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.
He [St. Francis] was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.
Francis sends us to the gospel, which is, at the same time, both beginning and end. But, in a certain sense, the gospel also points to Francis, who shows us how to live the gospel with simplicity of heart and integrity of faith. And we Franciscans must, live the gospel; all that we are and do must be informed by the gospel, without limiting ourselves to a “careful reading” or intellectual contemplation.
I’m a Capuchin Franciscan, and I’ve often found that people think of Francis of Assisi as a kind of 13th-century flower child. St. Francis was certainly “countercultural,” but only in his radical obedience to the Church and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully — including poverty and all of its other uncomfortable demands. Jesus, speaking to him from the cross of San Damiano, said, “Repair my house.” I think Pope Francis believes God has called him to do that as pope, as God calls every pope. And he plans to do it in the way St. Francis did it.
Pope Francis took the name of the saint of Christian simplicity and poverty. As he has said, he wants “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he grounded this goal in Jesus Christ, “who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast” (186). That’s a very Franciscan idea.
Simplifying our lives gives us the chance to contemplate who we are in our purest, rawest form. I think that it is here that God dwells. He exists in the very core of our being, in the essence of who we are. God isn’t in the efficiency, the competition, or the busyness of our everyday lives; He can be found in the simplicity, because God isn’t complicated. Our relationship with God is simple: it’s one of pure love. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that in a world where everything seems so complicated all of the time.
It seems to me most Christians “preach” one gospel and live another. We preach the Good Samaritan and ignore the poor. We preach the gospel of trust but lock our church doors. We preach the lilies of the field and allocate large amounts of our monthly paychecks to pension and insurance plans. We preach the gospel of peace but plot to destroy our enemies. We preach the gospel of forgiveness but build prisons. We preach the gospel of tolerance but are rigid and judgmental. We preach a gospel of unity but live in ghettos of separateness. We preach the gospel of simplicity but live in mansions. We preach the gospel of service but we want to be served. We preach the gospel of prayer but prefer to be entertained. We preach the gospel of love but easily succumb to hatred.
~ Gerry Straub, “Divisive Times”
Francois Fenelon, in his book Christian Perfection, wrote: “It is a wise self-love, which wants to get out of the intoxication of outside things.” Before I can free myself from the lure of material things, I have to become more sensitive to the things of the spirit, which will diminish my chances of being dazzled by superficial allurements. More important than a new car or the fastest computer will be the latest revelation from God on how I can better love my neighbor while at the same time deflecting my own self-centered greed. Through simplicity we learn that self-denial paradoxically leads to true self-fulfillment. Simplicity allows us to hold the interests of others above out self-interest. Real simplicity is true freedom. The constant drumbeat of materialism will no longer be deafening. We will desire less, and be happy with less.
Gerry Straub, “Holy Simplicity”, Gerry Straub’s Blog
The name symbolizes “poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church,” Allen said. “The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual.”
~CNN Vatican analyst John Allen via Michael Martinez’s article Pope Francis’ name choice ‘precedent shattering’ – CNN.com
We should try unceasingly to allow each one of our actions to become a moment of communion with God: not a studied act, but just as it comes from purity and simplicity of heart.
~Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility… Without this mark of holiness, our word will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man. It risks being vain and sterile.
~Pope Paul VI via Little Portion Hermitage