Franciscan Mysticism And Spirituality


#1

I wanted to begin this thread a long time ago, but was afraid that no one would want to read it. I finally decided that unless you open the door, you’ll never know if anyone wants to enter. What I would like to do in this thread is share the history of our Franciscan family and the spirituality of our Holy Father Francis. I believe that the world needs his spirituality today more than ever before. We need someone to teach us how to embrace the gospel and to embrace suffering, life, death, joy, sorrow and each other.

If we look at the threads in the Liturgy and Traditional Catholic sub-forums we often find so many good people who would like to reach through their computer screens and rattle each other in the name of reverent liturgy. I have often thought that such frustration, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on (OF or EF) is actually contrary to what our faith teaches. The more I think about it, the more I pray about it. I can’t seem to get away from thinking and praying.

It was our Holy Father Francis who first brought me into this space. Many people do not realize that Francis of Assisi lived during a time that was worse than our own. The Church and State were both antagonistic toward each other and vying for power and glory or were teamed up for all the wrong reasons. Liturgy was everything but reverent. While the rubrics were followed, the poor were not welcome among the wealthy and powerful. To this day we see remnants of such discrimination in many of Europe’s great churches where the benches only go half-way back and the rest is open space. This open space was used by the poor and the military. They remained in the back because they were dirty and they smelled, while the wealthy and powerful sat comfortably in the front of the naïve. Where is the reverence to the Lord of Life and the Saviour who died for ALL? Francis realized that reverence went beyond rubrics. Rubrics had to be consistent with the Gospel. In the Gospel Jesus sits down to meals with prostitutes, tax collectors, non believers, the poor, the wealthy, the oppressed and the oppressor. Francis wanted to embrace life as lived by Christ, not by the times that surrounded him.

However, in his infinite wisdom, God inspired Francis to remain within the Church and close to the Church. He dictated a way of life to Francis. Then directed him to get it approved by the very Church that was in crisis and that tolerated an irreverent celebration of the liturgy where distinctions were made between God’s sons and daughters. The Lord taught Francis that the Church was for sinful people. It is God’s Divine Hospital. He, Francis, would have to live with it and change it from within. But the change had to come from within Francis himself. The Church would not change, unless its people changed. The Church would not love more and more equitably, unless its members learned to love. The Church would not obey, unless its members practiced the same obedience that Christ practiced on the cross, silent, without murmuring, without questions.

Not only that, but our Holy Father Francis also learned the importance of building slowly. You cannot construct a well built house if you rush through it. Francis began by rebuilding the Chapel of San Damiano. Eventually, he would rebuild the Church with over one million sons and daughters, friars, nuns, sisters, married persons, single consecrated lay persons and religious congregations. After Jesus Christ, no man in history has a following as large as Francis of Assisi, from all walks of life and involved in all aspects of life from contemplative prayer to fork-lift mechanics. Some are celibate and others are married with children, but all are Franciscans. All have vowed to live the Gospel according to the example set by Francis of Assisi.

What was this example? As he put it, “To live the Gospel ‘sine glose’,” without glossing over it, without softening it. Francis took the Gospel at its word. Jesus was the Incarnate Son of God. He had given his life for humanity. He was Love incarnate. But Francis cried that “Love is not loved.” So he traded places with Christ on the cross. He agreed to give up whatever Christ asked him to give up. He agreed to receive whatever Christ gave him. His life became one of receiving what God gives and surrendering what God takes.

Too often we take this as a way of life that is alright for religious, but not for the layman or woman in the pews. But Francis was not a religious or a priest. He was a layman in the pews. His religious community came into existence long after his covenant with God. He made his Covenant with the Lord in 1209 and his community was not erected until 1221. Until then they were a fraternity of 11 lay men and one secular priest. In 1221 when the Holy Father approved their way of life, they remained a lay community to this day. Even though they have priests among their ranks, they are still a fraternity of married men and women, clerics and nuns, religious sisters and secular clergy, and consecrated lay people in private vows, all organized into three Orders.

