Category Archives: Francis of Assisi

The Whole World Is Our Cloister

Over the past several years I have been a real advocate of living a monastic life in the place that we are planted. For most of us it  is impossible to escape to a cloistered life. Benedictine Joan Chittister give us her offering in “Monasteries of the Heart.” We longed for peace and escape from the troubled world but are frustrated that we can’t quite pull it off. Joan Chittister offers some ways to accomplish that goal. The article below is offered to us by the Franciscan Richard Rhor and he tells his story. I share it with you today.

In the Franciscan worldview, the Christ can be found everywhere. Nothing is secular or profane. You don’t really “get” the Christ mystery until body and spirit begin to operate as one. Once you see the material and the spiritual working together, everything is holy. The Christ is whenever and wherever the material and the spiritual co-exist—which is always and everywhere! Everything is already “christened”; any anointing, blessing, declaring, or baptizing is just to help us get the point.

I wrote my undergraduate thesis on St. Francis’ break with historic monasticism. When his friars brought up well-established rules for religious life, Francis even went so far as to say “Don’t speak to me of Benedict! Don’t speak to me of Augustine!” [1] (No offence intended to Benedictines or Augustinians.) Francis believed that the Lord had shown him a different way, one which directly implied that the whole world—not just a single building—was our cloister. He did not need to create a sheltered space. We were to be “friars” instead of monks, living in the midst of ordinary people, in ordinary towns and cities. Franciscan friaries are still usually in the heart of major European and Latin American cities. We didn’t live on the edge of town because Christ is found as much in the middle of civilization as is in quiet retreats and hermitages.

Franciscan theologian Bonaventure (1221-1274) soon debated “secular priests” at the University of Paris, because some of them felt that putting together action and contemplation would not work. We became competitors for the affection of the people, I am afraid. Up until Francis of Assisi (1184-1226), most religious had to choose either a life of action or a life of contemplation. Secular priests worked with people in the parishes. The “true” religious went off to monasteries. Francis said there had to be a way to do both.

It’s as if consciousness wasn’t ready to imagine that it could find God in any way except by going into the desert, into the monastery, away from troubles, away from marriage, away from people. In that very real sense, we see a non-dual mind emerging with the Franciscan movement.

Perhaps you can find a place, interior or exterior that will allow you to cloister and moved towards God. Get in the middle of thing and experience the blessing.


PRAYER

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.

Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.

Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.

Let peace fill my heart,
my world, my universe.

Amen.

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Action & Contemplation

Homeless1People have long known the story of Francis of Assisi. He turned from a life of luxury to one of voluntary poverty with the intention of sharing his possessions with the poor. Francis became an example to his fellow townspeople of the biblical assurance that God does provide.

Francis attracted others to his way of life and began the Order of Mendicant Friars. A sister order was established by Clare, to whom Francis was both friend and mentor. In the hymn of praise attributed to Francis, God is exalted for creating all of the elements of the world of which, according to Francis, humans are only one part. Francis placed people in the perspective of God’s whole creation and asserted a kinship among all the elements. The example of his impoverished life drew others to him and increased the numbers of the Franciscan Order. He began the first of the Monastic groups to develop a spiritual life that included a life lived as much in the world as it was a life of contemplative solitude.

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Work

Francis of Assisi

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

― St. Francis of Assisi

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Action, Being and Words

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

—Mahatma Gandhi

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

― St. Francis of Assisi

The rose transmits its scent without a movement. I have a definite feeling that if you want us to experience the aroma of Christianity you must copy the rose. It irresistibly draws people to itself and the scent remains with them. A rose does not preach … it simply spreads its fragrance.

Mahatma Gandhi

Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.

 St. Francis of Assisi

At first glance these two famous men would appear to be at the opposite ends of the religious and spiritual perspectives. Gandhi, a Hindu, and Francis, a Christian, are essentially saying the same thing. Why? The direct answer is: God is the God of the universe. He truths are universal and not owned by any particular group. To live out a life of faith requires three things:

  •  Action… The willingness and eagerness to get something done and the conviction to act on it.
  • Being… Possessing the qualities that identify you as a person of faith.
  • Words… The ability to choose the right words at the right time

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Evangelism

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day St. Francis of Assisi invited a young monk to join him on a trip into town to preach. The young monk was so honored to get such an invitation from St. Francis that he quickly accepted. All day long he and St. Francis walked through the streets and byways, alleys and suburbs, and they rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people.

At the end of the day the two headed back home however, not even once had St. Francis addressed a crowd, nor had he talked to anyone about the gospel. The young monk was greatly disappointed, and he said to St. Francis, “I thought we were going into town to preach?” St. Francis responded, “My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We were seen by many and our behavior was closely watched. It is of no use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!”

In today’s world the word evangelism has become a despised and dirty word. I feel that is because we have confused evangelism with marketing. When we market something it is our goal to get the target audience to “buy” our product. For us to achieve that goal, we try to convince the audience that they are dissatisfied with the present product. When Christianity is marketed to the world, it becomes no better than a Wal Mart commercial or an infomercial. No wonder people consider evangelism a bad word.

Francis of Assisi gives us an alternative. He says, “No use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!” That is the real goal of evangelism. We must become the “good news” for all that we touch. They are watching and waiting to see and hear from God. The world yearns for good because there is so much bad.

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