Based on our experience with the religious world so far, it would appear that the Jesuits have a monopoly on spirituality, influencing (or tainting) the way in which almost every community prays; the Spiritual Exercises have become the norm for retreats and workshops, and it leaves us wondering sometimes, “What about Franciscan spirituality?”
Ask and you shall receive! In a more than refreshing change, 56 members of many different Franciscan orders met this week in Garrison, NY for a truly Franciscan experience. Looking exclusively through the eyes of Francis and Clare, Sister Clare D’Auria, OSF, spent the week leading us in a journey of discernment to a greater understanding of God, self, and community. This meant a strong focus on the Gospels (Francis’ rule), a theology focused on the Incarnation (God made flesh, importance of creation), and using the concrete and practical elements of our worldly experience as a connection to God (Eucharist, the Cross, manger).
Since none of these characteristics are all that specific, the spectrum of “true franciscanism” is quite wide. At this workshop, we had men and women wearing brown, tan, grey, and black habits, as well as some that didn’t own a habit; communities ranged from fully contemplative to non-stop active; individuals were politically conservative and liberal, liturgically traditional and charismatic, theologically orthodox and progressive; and their work included teaching, social work, coordination of liturgy, prayer, and manual labor (to name just a few).
And yet, there was a spirit that transcended all of these particularities, a charism and history that connected us all. Despite the wide range of possibilites within the Franciscan family, there is still a spirituality that connects us all, and separates us from the many others ou there. Being very new to Franciscan life, I found it to be wonderfully eye opening to see the many ways our great saint has inspired people throughout history, and to understand that there are many different, yet all connected, ways of knowing knowing God through Francis.
It was this last part that made the workshop for me: beginning to look at God through the eyes of Francis. Being so new to Franciscan spirituality, I can’t even pretend to be able to articulate what that means or even how my perspective changed. All I can say is that it connected in a way that other spiritualities haven’t in the past; there was a comfort, both spiritual and intellectual, that made me feel right at home. When I began to discern my life through his eyes, God became so much more apparent in my past as well as in the present. It’s an experience like this that leaves me thinking, “Finally, a Franciscan!”
To see the beauty of Graymoor, check out the updated shutterfly website.
Casey, What a beautiful reflection on your experience! The many ways you experienced God through “Franciscan eyes” will serve you well as a friar. Francis was able to work comfortably in so many circles and sociological strata that he reached people in many ways, and so his spirituality continues to lead people to God in many different ways. Most important in the Franciscan tradition is that ALL are welcome and in each one is the face of Christ. Francis made sure to be all inclusive as God is all inclusive. Rich or poor, educated or not, sick or healthy, people could feel they belonged with Francis–God is present in each and everyone. In the Franciscan tradition God also reveals His Majesty in all of His creation.
A bit on the Jesuits, now. Sometimes they’re a bit “heady,” whereas just about every Franciscan I’ve ever met could get his or her point across on any intellectual level. I do enjoy the sense of spiritual joy that both communities bring to their respective spiritualities, and I find that both speak to me in different ways. Lastly, as one who has always seen the Majesty of God in all things from spiders, to sunsets, I love God, I love Francis; I love the friars, and I love my rainbows, butterflies, raindrops, and brother sun and sister moon.
Love in Christ,
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