Franciscan Spirituality

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Steven had a post today about wanting to get closer to the proper (is that the right word?) practice of his Carmelite Spirituality and it got me thinking about Franciscan spirituality and how that might best be understood. Actually, his post caused me to experience a pang of jealousy because my first reaction to it was, gee, I wish I could do that.

When most people think of Franciscan spirituality, they picture the statues of St. Francis with the bird on his shoulder and the bunny at his feet. While it’s true that love of creation and all God’s creatures is an element of the Franciscan ideal, it is certainly not the key idea. Nor, strictly speaking is poverty, probably the next most common idea of Franciscan spirituality.

I’ve often said, and I’ve read this in some Franciscan resources, that there is no distinctive Franciscan spirituality as such. My favorite way to say it is that to be Franciscan is simply to be Catholic, really Catholic, nothing more, nothing less.

I’ll explain. You see, Francis wanted, above all else, to live the Gospel life as Christ lived it; he wanted to be the perfect follower of Christ. In order to do that, poverty was necessary, but he believed that it was even more necessary to follow Christ within the Church. Francis loved the Church and everything he did was done in obedience to the Church. To be Franciscan is, essentially, to live as a Catholic, and that idea should not be distinctive to any one of us.

But there’s more: Francis also loved the Scripture because it is through reading and meditating on Scripture that he came to know what it meant to follow Christ. He read Scripture assiduously, but it was always as a Catholic. This is part of Franciscan spirituality to this day. The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, in Chapter 2, reads:

The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father's love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.

I read this over again today, and then it hit me – this ties in pretty closely with something I have written about several times over the last week or so, i.e., that in order to have a living faith, you must have some clear idea of what that faith means. In order to go “from the gospel to life and life to the gospel” you have to engage in “a careful reading of the gospel.” That’s where all of this has been coming from. I have been drawing on my Franciscan spirituality all this time and wasn’t even really aware of it.

I feel better.


You said that very good .

Thank you, Dennis

I just found your site. This is a wonderful post, and I think it gets right to the heart about what Franciscans need to be doing. Thanks!


Thanks for stopping by. I always feel its one thing to understand the Rule, sometimes quite another to live by it. But, I guess we just keep trying.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on March 6, 2006 1:26 PM.

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