The embrace of the cross in total detachment is not a call to religious and priests. It was a call that Christ made to all Catholics who could respond. Since all of us need a teacher, Christ himself appointed Francis as master. St. Bonaventure always referred to his relationship with St. Francis, whom he never met, as the relationship between the Master and the Disciple, with Bonaventure being the disciple. This is a most curious relationship. Bonaventure was a Cardinal, a scholar and a noble man. He surrendered all of it to be like the Master. He gave it all up to be a man of total obedience to the Church and totally poor.

When Sister Mary Teresa asked for permission to lave her order to go into the streets of Calcutta she heard the voice of the Christ. He commanded her to found an Indian Society of lay women, not a religious order of nuns. They were to live according to the spirit of the man from Assisi. Today there are more than 4,000 Missionaries of Charity in more than 25 countries all because Mother Teresa responded.

There are more than one million Secular Franciscans who are ministering and working like Francis, Clare and Mother Teresa. Some of them have children and spouses. Some are secular deacons and priests. But all have one thing in common. They want to imitate Christ the same way that Francis did, to perfection.

Fraternally in St. Francis,

JR :slight_smile:


#2

Well I would. :slight_smile: There’s been much around here on these forums about Carmelite spirituality (I’m OCDS) but I’d love to hear more about Franciscan Mysticism and Spirituality :slight_smile:

My one exposure has been through St. Bonaventure’s “The Soul’s Journey Into God” . . . which I thought was wonderful.

I look forward to what you and others have to say . . .

Dave. :slight_smile:


#3

Thank you for starting this JR. It should prove to be of help to very many people, so long as they come with a true spirit of inquiry and learning. Mysticism is especially something that most people definitely are not familiar with. It should be helpful to all and should be instrumental in helping those who approach with a true goal of advancing in spiritual growth.
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B


#4

Deacon, I agree. I personally am not familiar with it at all. When I first came to the Traditional thread this type of thread is what I thought I was entering into…sharing of knowledge. I did learn some things about the EF but it was not a pleasant experience as it became overshadowed by hostility.

Interesting post JR and I will be lurking and reading. :thumbsup:


#5

I think this is very true. Quite frankly the Church has always been a little suspicious–maybe more than a little–of mystics. Especially after the Reformation, when personal revelation became the unacceptable characteristic of the Protestant, the Church was very wary of those claiming any kind of “personal relationship” or direct influence by the Holy Spirit. I’m quite sure they were worried that those experiencing such thing might be too prone toward erroneous private interpretation that might cause division or questionable doctrinal interpretation.

Many of the great saints and mystics were suspect during their time, only to be affirmed later by the Church. Even Francis had great resistance to his ideas from the Church, who did not believe that his love of “Lady Poverty” was a way that people could actually live. The idea of people actively “living the gospel” was essentialy considered to be impossible.

I join JR in being incredibly grateful that Francis did persevere and that his example has been so accepted in every age since, by people of so many different backgrounds and experience. It is a gentle yet demanding way of live that cannot help but bring one closer to God as one attempts to follow Jesus through the model of Francis.

Thank you JR.


#6

They want to imitate Christ the same way that Francis did, to perfection.

Let us begin. Up to now we have done nothing.

I can say with all truth that up to now I have done nothing. I am ready to begin imitating Christ to perfection within my state in life. I realize that there will need to be some changes in my life, but I am ready to embrace change and move forward toward the cross of Christ. Thank you JR for posting this thread!


#7

I love this thread.

I really burned out on TC threads, and after I returned from vacation I had no desire to come back to CAF. But this kind of thread will keep me coming back.

I am amazed at St. Francis. The image of him receiving the stigmata is imprinted on my mind. I’ve started really praying to him.

One Thing matters. It is the hardest thing in the world to live as if One Thing matters.

