Franciscan Spirit Blog

St. Francis and the Word of God

The Franciscan life is a high calling. But if God has given us this vocation, he will also give us his grace to carry it out.

It is impossible to capture Francis in an analysis or a summary. Where grace is, there is mystery. But if, in a human way, we try to list the elements of the mystery, we would have to place the Gospel at the head of that list. In his delightful and even thrilling literalness, Francis simply said, “Here is God’s living Word. He is speaking to us today.”

What Francis meant by “Gospel” was Jesus, the living Word of God made living flesh and living with us today. “Brothers, I know Holy Writ—I know the poor Christ,” he said. The last thing Francis wanted was to be special or to found a group of people who would be distinguished or superior. He simply wanted as many people as possible to be led by the Holy Spirit to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, allowing the Lord to transform their lives. To be Franciscan, then, is to attempt to be Christian, a disciple. So, Franciscans today try to be Christians with the particular inspiration and traditions of Francis. Nevertheless, the fundamental thrust is always the Gospel way of life.

A way of life is a set of values, a spirit that affects our whole life, an attitude that enters into every thought we think, each emotion we feel, what we say and each action of our days. Christianity is the way of life God himself has graciously given us. Our tradition says: “Since Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, Secular Franciscans should have the deep conviction that, by Baptism and profession they must become like Christ crucified, and follow his Gospel as their rule of life. As they live their lives in the world, they are imbued with the mind and spirit of Christ.”

We can never emphasize enough the fact that Gospel means “Good News.” This is one of the key ideas in Francis’ life. He was thrilled to discover the beauty and simplicity of this idea: The Good News is that God is our Father and our Mother! God loves us! Christ is our Brother. We are the children of God, truly possessing spiritual life. We are brothers and sisters of Christ and of each other.


Friar Murray Bodo describes St. Francis’ love for Jesus and his desire to be transformed into a gospel Christian.

The Spirit of God’s love lives in us. Our lives are holy and secure in Christ. Christ and his Gospel were, therefore, the center of the life of Francis. To live like Francis, we are to live the Gospel—that is, live according to the Good News, live as God’s children, brothers and sisters of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit. Practically every detail of life has been modeled for us on the earthly life of Christ.

The Franciscan life is a high calling. But if God has given us this vocation, he will also give us his grace to carry it out. One important quality is required: a spirit of trust and generosity. This is the lesson of Francis’ life: a spirit of childlike confidence in his Father in heaven, and in the power and wisdom and love of his Father. With him, there is nothing to fear. Nothing can hurt us. There is no problem we cannot solve with God’s wisdom and grace.

 

Connecting to Franciscan Writing

Brother Bernard was, in Francis’ eyes, the real founder of the Order of Lesser Brothers, because he was the first wealthy Assisian to sell all his possessions, give them to the poor, and throw himself completely upon the mercy of God. Francis remembered so vividly the night he spent in the home of the wealthy merchant, Bernard of Quintavalle. Bernard, pretending to be asleep, had spent the night watching Francis at prayer, and in the morning had told Francis of his resolve to renounce his possessions and to follow Francis in the footsteps of Christ.

Francis was utterly stunned. Never, in his wildest hopes, had he imagined that God would so quickly answer his prayers for companionship in poverty and pursuit of the Dream. But he did not immediately show his joy and relief to Bernard. Instead, Francis said that they must go together to the bishop’s house where there was a poor priest who would say Mass for them.

Afterward they would ask the priest to open the Book of the Gospels three times to see what God would there reveal to them about their future; whether Bernard was to follow Christ as Francis’ brother, or not. Francis’ heart always beat faster when he recalled those three openings of the Gospels:

“If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions, and give to the poor…and come, follow me.”

“Take nothing for your journey, neither staff nor knapsack, shoes nor money.”

“Anyone who will come after me must renounce self, take up the cross and follow me.”

—Murray Bodo, OFM, Francis: The Journey and the Dream


Let Us Begin Again: A Journal for Followers of St. Francis of Assisi


Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Franciscan Spirit Blog

Skip to content