The Spirit of Francis

Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart, and give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command. —Francis, “A Prayer before the Crucifix”

Theologian and minister Bruce Epperly writes of the timely importance of the Franciscan commitment to both contemplation and action: 

I believe that Francis’s message is even more important in light of this most recent pandemic. Francis—and his spiritual sister, Clare—remind us we are all connected. The paths of greed, consumerism, individualism, and nationalism endanger the planet and its peoples. In the spirit of Francis, we need to break down barriers of friend and stranger, citizen and immigrant, rich and poor, if we are to survive in this increasingly interdependent world. Nations need to see patriotism in terms of world loyalty as well as self-affirmation. We need the Franciscan vision of all creation singing praises to the Creator if we are to flourish in the years and centuries to come. Like Francis and Clare, we need to become earth-loving saints, committed to our planet and its peoples—in our time and our children’s and grandchildren’s time.

On a visit to Assisi, with Francis as a model, Epperly considers how we might participate in healing the world:

As I walked the streets of Assisi, I realized I needed the wisdom of this saint who sought to reform the church based on his experience of the Living God. I recognized that the church always needs reformation, but this reformation needs to be grounded in inner spiritual experience. . . .

Francis discovered that, despite being a military prisoner recovering from the trauma of battle, the everyday world whose values he took for granted was not his only option. His life could be different. The world could be a very different place than he had imagined. It dawned on him that his destiny might involve becoming one of God’s messengers, midwifing in time and space the Reality that beckoned him. He realized he had the freedom to become a citizen of a world not yet born, living by a different set of values than his parents and peers, and inviting them to see life from a new perspective: God’s vision rather [than] thirteenth-century consumerism, parochialism, and status-seeking.

Francis was on the edge of an adventure in spiritual transformation that would take him from privilege to prayer and from self-interest to world loyalty. His journey would inspire future adventurers to follow the path of spiritual activism, imagining a transformed church responding to a transformed world. . . .

God calls us to mystical activism, a deep-rooted spirituality inspired by our encounters with God and commitment to our spiritual practices, to bring beauty and healing to the world. Walking in the footsteps of Francis and Clare, we are called to be mystics of the here and now, not some distant age. . . . Within the concrete limitations of our life, our gifts are lived out and expand as we devote ourselves to prayerful activism.

Bruce Epperly, Walking with Francis of Assisi: From Privilege to Activism(Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2021), ix, 8–9, 4–5, 12.

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