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.
The spirit of the Gospel is eminently that of the “open” type which gives, asking nothing in return, and spends itself for others. It is essentially hostile to the spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence and above all to the spirit of religious self-seeking and self-satisfaction. For what is the Pharisee but a spiritual bourgeois, a typically “closed” nature, a man who applies the principle of calculation and gain not to economics but to religion itself, a hoarder of merits, who reckons his accounts with heaven as though God was his banker? It is against this “closed,” self-sufficient moralist ethic that the fiercest denunciations of the Gospels are directed. Even the sinner who possesses a seed of generosity, a faculty of self-surrender, and an openess of spirit is nearer to the kingdom of heaven than the “righteous” Pharisee; for the soul that is closed to love is closed to grace.
~ Christopher Dawson “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind” via Crisis Magazine
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.
To wage war on misery and to struggle against injustice is to promote, along with improved conditions, the human and spiritual progress of all men, and therefore the common good of humanity. Peace cannot be limited to a mere absence of war, the result of an ever precarious balance of forces. No, peace is something that is built up day after day, in the pursuit of an order intended by God, which implies a more perfect form of justice among men.
Abortion is ultimately the hallmark of a culture in despair — of a culture that values the material over the spiritual, the temporal over the eternal, our plan over God’s plan.
~ Emily Stimpson, via The Integrated Catholic Life
What does Francis’ experience say to us today? What can we all imitate of him right now? Be it those that God calls to reform the Church by the way of holiness, be it those who feel called to renew her by way of criticism, be it those who he himself calls to reform her by way of the office that they hold? The same thing from which Francis’ spiritual adventure began: his conversion from the I to God, his denial of self. It is thus that true reformers are born, those who really change something in the Church, people who are dead to themselves. Better still, those who decide seriously to die to themselves, because it is an enterprise that lasts the whole of life and also beyond, if, as Saint Teresa of Avila said jokingly, our self-love dies 20 minutes after us.
~ Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap (preacher of the pontifical household), 1st Advent Homily 2013: “To prepare ourselves for Christmas in the company of Francis of Assisi” via ZENIT
Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to reduce their own personal needs so as to be better able to share spiritual and material goods with their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need. They should give thanks to God for the goods they have received, using them as good stewards and not as owners.
They should take a firm position against consumerism and against ideologies and practices which prefer riches over human and religious values and which permit the exploitation of the human person.
~ General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order (Article 15)
The harsh statements of Bonaventure refer not to God’s creation as such but to distorted forms of human relations to the world of created things. These texts are concerned with the ways in which we give more weight to created goods than they can bear. To appreciate them as creatures of God that awaken us to a sense of the divine is one thing. To allow them to replace God in our spiritual journey is quite another thing. Created things are good and true, but theirs is a limited goodness and truth, had only by reason of participation in the divine goodness and truth.
~ Zachary Hayes OFM, Bonaventure: Mystical Writings
If humility of this sort is the first step in the journey, the journey does not end there. For humility opens one to an ever deeper and fuller life of grace that will find expression in an active love and a life of virtue. If spiritual poverty is genuine, it will express itself in our relations to all things. It can eventually express itself in the form of radical voluntary poverty, and such poverty is a furnace that purifies and leads ever more deeply into conformity with the poor and naked Christ.
~ Zachary Hayes OFM, Bonaventure: Mystical Writings
The simplification of our lives is not so much in what we rid ourselves of as in what we concentrate on, what focuses the soul.
~ Murray Bodo, O.F.M. — The Way of St. Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone