St. Francis and His Approach to Divinity
This Reflection is based on material found on page 3 of 16, in the "Francis and his Approach to Divinity" – 3-23-2011 section of the F.U.N. Manual
Sentences in quotation marks are from the original F.U.N. text, written by Bob Fitzsimmons, OFS (NAFRA), who worked on text written by Benedetto Lino, OFS (Presidency Councillor of CIOFS). The outcome of this combined effort is outstanding! /fss
"Spirituality is based on one's unique experience of God." There is likely no one whose experience is quite the same. Our relationship to God consists of inward and outward signs of trust, love, communication. "The Franciscan experience will require us first to look at God through the eyes and insights of St. Francis and the early Franciscans to gain an understanding of God as Trinity, focusing on the "Primacy of the Father". Next is Francis' image and understanding of Jesus and lastly how we are called into a special relationship with our loving God."
This special relationship is a time of being "alone" with God. "It takes time, effort and presence. One needs to make a constant effort, and the Holy Spirit will lead us to the relationship we seek, and for the Franciscan effect the peace and joy we need to love and serve all God's creation, simply because it is God's and it is good."
Francis' prayer life and approach to God was through the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was centered on Christ. "Francis viewed Jesus as they only true way to approach the Father. It is this ultimate relationship with the Father that compels and attracts Francis, to be loved by the Father as deeply as the Father loves the Son."
"Francis has difficulty believing that God loves him so much that He is willing to give all through His Son, and he wants to reciprocate this love, offering himself completely, like the Son, to join in total conformation/unity with Him."
Most of us, Secular Franciscans are trying to find our way in the Franciscan spirituality that is available to us through the Holy Spirit. Having been in religious life (periods of 2, 2, and 5 years in different orders), previously, I have experienced a close relationship with God. How close? I am still a sinner, so I'm not even half-way there. But we keep trying. When we fall into sin, we get up, confess our sins, and try again. That's a very Franciscan ideal, as Francis has stated: "Till now we have done nothing . . . let us try again." Well, that's what most of us are doing. We are somewhat aware that God loves us in a Mother/Father to child manner, in an intimate relationship that is never to be compared to any relationship of the world, because it just isn't. One does not know what love truly is until one's love is perfected in the Lord. Maybe when I am 6-feet under! But we must continue to strive.
This spirituality we're talking about is clearly demonstrated in his writings, as well as in writings about him. The expression "perfect Trinity and simple unity" that reveals in Francis the deep intuition of the otherness that characterizes the relationship between the divine Persons that, however, does not call into question their "simple unity": the perfect difference exists in the bosom of total unity. Otherness always focuses one on the complete care of the other, never acting for self, and it is this understanding that will ultimately found the Franciscan family, not on hierarchy of authority, but on the foundation we call littleness and fraternity [the desire to be a servant of everyone else, focusing on the other and thereby being a more effective imitator of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve!]
"The Father is at the center of the Trinity, source of every action and to whom everything returns: nothing summarizes this vision better than the final prayer of the Letter to the Whole Order (FF 233):
"Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us in our misery that we may do for your sake alone (propter temetipsum), what we know you want us to do, and always want what pleases you; so that, cleansed and enlightened interiorly and fired with the ardor of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and so to make our way to you, Most High, by your grace alone, you who live and reign in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, and are glorified, God all-powerful, forever and ever."
"The Franciscan approach is to use all prayer to lead us to imitate Jesus for the purpose of entering and deepening our relationship with Our Father, the source of Love unimaginable.
"As Franciscans", we must re-discover the "Father," and reconnect, establishing a truly vital relationship with Him in order "to convert ourselves" into authentic "Trinitarian" men and women, like Francis: to reach out to the Father, through and with the Son, by mean of the grace of the Holy Spirit."
In this chapter, reference is made to our Rule, article 12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
Please see page 10 of 16 if the original text, specifically items 1 and 2.
One note surprised me (on page 9), "Francis does not write about or focus on the Cross, which is most unusual for Medieval theology and in many cases today's theology. Francis instead continues to dwell on God's poverty and humility and desire to remain with us, hidden within the Eucharist. The Eucharist is God's action to continue to love and nourish us, giving us Himself in the poorest and humblest form of food, bread and wine, (our food and drink.)
From page 12 of 16 and further, we find a "Part 2. Fundamentals of Franciscan Theology" This is very interesting and I urge you to read and meditate on the original text.
Peace and Good,
Fred Schaeffer, OFS