Everything I do, reading, study, writing, etc., simply must be done in such a way that it is prayer and preparation for prayer. That means first of all not doing it to satisfy my voracious appetite to know, to enjoy, to achieve things, to get tangible results and taste the immediate reward of my own efforts because, if that is what leads me, everything turns to ashes as soon as I touch it.
Article Eight of the rule directs all Secular Franciscans to stress the primacy of worship in their lives — the interior prayer of contemplation as well as the exterior liturgical prayer of the Church. The article also urges Secular Franciscans to have an active participation in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist, and in the Liturgy of the Hours. When this article is lived fully, each Secular Franciscan will be a true worshiper, always involved with Christ and conscious of his presence in oneself and in others.
Contemplation in the Franciscan tradition can be a lot like the experience of conversion that takes place when we enter into a new relationship. When we enter into a new relationship, make a new friend, date a new partner, give birth to a new child, or form some other significant bond with another person, rarely are our lives changed in discrete, particular, and compartmentalized ways. Instead, something about us shifts. Something about the way we see the world is now informed by that relationship, and we can no longer go back to seeing things exactly the same way again. Maybe we are drawn to a new hobby or interest. Perhaps we look at art with a new eye or hear music with a new ear. Such is also the case with God. The more deeply we enter into relationship with the Creator, the more our outlook on the world changes.
Contemplation is understood in varied ways, but every perspective views contemplation as an ongoing process. To experience contemplation, Merton tells us that continual divesting of our ego, self-centeredness, and sinfulness is necessary to recognize that in our true poverty we are free to more perfectly follow Christ. This experience of humility beckons an awareness of the poverty and need of those around us. In turn, such a process of ongoing conversion, or contemplation, leads one upward to God and outward toward the rest of humanity.
Prayer was so keenly important because it was for Francis the most basic experience and expression of faith. In like manner, prayer as an essential element of our Franciscan way of life puts us in intimate communication with God, puts us in touch with our own identity, and gives us the energy, strength, and determination to live the gospel life more effectively.
Article Eight of the rule directs all Secular Franciscans to stress the primacy of worship in their lives – the interior prayer of contemplation as well as the exterior liturgical prayer of the Church. The article also urges Secular Franciscans to have an active participation in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist, and in the Liturgy of the Hours. When this article is lived fully, each Secular Franciscan will be a true worshipper, always involved with Christ and conscious of his presence in oneself and in others.
St. Francis set his eyes on the example of Christ in his practice of prayer, and he urged his followers to do the same. From the time St. Francis discovered God as his Father, he developed a heart-to-heart contract with God whom he came to know in prayer. His constant life of prayer is the best explanation of the spiritual success of his life.
Bonaventure highlights the idea that the one who dwells in Christ dwells in the other, because the fullness of who we are in Christ can only be found in the other. The difference of the other, therefore, was not an obstacle for Francis in his search for God but rather a celebration of God. For he found his own identity in God and he found God in the fragile, wounded flesh of his brothers and sisters. It is prayer, according to Bonaventure, that impelled Francis to see the world with new vision, a contemplative vision that penetrated the depths of reality. The world became Francis’ cloister because he found it to be permeated with the goodness of God.
Francis, through his prayerful relationship with Jesus, grew in his love for everyone. Like Jesus, Francis is willing to give his life for the sake of other people. This is the ordinary result of a prayerful spirit. It seeks the spirit of Jesus and is responsive to the Holy Spirit.