean. It is not a matter of simply being poor but of having nothing that can prevent us from being wholly open to the grace of God. The practice of poverty, therefore, is the condition and sign of our openness to the mystery of God.
~ Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer
Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, instilled a spirit that sought to seek peace through understanding and acceptance, rather than combating for tranquility through aggression and war; justice in mercy and forgiveness rather than retribution in violent reprisal, availability to all rather than opinionated distance from those who do not share the same ideas and values. St. Francis even suffered in silence when the opinions of others had eventually changed the simplicity and brotherhood he had instituted when men began to seek to follow the Gospel Way. As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi we have a responsibility to follow the example of our Seraphic Father. Paul, the Apostle, and Matthew, the Evangelist, offer us insights upon which to reflect that we might be elements of reform in our society and be true Advocates of Peace and Proclaimers of God’s Love and Life in the Family of Humanity and in our own families, communities … the Church.
It is necessary therefore, not to remain in the restricted areas of our Franciscans environments but reaching out to the “world”, while assuming the risk that comes with proclaiming the Good News across the board, with intelligence, simplicity, conviction, the same evangelical parresia, the courage and the frankness of the proclamation of St. Francis and the apostles. We, the Secular Franciscans, are acutely aware that this responsibility falls on us in a very special way because we are the “specialists” of the world in the Franciscan family; we, the Seculars, are those who live immersed in the ordinary conditions of everyday life. If we fail in this task, the action of the entire Franciscan family cannot be fully successful. It is time to understand in its full extent, the magnitude of the task and the responsibility of that task to which we, the Secular Franciscans, are called, not only individually but also as an Order and especially as a family.
“One cannot imagine St. Francis of Assisi speaking of rights,” observed the French intellectual and mystic Simone Weil. Rights alone leach the fun out of everything. Rights alone — rights as an organizing principle, rights as a god — have led to a culture where the crowning glory of womanhood, the ability to give birth, is being reduced to a business transaction between two people who need never even touch.
To be both utterly clear-eyed and profoundly childlike is a paradox that can only be lived out by those with creative imaginations fired by a wildcard sense of joy.
St. Francis of Assisi was one such person. Writing of the pope’s namesake frolicking with his monks in freshly-fallen snow, G.K. Chesterton observed: “A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty nearly like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love.”
~ Heather King, “In Rome: The Synod on the Family”
As National Minister, I cannot mandate love or joy, so I will defer to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. After washing the feet of his disciples, our Lord said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
This love should be seen in our joy and our caring, regardless of disagreements or contentious discussions. Without others seeing our love and our joy, how can we ever keep the people we now have or receive from the Lord new membership and life?
Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life, events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference, but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love, loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness. It does not confer the power to change everything, but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things; and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives, but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them. Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love, abandonment, trust, hope, and offering. The most important and most fruitful acts of our freedom are not those by which we transform the outside world as those by which we change our inner attitude in light of the faith that God can bring good out of everything without exception.