About Franciscan Spirituality
As you may know, in the Catholic Church there are many forms of spirituality. Some are related to different cultural traditions, while others were developed through the religious practices of holy men and women over the 2,000 years of our church's existence.
In general, spirituality is defined as a belief in something beyond the self and the physical world. For Francis and Clare, their belief was totally focused on Jesus and the Gospel. In fact, they believed in literally patterning their entire existence after that of Jesus. This literal-ism, and some say excess lifestyle, is the hallmark of Franciscan spirituality.
We invite you to contemplate your response to prayers and resources we will post regularly on this page. Join us as we journey in search of inspiration from the life and writings of Francis and Clare.
Francis. Ancestry. Spirituality.
By Sister Jeanne Carrigan, OSF
Like many of you, I decided one day to send a sample of my DNA to Ancestry.com with the hope that I could learn more about my extended family and their historical roots. When the results arrived, I discovered that many of my family’s stories were confirmed, while others were “blown out of the water.” You may be nodding your head right now, having the same experience.
We know very little about Francis of Assisi’s ancestry. What we do know gives us clues regarding how his ancestry may have influenced his spirituality. His father, Pietro Bernardone, was a cloth merchant, who, according to biographers, made numerous trips to France to purchase fabric. On one of these ventures, he met Lady Pica who captured his heart. She left her homeland and joined Pietro to set up their household in Assisi. There Lady Pica was known as a very pious woman. It is said that she attracted other women of the town to join her in prayer and in carrying out good works. In addition, Lady Pica seemed to have had another gift, that of music. We can make this conjecture because biographers have often mentioned Francis singing in French while walking from one destination to the next.
We do not often think of Francis as bilingual, yet he lived in a family that honored both the French and Italian cultures. Nor can we comprehend how the beauty of his physical home environment must have shaped how he viewed the world around him. We can only guess. One thing is for sure, there was a definite French influence in his family. You only have to look at his name. Lady Pica had her son baptized Govanni, perhaps named after her father. When Pietro returned from one of his trips he changed his son’s name to Francisco or “Little Frenchy.”
I would like to think that Francis accompanied his father on some of his trips to France, in order to learn about the important facets of the cloth trade. There he would be taught how to evaluate the design, texture, color, and weave of fabric and most importantly, how to work with merchants. Pietro must have been a competent tradesman, for to be successful in his profession he needed two qualities: an artistic eye and a congenial personality.
When you examine Francis's early life you can see that he grew up with two parents that valued beauty. They were both probably artistic themselves and had personalities that easily got along with all kinds of people. It is no wonder that Francis is known as a poet, a musician, a producer of the famous nativity pageant, and the creator of a beautiful series of daily prayers known as The Office of the Passion. One might conclude that a major part of his spirituality was strongly influenced by his ancestry.
Part of being a good Franciscan is to get in touch with your own ancestry so that you can offer God the unique and authentic gift that is you. This may not always be easy. Like most families, my ancestors were a mixture of courageous, dedicated, and creative men and women who strove to do their best, while others were opportunists, thriving in the bootlegging business. It is amazing to realize that their genes were passed on to me and the thought of it boggles my mind.
After many years in religious life, Francis’s prophetic saying, “I have done what is mine to do, now it is your turn to do yours,” takes on a fuller meaning. For me, it means to love God with your whole heart, care for all creation, and when doing these two things, give honor and gratitude to ancestors whose genes I share.
Reflection on Franciscan Spirituality
By Sister Joanne Meyer, OSF
Some persons are attracted to Franciscan spirituality through nature, sensing the presence of the Creator offering beauty, diversity, and balm for their spirits. Others experience goodness in a relationship that opens them to seek for the Source of such goodness. Still others discover the Jesus of the Gospels who loves so dynamically. Whatever way they are drawn, these persons come to know God’s great love and care for all persons and all of creation.
Once we experience that God loves so intimately, we pray and reflect on what is important in life. We grow into a greater honesty, noticing how our feelings and thoughts affect our actions. This awareness moves us into a pattern of ongoing conversion, where we choose to live more authentically. This is usually a gradual process of recognizing what we need to let go of and what we need to embrace more deeply in order to become more loving.
We come to experience that all is gift! Everything, from our very personhood to all the talents and limitations, is gift. As we grow into this Franciscan way, we experience the interconnectedness of life. All persons are precious to God, deeply loved; they are truly brothers and sisters to us. All within creation expresses the bounty of God and we seek to nurture it. We grow into greater freedom of spirit, fostering respect and compassion toward all persons and all of creation. The fruit of living this way is to experience the gifts of peace and joy.
Prayer for Homeless Men, Women and Children
Precious Holy Spirit, I come to You with a broken heart for all our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living with no security, no shelter, and no safety from the outside world. Please be with all the men, women and children in our world who are homeless. Give them extra warmth, peace, and guidance like only heaven can send. Let angels hold their hands at all times, ease their worries, and provide opportunities for a better life.
Give them hope where there is no hope and provide wisdom as they work through their trials. Lord, let them know they are loved, prayed for, and are your precious children who will never be forgotten. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.