Franciscan Spirituality

When people think of Franciscan Spirituality they think either of love of animals/creation or being a peacemaker. Go to any garden store and in the midst of the statues of gnomes and Buddha’s you will find a statute of St Francis surrounded by birds and other animals. Most people are familiar with the Peace Prayer of St Francis either as a hymn or as a prayer.

A spirituality that loves animals is easy to follow. I love my cats…. dogs…birds, animals. So I am just like St. Francis. Where did this idea come from? From a story in the book, The Little Flowers of St Francis. The story tells about an episode when the friars were walking back to Assisi and Francis saw a flock of birds on the side of the road. He walked among them, and they stayed there as if listening to him and only flying off when he said they could leave.

Giotto’s famous painting in the Basilica of Assisi depicts this.

On the other hand the Peace Prayer of St Francis is much more challenging

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon,
where there is doubt faith;
where there is despair, hope:
where there is darkness, light
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Of these two popular understandings of Franciscan Spirituality, peacemaking is closer
to the truth. To be instruments of peace is an important part of Franciscan Spirituality.
To strive to understand rather than be understood; to love rather than be loved,
to give rather than to receive and to pardon are all aspects of Franciscan spirituality.
Perhaps a more encompassing image would be “person of the Gospel”.

St Francis in his Testament (his last will and testament – his last instruction to the Friars) states:
“The Most High himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel.
And I caused it to be written down in a few words and simply, and the
Lord Pope (Pope Honorius) confirmed it for me.