But, I cannot help but wonder whether we might find Francis on Facebook had he been born in our lifetime and not nearly a millennium ago. If he did not personally join Facebook or use Twitter or build a profile on LinkedIn, then I imagine that those friars who might find themselves compelled to reach out to others and preach the Gospel online might ask for his blessing. In return, Francis might give his approval as he did to St. Anthony of Padua when the friar asked if he could teach the other friars theology – something that seemed contrary to Francis’s original “game plan” of Gospel living. Francis’s response might read something like this: “I am pleased that you want to be present on Facebook and through other social media providing that, as is contained in the Rule, you ‘do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion’ during this activity.” And with that, a new age of mission and ministry would have begun.
Franciscans face the task of linking scripture and the life and Words of Jesus to their own lives. Moreover, we rely on the Holy Spirit to continue to teach us what we need to know. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth… (John 16:13). We cannot escape the message of scripture nor the model that Jesus gives. Francis understood the primacy of Jesus and sought to imitate what he saw in and heard from Jesus.
~ Lester Bach, OFM Cap, The Franciscan Journey: Embracing the Franciscan Vision
The only Son becomes human as a poor child, and lives in obscurity, without wealth or position. Francis recognized in this event of the incarnation the generosity of God, who does not hold onto anything, even divine status. In coming as a human being, the Son gives away exalted position and embraces with love human limitations, suffering, labour and even death. The life of Jesus is a moving picture (in both senses of the word) of God’s life.
We live in a world that is basically a spiritual concentration camp. Unless we put a lot of effort into fighting it, we are pretty much cut off from the things of God and the essential spiritual food we need to survive. We are like the victims of concentration camps who have been surviving on bits and pieces of food and are spiritual walking skeletons.
Your heart is to be an altar of God. It is here that the fire of intense love must burn always. You are to feed it every day with the wood of the cross of Christ and the commemoration of his passion.
~ St. Bonaventure
The priest went on to say that we’re comfortable with Christianity and even with helping others as long as it doesn’t affect us directly. But anytime we have to get within the margins—leave our comfortable homes, or do anything more than write a check, we’re unable to act. We fail as Christians. Powerful words that had folks in the pews clapping by the end, but as I sat there I wondered whether or not anyone on Capitol Hill would heed these wise words?
Jesus Christ is the center and inspiration of our lives as Franciscans. He is the way, the truth, and the life. In him we live and move and have our being. He clarifies our thinking with his teaching. He directs our actions with his value system. He moves our hearts with the power of his presence in our lives.
Therefore, to observe the gospel means that we live Jesus, that we make his life and teachings and values our own, just as Francis of Assisi did.
Franciscan prayer is about relationship with a God of overflowing love. It is discovering the God of love at the center of our lives and of our world and finding the truth of our identity in God. To enter into this relationship one must be a person of desire. God does not force us into a relationship of love but freely gives us the grace to respond to his invitation of love. Spiritual desire is the longing of the heart for relationship with God that brings happiness and peace.
Our age is marked by increased globalization and commercialization. Today those things of the “life without,” money, power and status for example, are even more pervasive in all parts of our globe. Francis provides us with a succinct reminder of what should be our forma vitae: the life of the Spirit. Our task then is to constantly recall that our life should be the Gospel of Christ and not the propaganda of the world. When distracted by the trappings of the worldly life, we need to redirect our view to the Spirit.
The Internet assists our obsessed engagement with ourselves by disguising it as a fascination with others who—either by offering opposition or validation—keep us fixated on the self.
We embrace the vision to respect all human life. We work to protect the lives of people no matter who they are or how bad they may be. It is the way of our Franciscan love. True christian love cannot be choosey. It is universal as We try to imitate the God who loves all people. For the same reason, we work to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ (SFO Rule #13). All life is precious and we will live by that belief. We know how impossible this can be without the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence We are a prayerful people.
~ Lester Bach, OFM Cap, The Franciscan Journey: Embracing the Franciscan Vision
I beg you, Lord, let the glowing and honey-sweet force of your love draw my mind away from all things that are under heaven, that I may die for love of the love of you who thought it a worthy thing to die for love of the love of me.
~ St. Francis of Assisi, quoted in The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus (Book 5) by Ubertino Da Casale (1305)
The world tells us that happiness, joy and entertainment are the best things in life. And it looks the other way when there are problems of disease or pain in the family. The world does not want to suffer, it prefers to ignore painful situations, to cover them up. Only the person who sees things as they are, and whose heart mourns, will be happy and will be comforted. Thanks to the consolation of Jesus, not to that of the world.
~ Pope Francis, Homily, Mass at Casa Santa Marta, June 6th 2014
Today there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every man, no matter who he is, and if we meet him, to come to his aid in a positive way, whether he is an aged person abandoned by all, a foreign worker despised without reason, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’.
~ Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Second Vatican Council, 1965
The speech was so inspirational I had trouble picking out excerpts and considered posting it in its entirety here. I strongly encourage you to read it beginning to end. The full text is available on the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s website.
. . .
It is this kind of love and compassion in the service of truth, especially the truth of the human person, that has marked the lives of the holy ones of our own faith tradition and others as well: hospitals, orphanages, schools, outreach to the poor and destitute – giving without concern for getting anything in return, seeing in each human being, especially in the poor and destitute, a priceless child beloved by God, whom God calls to turn away from sin and toward Him, so that they might be saved.
. . .
Let us, then, take our cue from the best our predecessors in faith have inspired, and not humanity’s frequent failings and sins. Like them, we now in our own time need to proclaim and live the truth with charity and compassion as it applies to us today: the truth of a united family based on the union of the children’s father and mother in marriage as the foundational good of society. Every child comes from a man and a woman, and has a right, a natural human right, to know and be known by, to love and be loved by, their own mother and father. This is the great public good that marriage is oriented towards and protects. The question is then: does society need an institution that unites children to the mothers and fathers who bring them into the world, or doesn’t it? If it does, that institution is marriage – nothing else provides this basic good to children.
Yes, this is a foundational truth, and one to which we must witness by lives lived in conformity to it, and which we must proclaim with love.
. . .
But even those from whom we suffer retribution – and I know some of you have suffered in very serious ways because of your stand for marriage – still, we must love them. That is what our ancestors in faith did, and we must, too. Yes, it is easy to become resentful when you are relentlessly and unfairly painted as a bigot and are punished for publicly standing by the basic truth of marriage as a foundational societal good; it is tempting to respond in kind. Don’t. For those of us who are Catholic, we just heard our Master command us in the gospel proclaimed at Mass the day before yesterday: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). We must not allow the angry rhetoric to co-opt us into a culture of hate.
Yes, we must show love toward all of these and more. Love is the answer. But love in the truth. The truth is that every child comes from a mother and a father, and to deliberately deprive a child of knowing and being loved by his or her mother and father is an outright injustice. That is our very nature, and no law can change it. Those with temporal power over us might choose to change the definition of marriage in the law even against all that we have accomplished through very generous participation in the democratic process, but our nature does not change. If the law does not correspond to our nature, such that there is a conflict between the law and nature, guess which will prevail? And people will figure it out.
. . .
So take heart: the truth spoken in love has a power over the human heart. We are here today to March for Marriage, to pick up the torch, and pass on to a new generation the truth about marriage, not just the abstract truth, but the lived reality that makes a difference in children’s lives. So, my friends, we must not give up: the truth will not go away, and we will not go away. Let us take heart from the legacy we have received, let us place our trust in God, and let us go forth to build a civilization of truth and love.