I feel drawn to mysticism, toward being alone with Christ, especially Christ in the Eucharist. When I’m there I realize that I only really want that One Thing in my deepest being, but the moment I get distracted all the layers of life–the business of life that St. Thomas More prays about in his famous prison prayer–pile up over me, and I lose myself.

Christ has given us so much! We have the example of Him, and of His Apostles–but he was not content to leave us shepherdless! We have the Popes, the Apostles, our Priests. But even more, we have thousands of Holy Saints to imitate. The imitation of Christ seems too much to bear? See a fallen man do it! Thanks be to God.

We love you, Father Francis. Make us more like you, and more like your Master.


#8

This thread on St. Francis and his charism / legacy is definitely an excellent contribution to the forum and offers many examples and inspirations for us to follow … Easy to see that it was composed with much love. :slight_smile:

~~ the phoenix


#9

Hello JR. I have tried several times to read about St. Francis, or his writings and haven’t been able to succeed. This thread, to me, is a “CLUE” I need to catch up. Lead on mon frere.


#10

What we are witnessing is our desire to be closer to God and to have a real relationship with God that leads not only us closer to him, but which also leads those around us closer to him as well. If we help one another, prayer for one another, we will truly live as members of the Mystical Body of Christ are meant to live. By doing so, we will live the command of Jesus which is "Love one another and I have loved you."
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B


#11

“…and as they by means of their fleshly eyes saw only His flesh, yet contemplating Him with their spiritual eyes, believed Him to be God, so we, seeing bread and wine with bodily eyes, see and firmly believe it to be His most holy Body and true and living Blood.” St Francis

While offering the Holy Sacrifice yesterday, this thought came to me in a different way than ever before. I don’t think I can really explain it but I’ll try.

When we consider reality, we normally understand it as being everything that we can physically see. That is most peoples point of view. But since everything comes from God, that makes Him the Ultimate Reality because without Him nothing exists. When we are offering the Mass, He is there in physical form. The very Originator of all things. He desires us to be as mindful of Him as He is of us, so He gives us these little ways of reminding us that God inhabits his creatures, or rather His creatures are immersed in Him.

Okay, I give up. I can’t really convey my meaning here but God just became so much more real to me yesterday and I cannot explain how but He just did. Have you ever had a similar experience?


#12

Original by JREducation ……………

The Lord taught Francis that the Church was for sinful people. It is God’s Divine Hospital. He, Francis, would have to live with it and change it from within. But the change had to come from within Francis himself. The Church would not change, unless its people changed. The Church would not love more and more equitably, unless its members learned to love. The Church would not obey, unless its members practiced the same obedience that Christ practiced on the cross, silent, without murmuring, without questions.

Not only that, but our Holy Father Francis also learned ** the importance of building slowly**. You cannot construct a well built house if you rush through it. Francis began by rebuilding the Chapel of San Damiano. Eventually, he would rebuild the Church with over one million sons and daughters, friars, nuns, sisters, married persons, single consecrated lay persons and religious congregations. After Jesus Christ, no man in history has a following as large as Francis of Assisi, from all walks of life and involved in all aspects of life from contemplative prayer to fork-lift mechanics. Some are celibate and others are married with children, but all are Franciscans. All have vowed to live the Gospel according to the example set by Francis of Assisi.

What was this example? As he put it,** “To live the Gospel ‘sine glose’,**” without glossing over it, without softening it. Francis took the Gospel at its word. Jesus was the Incarnate Son of God. He had given his life for humanity. He was Love incarnate. But Francis cried that “Love is not loved.” So he traded places with Christ on the cross. He agreed to give up whatever Christ asked him to give up. He agreed to receive whatever Christ gave him. His life became one of receiving what God gives and surrendering what God takes.

……………
The embrace of the cross in total detachment is not a call to religious and priests. It was a call that Christ made to all Catholics who could respond. Since all of us need a teacher, Christ himself appointed Francis as master. St. Bonaventure always referred to his relationship with St. Francis, whom he never met, as the relationship between the Master and the Disciple, with Bonaventure being the disciple. This is a most curious relationship. Bonaventure was a Cardinal, a scholar and a noble man. He surrendered all of it to be like the Master. He gave it all up to be a man of total obedience to the Church and totally poor.

