Franciscan Theology, Tradition and Spirituality
Part 2. St. Clare of Assisi and her gift to the Franciscan family.

This section (Part 2) - begins of page 18 of 30 of the "Franciscan Theology, Tradition and Spirituality" text in the F.U.N. Manual.

These "FUN Reflections" only cover the highlights of each chapter of the FUN Formation Manual - it is strongly recommended that the original work be read, used for formation of others, and for ongoing formation of the Professed. /Fred Schaeffer, OFS

"Clare in her instructions to her sisters, placed the starting point of their spirituality at the Incarnation, and focused her instructions on the goodness of God, the goodness of all creation, and that God could not be found apart from world."

"... God himself became human, took on a human body with all its trappings and because of that action denied that sanctity was found in the soul severed from the body."

"For Clare, Jesus showed the totality and completeness of God's love and challenges us to aspire to the same heights of care and concern for each other. Clare called on her sisters and all, especially her beloved brothers (Friars) to realize that heaven is not so much a place out there, but is very much a relationship based on unconditional love. We are also on the path of littleness, called to understand and embrace our complete and absolute dependence on God, and that we continue to exist only because of His love."

"... Poverty and Humility if embraced, open up to us the doors of transformation."

  • Jesus reveals the totality/completeness of God's Love and the heights we are called to aspire to.
  • Everything that exists is dependent on God, is uniquely and completely loved by God
  • For Clare, to enter the door to transformation requires understanding the depth of God's love for each and every one of us, unconditionally and the* armed with that knowledge and understanding to embrace poverty and humility.
    (*) possible typo in orig. text

For Francis, this path of poverty and humility is in imitation of the life Jesus loved and the only way for him to move beyond personal needs and wants, "beyond ourselves and to reach the place of transformation and surrender."

These are the keystones: (pg. 19 of 30)

  • Poverty is our approach to God from a place of littleness and emptiness. It is not necessarily a poverty of want or need, but a poverty of fully embracing our humanity and recognizing our complete and total dependence on God, (contingency).
  • In our nothingness we stand in awe of God's total love for us, God's emptying Himself in order to become our Lover. The only question is will we allow ourselves to be the beloved?
  • Humility is our ability to allow ourselves to be vulnerable in order to enter into mutual not using relationships with each other. As God our Loving Father stoops down to embrace us in Love, can we also stoop down low to embrace each other in love. This is the example of Incarnation!

 


Beautiful, isn't it? Starting (in the first part of Franciscan Theology, etc.) with Friar Duns Scotus' explanation that God's love is so great that he gave us His Son Jesus in his humanity for 33 years ( to save the world, to redeem the world by His Death on the Cross), and did so because He loved us, and also did so whether we needed His redemption or not. It is miraculous that St. Francis thought so too, and St. Clare's formation of her sisters brings this out, also. We can learn much from them. It all boils down to taking the 'self' (our own interests) out of the equation and doing everything we can for God and for other people. And, if I read the August 2012 Ongoing Formation (written by Benedetto Lino, OFS) correctly, we are asked to do nothing that isn't required by God from an ordinary person - all St. Francis and St. Clare ask of us is to be the best we can be, not for the few, but for everyone we come into contact with.

The quoted text (page 20 of 30) continues: "[Clare] emphasizes our uniqueness and lovability, pointing out there is nothing in our power that can put us beyond God's love and hopes for us. Our dignity (John Scotus would later define this as our "thisness") comes from just being. We are individually unique and chosen by God as His beloved."

Isn't that enough? What more could we want? Fame and riches will not bring us one iota closer to God!

"The image of God we seek to see in the mirror (Mirror of Eternity) is the image of Christ and our actions are his actions of accepting our call (vocation) and becoming great by becoming the servant of all."

People in the 21st Century have a tendency to say that we should not be servants at all, that we are too big for that. Really? Not according to Francis and Clare. Let us be counter-cultural, and do it as Francis asks us to do - humbly and in obedience to the Gospel, going from Gospel to life, and from life to Gospel. If we are to do something with our lives, let us do it by excelling to do it right! In other words, no half-way efforts here.

"Clare asked her sisters to gaze on the face of Jesus until you could begin to see your own face there. Then you would be at the start of the path that leads to true imitation of Christ."

On Page 23 of 30 begins a comparison "Lectio Divina compared to Clare's Mirror of Perfection" I encourage all to study this table. The Franciscan form of Lectio Divina (right column on page 23) is quite different from the non-Franciscan form. My personal method of prayer is just sitting in His Presence and silently adoring Him by gazing at the Tabernacle or (at home) on the cross. Just do it. Forget self, forget your needs, bring only yourself to Him in total offering and then immerse yourself in His Love!

Distractions - yes, they are there, but when you notice yourself going in another direction, turn lovingly back to Him, and begin again. That's what St. Francis did. Let us do the same, quietly, with dignity and patience.

"My God and My All"

 

Peace and Good,

Fred Schaeffer, OFS
August 3rd, 2012