Not in a place or in a function

His [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][St. Francis] assiduous meditation urged him to give her an astonishing title; he would recall how Mary lived on alms for many periods of her life, so he named her the “little poor one,” the “Poverella.” If we remember the real conditions of her life, her frequent traveling and moving, we will realize to what extent her life was poor, itinerant, suffering. Though queen in the eyes of God, she was the Wife of a humble carpenter and lived in a remote and despised village. By this example she teaches us to put our values not in a place or in a function, but in inner dispositions.

~ Benet A. Fonck, OFM, Called to Follow Christ: Commentary on the Secular Franciscan Rule (SFO Resource Library, Vol. 1)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

To reach the place

In Franciscan Spirituality, the poverty and humility of God form the foundation of our entire theology. God’s desire to love us and to be physically with us is manifested in Jesus, the Word of the Father. Our God is not a God of vindication but a God of reckless abandon, giving everything (kenosis) in order to complete His desire to love each one of us.

This is what fed the insatiable desire of Francis to conform himself to Jesus, imitating Him as completely as possible. Francis sees Jesus in the same light as the Father, poor and humble, but the beloved (totally loved) Son of the Father. Francis too wants to become a beloved son of the Father and pursues a life imitating his (as he remarks) elder brother Jesus, who alone can lead him to the Father.

For this reason, Francis for himself sets out on a path of poverty and humility in imitation of the life Jesus lived. This is the only way he sees where it is possible to move beyond personal needs and wants, beyond ourselves, and to reach the place of transformation and surrender.

~ Bob Fitzsimmons, OFS, “Understanding Franciscan Theology, Tradition and Spirituality” (FUN Manual)

The model of fruitful and faithful love

Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the model of listening to the Word and of faithfulness to vocation; we, like Francis, see all the gospel virtues realized in her.

The brothers and sisters should cultivate intense love for the most holy virgin, imitation, prayer, and filial abandonment. They should manifest their own devotion with expressions of genuine faith, in forms accepted by the Church.

Mary is the model of fruitful and faithful love for the entire ecclesial community.

Secular Franciscans and their fraternities should seek to live the experience of Francis, who made the Virgin the guide of his activity. With her, like the disciples at Pentecost, they should welcome the Spirit to create a community of love.

~ General Constitution of the Secular Franciscan Order, Article 16.1,2

We risk missing something

Like it or not, the life of this popular Christian saint [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][St. Francis] presents us with startling paradoxes. An enormously free and spontaneous person, he nevertheless adhered faithfully to the institutional church; a fully alive human being, he embraced suffering; a true lover, he chose celibacy; born into relative affluence, he practiced a literal poverty. These and so many other aspects of Francis’s life inevitably give us pause to ponder today; that is, unless we have the questionable ability to ignore these unsettling aspects of his personality and deal only with the sentimental and “popular” sides of this complex man — his joy, love for nature, and familiarity with animals. As honest persons we need to delve into the real, flesh-and-blood, historical Francis. Otherwise we risk missing something of essence underlying his more familiar traits.

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He always opted for the truth

[St.] Francis was enough of a realist to know that this view from the bottom would never become fashionable. Yet his commitment to littleness led him to name his brothers “minors” so that they would never fall back again in to the worldview of the “majors” (the great, the nobility). He knew that there was power in being a somebody, but that there was truth in being a nobody. He always opted for the truth, and from the example of Jesus crucified knew that the Lord would create power out of that.

~ Richard Rohr, “A Life Pure and Simple: Reflections on St. Francis of Assisi,” Near Occasions of Grace

Because it is God’s creation

Beyond doubt, [St.] Francis not only praised God’s gracious love bestowed on Francis, but showed concern for all of God’s creatures as well. It sprang from a sense of gratitude for God’s continuing gifts to Francis and all people. Francis probably didn’t know the word “ecology.” But he showed a consistent love for creation because it is God’s creation. He knew that relationship to God included a universal relationship to all of God’s creatures. They became his brother and sister.

~ Lester Bach, OFM Cap, The Franciscan Journey: Embracing the Franciscan Vision

An enacted parable

Francis’ reading of the gospel is of utmost relevance today. His focus and emphasis is the same as ]esus’. His life was an enacted parable, an audio-visual aid to gospel freedom. It gives us the perspective by which to see as Jesus did: the view from the bottom. He insists by every facet of his life that we can only see rightly from a dis-established position. He wanted to be poor first of all simply because Jesus was poor. But he also knew that the biblical promises were made to the poor, that the gospel could be preached only to the poor because they alone had the freedom to hear it without distorting it for their own purposes. He wanted to have nothing to protect except the love which made all else useless. “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” he used to sigh.

~ Richard Rohr, “A Life Pure and Simple: Reflections on St. Francis of Assisi,” Near Occasions of Grace

Both freeing and risky

While Clare and her religious sisters were still subject to the confines of the monastic cloister, Francis and his religious brothers moved beyond the walls of a monastery, rectory, or cathedral house—the typical locations of male religious life up to that time. Francis saw Jesus’ personal model and his instructions in the Gospel as an example for an itinerant lifestyle that involved popular preaching, daily work, communal prayer, and encounter with women and men of all backgrounds and in all locations. It was both freeing and risky.

Laudato Si: Change of heart

In calling to mind the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change. The Australian bishops spoke of the importance of such conversion for achieving reconciliation with creation: “To achieve such reconciliation, we must examine our lives and acknowledge the ways in which we have harmed God’s creation through our actions and our failure to act. We need to experience a conversion, or change of heart”.

~ Pope Francis, Laudato Si (Praise be to you – On Care For Our Common Home), Paragraph 218

Laudato Si: Rather than a problem to be solved

What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

~ Pope Francis, Laudato Si (Praise be to you – On Care For Our Common Home), Paragraph 12