Thank you so much for posting this. It is a good reading and I highlighted a few sentences that especially strike a chord.

How true that although we, the majority do not have an opportunity to meet grand spiritual directors in person for our guidance, we actually can have many great Saints as our guide by reading and following their teachings, like St. Bonaventure took after St. Francis.

There are many great religious orders. Whether it is Carmelite, Jesuit, Franciscan, Dominic, or other outstanding religious orders, all disciplines one to live a generous and genuine Gospel life. And that is the bottom line leads one to contemplation.

No matter how one sanctifies his own life, or which particular path he takes, the goal is to master all virtues to the heroic and reach the summit. That’s when the LOVE is loved and in contemplation LOVE is attained. It is then the church (each individual) is changed. This is a long process, a slow one. But if there is a start and if there is persistence, there is hope.

It is good to see thread like this - that helps us to learn, to make progress, not topics of complaining, of finding fault with church or priests, of spreading doubt,etc… I encourage brothers and sisters in CAF respond to threads with constructive intention instead of destructive ones. Personally, I don’t even open or never re-open a thread with a fault finding title or content. :wink:

Please share with us more of Franciscan mysticism and spirituality.


#13

Thanks, JR. Since yesterday when I first read this thread, I’ve attempted a bit of meditation on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. So far, I feel a bit in the dark since I do not know him very well at all. However, this morning I find that maybe I’ve made a good start. A little sung prayer came to mind. I learned it in my childhood. It’s sung by those at prayer. — Ego sum pauper.Nihil habeo.Omnia dabo.— I am poor.I have nothing.I give all. — I’ve looked for the source and can’t find it. I don’t know if it’s from the 19th or 20th century or from the Middle Ages. I’m glad I’ve remembered it. Maybe it speaks to the life of Francis.


#14

JR, can you start us off by maybe giving a short and simple (if this is possible) definition of exactly what mysticism is and then we can expound from there?


#15

I love Saint Francis!! I’ve thought about the secular Franciscans, and actually talked to them once, but got scared :). The ones in my area are all a lot older than me.
Seems like a lot of us here want to be like St. Francis. So here’s an idea - maybe we could try to think, every day, of one thing we could do to live in imitation of him and of Christ. Something that even us lay people could do to help rebuild the Church.
Any ideas?


#16

If you are knowledgeable enough, volunteer to teach Inquiry or RCIA or Adult classes! I am always surprised at how many don’t really know their own faith.


#17

I had the same experience, the group seems much older than I and I am not sure I would fit in well.

I am drawn towards mysticism as well although I just don’t know where is God is calling me.

I wish the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were close to me, they more reflect the type of energy and activity I need to be involved in.


#18

I would recommend getting to know these older Franciscans and state your intentions to them. Possibly seek spiritual direction from one of them. Who better to learn from than an old sage? No disrespect intended, but they quite possibly have been practicing Franciscan spirituality for many years.

However, it may be best to start with reading more about St. Francis and his order before seeking out their spirituality, and pray to see if God is leading you in that direction. Just some suggestions.


#19

I like St. Bonaventure myself–he uses such beautiful imagery in his works :slight_smile:

As an aside, JR, you mentioned rubrics being followed in Francis’ time–in reality it was probably worse than today in many places. There was a big problem with feigned consecrations. Also, due to the nepotism and simony, ignorant, worldly, and careless priests often didn’t even know the liturgy and would completely butcher it. Finally, sacred vessels were often profaned and kept in conditions of squalor. Pope Innocent III, the Pope at the time of St. Francis, laments all these things in his official acts. St. Francis, even though he desired to be a martyr in Saracen lands, was rather sent by God with the blessing of Pope Innocent to be a missionary to Catholics in Catholic lands.


