Violence and oppression take many forms within our world. No Secular Franciscan can work for the reform of every oppressive system; yet every Secular Franciscan must be involved somehow in the work of justice if they are authentically converted, if they truly appropriate the Rule. Each response to the Rule will be unique; each person must interpret what that call to radical conversion means in his or her life. But to all those who respond authentically will come the blessing of penance.
He (St. Francis) no longer did what he wanted himself but what God demanded of him: “that which seemed bitter to me.” In the process, he came to experience a special grace, that his bitterness was”changed into sweetness of soul and body.” Penance to him is thus the conversion of a person from a life centered on the personal “I” to a life which is completed under the will and sovereign lordship of God. Thus, penance is the same as “change of heart” in the biblical sense (Turn away from your sin and believe in the good news,” Mk 1:15), and according to the mind of St. Francis, it must be the basic life attitude of all his followers.
Soon we shall be in eternity, and then we shall see how very petty are the things of this earth and how inconsequential it is whether we are involved in them or not. Now we get all worked up as if they were terribly important! When we were small children, how carefully we collected pieces of wood, stone and such to build huts, and if someone knocked them down we cried; then we were all put out, but now we understand how unimportant these things were. We will feel the same way one day in Heaven, when we see that all our preoccupations in this world were nothing but childish concerns. Be faithful to your duties, but be convinced that there is nothing more worthy or more important than eternal salvation and the perfection of your soul.
For Secular Franciscans, conversion is the singular character of the Order, which is supported by the initial and ongoing processes of formation in the life of the fraternity. In the end, conversion is shot through with mystery. While personal stories, biblical insights, the sacraments of initiation, theological reflections and psychological categories are helpful to understand and explain the experience, the Christian tradition in the end must stand before the grace of God in silence and wonder.
~ Ron Pihokker, OFS, “Penitence and Conversion: Spirituality of Conversion” (Chapter 17 of the FUN Manual)
Be sure, my daughter, that if you seek to lead a devout life, you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of a relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually enfeeble your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion. Souls which, in spite of having forsaken sin, yet retain such likings and longings, remind us of those persons who, without being actually ill, are pale and sickly, languid in all they do, eating without appetite, sleeping without refreshment, laughing without mirth, dragging themselves about rather than walking briskly.
~ St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life via a minor friar blog
Real faith – the kind our Holy Father calls us to – demands a keen awareness of our failures as Christians and a spirit of repentance. It requires us to seek out who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples. And that always involves the cross.
~ Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
“I am not in control.”
Granted, God gave me dignity, free will and an understanding of the value of self-discipline to achieve certain ends. But, repeatedly, I credit myself too much, rely on myself too much, and aimlessly follow myself too much when I should me more aware that my God is present, active and infinitely invested in my life. How do I miss Him? Perhaps if I were simply a little more quiet, a little more content and a little more humble, I would hear the inner voice, understand the call, feel the glorious draw of the fishing line and once again find the Golden Thread. Perhaps. Yes. Perhaps that’s what I will do. May God help me.
~ Tod Worner, “God’s Call: Of Golden Strings & Fisherman’s Lines”
The fundamental value of penitential spirituality is integral to the continued development of Franciscan life and spirituality. The penitential life is not a matter of “doing penance” or accomplishing penitential acts, rather it is the openness to grow, to be shaped, and formed in a life that reflects the dynamic movement and presence of Christ within. Metanoia is not something we do; it is God’s gracious gift. Our participation in metanoia depends on our capacity to be receptive, bent low in prayerful and contemplative love, to dwell in Christ, and with Christ live in bountiful love and service to others.
~ Margaret Magee, O.S.F, “Reclaiming Penitential Spirituality for the 21st Century,” The Cord 57, No. 2 (April/June 2007), 152.
One of the things Christ must have learned in the thirty yeas before his public ministry is that no amount of discussion or reasoning will convert the human heart. If you hunger and thirst for goodness, beauty, truth, you will fall upon the Gospels weeping with joy; if you don’t, you will steadfastly, insanely deny them, or worse, try to twist them to support your own ends, insisting that Love thine enemies means to kill them, and that Blessed are the poor means blessed are the prosperous. So again we return to the scandal of the Cross. Of praying in secret, of hungering and thirsting for justice, of quietly and mostly hiddenly consenting to the ongoing Crucifixion of trying to live out our smallest moments in love. Failing most of the time, of course, but still…
~ Heather King, Jesus Said So Little….
The real difference between Francis and Dominic, which is no discredit to either of them, is that Dominic did happen to be confronted with a huge campaign for the conversion of heretics, while Francis had only the more subtle task of the conversion of human beings. It is an old story that, while we may need somebody like Dominic to convert the heathen to Christianity, we are in even greater need of somebody like Francis, to convert the Christians to Christianity.
~ G. K. Chesterton via Dominicana Blog