#20

There are two concerns in all of these posts. One is, “What is mysticism?” The other is, “Tell me more about Francis.” Let’s see if we can speak to both in one post.

In Matt 11:29 Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

This gospel is read every year in every Franciscan community on the solemnity of St. Francis (Oct 4). Whether they are spoken by Christ or by St. Francis, they are short and succinct so that we can easily remember them.

“Learn from me,” are words of encouragement. Christ encourages us to take him as our model of sonship, to embrace his teaching, his love for the Father, his openness to the action of the Holy Spirit in his life, to go where the spirit leads. This is the beginning of the mystical journey.

Francis reflected on these words and took them personally. They were meant for him. He was to love the Father as Jesus loved the Father. He was to open himself to the action of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had opened himself.

This began with prayer; prayer became an act of loving obedience for Francis, as it was for Jesus. God revealed to Moses “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall have no other gods before me.” Christ fulfilled this commandment. All things were for the Father through the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, Christ’s prayer was an act of obedience to the first commandment. Christ’s love for humanity fulfilled the first commandment. All souls were to be brought to the Father. So Jesus prays that “all may be one as you and I are one.”

Francis, being a true disciple, begins his journey by seeking through the scriptures how to be like Christ. He seeks to learn from him, as Christ had encouraged in Matthew’s Gospel.

When he’s not reflecting on the scripture, he is praying for insight into the scriptures. He wants to be like Christ. He prays to the Holy Spirit for the grace to learn from Christ. He wants to learn from Christ how to love the Father, how to be one with the Father. This is the goal of Francis’ spiritual journey.

As to mysticism, those are the special graces that God grants some souls who are conformed to his Son. We cannot attain them on our own. They are a gift. But this gift is only given to those who are like Christ. The likeness to Christ can only happen through prayer, the Sacraments, the Church, the scriptures and the community of believers. St. Francis understood this. He studied Luke’s Act’s of the Apostles and the writings of St. Paul. He prayed never to be separated from the Church that was founded upon the Apostles, no matter what her weaknesses may be. Like Paul he became concerned with the good of the Community of Believers. Like St. Paul, Francis gently guided those who wanted to believe, not through harsh words, but through example and preaching that edified, rather than judged. This is where the second part of Matthew’s citation comes in.

“for I am meek and humble of heart”. Christ speaks these words to inspire the hearer to become someone, not something. Our holy father Francis understood that Christ called him to become the meek one, the humble one. He had to wait for God. He had to embrace the perfection that God offered, The only way to do this was to accept what God gave and surrender what God took. He had to trust God’s voice through the Church, no matter how difficult or how ambiguous.

The God of Abraham was very ambiguous. He promised Abraham that he would make him the father of many. But Abraham was unsure as to how this would happen since he and his wife were of a certain age. The God of Moses was equally ambiguous. When Moses asked him his name he answered, “I am”. The God of Jesus was just as ambiguous. He sent the promised Messiah in the disguise of a poor carpenter’s son. But he had to die in order to give life. This was incomprehensible to Peter and the other disciples.

For Francis meekness and humility meant accepting what he didn’t understand, because it came from the Father. Interestingly enough, Francis probably understood better than most scholars. He simply imitated Christ’s obedience to the Father. He began with prayer, reflection on the scriptures, the Eucharist, confession, silence, detachment from anything and anyone who came between him and the Father. He did exactly what Christ had done 1200 years before.

The journey toward perfection begins by learning to obey as Christ obeyed. Francis learned this from Benedict. He learned to keep silent and contemplate Christ’s obedience. He followed Benedict’s advice to his monks. He aspired to live a life of virtue. He did not aspire for sanctity. But the words of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel would eventually lead to sanctity. They led Francis to a mystical union with God. That union was proven through the stigmata. Francis was sealed with the wounds of Christ, just as we are sealed with the chrism of salvation, so that there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Francis had learned from him who is meek and humble of heart.

Fraternally,

JR :slight_smile:


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