Thursday, June 17, 2021

An Explanation of Franciscan Theology

Franciscan Theology can be hard to explain to someone in a few minutes. I think this video does a great job of doing so. Would you like a transcript? In the lower right hand corner of the Youtube screen just to the right of the word SAVE are three dots. Click on those three dots to access the transcript. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Franciscan Creation Therapy 2.0

We live in a busy world. So much is going on. Often, we feel overwhelmed by it all. I don't know about you, but my screen time on my cell phone is too high. And, I see too much depressing news on it. 

There is lots of evidence that spending time outdoors in nature can help us deal with the busyness and stress of modern life. 

On the drive back from a camping trip in South Carolina in the fall of 2018, I listened to a podcast about Shinrin Yoku (Japanese Forest Bathing), a form of nature therapy. In a fall 2018 blog post, I sketched out a Franciscan version of what I call Franciscan Creation Therapy.

In the spring of 2021, after flying kites with a few of my grandchildren, I thought about the topic again and decided to update my original post. 

Let’s begin at the beginning. The Book of Genesis declares on each day of creation that “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). On the sixth day, with the creation of humanity, God saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). 

St. Francis praised the goodness of God and recognized the goodness of God’s creation, so, rather than using the word nature, I use the word creation because doing so acknowledges a Creator, i.e., God. 

After his conversion, Saint Francis of Assisi spent a lot of time praying to God in the midst of creation. Everything we read about him suggests that he was very mindful of the created world that surrounded him. He was fully present to it. He saw the beauty of God's creation. 

After a time he saw everything as his brother or sister because he realized everything was created by God, was sustained by God, and was worthy of respect. Everything was family. To see what I mean, you may want to read and reflect on Francis' poem The Canticle of the Creatures. He saw God's active presence in everything around him and that gave him peace and a different perspective on all of life. 

Regarding the world around us, Saint Bonaventure, the great medieval Franciscan theologian, who is considered to be the second founder of the Franciscan movement, urged us to open our eyes and attune our ears to see a sign of God in all aspects of creation. Bonaventure thought of the Triune God as an eternal fountain creating and sustaining all of creation at every moment. Bonaventure saw the contemplation of creation as the first step in a process that leads to a mystical experience of the Triune God. The first two chapters Bonaventure’s book The Soul’s Journey into God are most relevant for our purpose. In these two chapters, Bonaventure encourages us to use our senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting) to experience God’s creation. 

For Blessed John Duns Scotus, another Franciscan theologian of the medieval era, all of creation was created for the incarnation of Christ. Every rock, animal and person in some way gives material, outward expression, some sign of the Word of God, i.e., Christ. Clearly, creation is important to Franciscans. For Franciscans, evidence of God is found in the world. It is all around us. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at what I am calling Franciscan Creation Therapy. It is like nature therapy or Japanese Forest Bathing, but with a Franciscan twist. Like Forest Bathing, Franciscan Creation Therapy requires mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. In other words, when you are outside enjoying God's creation don't think about politics, work, or family issues. Just be there. Be fully present. 

To get started, go to a place where you can enjoy God's creation. That can be the shore or in a forest, woods, a field, a city park, or even a backyard garden. 

Here are a few things not to do. It is important that you unplug from the digital world. You don't want interruptions. Put your cellphone in your pocket and leave it there. You won't need it. Your experience of God's creation should not be part of your exercise routine. And, there is no need to rush. Actually, rushing is the last thing you want to do. There is no need to hike for miles, meandering a few hundred feet will do just fine. In fact, you don't need to move much at all.

Now relax and take a deep breath. Concentrate on experiencing your immediate surroundings. Pay attention to what's going on. Note the uniqueness of the things you see and hear. 

What sounds do you hear? Do you hear the wind blowing through the trees? Birds singing or geese honking? How about squirrels running through dry leaves? 

What textures can you feel? Do different leaves feel different? How about the bark of different trees? Are the rocks you pick up smooth, rough, or sharp? 

What can you smell? The flowers? The spicy odor of the leaves of a walnut tree? The fragrance of pine needles?

What colors do you see? Are the leaves different colors? What color is the sky? What shadows do you see? Is the sun glistening off the sand or the water?

What is moving? Are tree limbs blowing in the wind? Is a spider moving across its web? Are squirrels jumping from branch to branch of a nearby tree? Is a hawk soaring overhead? Do you see a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower? Is a caterpillar making its way across your path? Are clouds moving slowly or quickly across the sky? 

Once you are satisfied, thank God for the experience and conclude your creation therapy session with a prayer praising God. 

You will find Franciscan Creation Therapy very relaxing and enjoyable. You will feel closer to God. It will help you deal with busyness and stress of modern life. Plus, you may see a drop in your cellphone screen time. 

By the way, if you see something that just doesn't belong, e.g., paper wrappers, plastic bottles, pop cans, make a mental note and try to come back later and spend some time caring for God's creation. Try leaving the place you experienced just a little bit better for the next person. You will feel good about that. And so will those who come after you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Visit the Website of the National Fraternity

The national fraternity has a very nice website. It is getting better all the time. Check it out. If you have questions about the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States, then there is a good possibility you will find the answers there. It is a great resource. 

Celebrating 800 Years of ‘Memoriale Propositi’

This is a BIG year for Secular Franciscans worldwide. Our first rule was Memoriale Propositi. It was approved in 1221 by Pope Honorius III. Learn more about our heritage and plans for celebrating on the international fraternity's website.

After reading about the plans to celebrate, you might want to explore other pages on the international fraternity's website. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Now is a Very Good Time to be a Secular Franciscan

This is a very good time to be a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. A lot has happened since the Second Vatican Council. Here are what I believe are the major milestones for the Secular Franciscan Order. All are very positive developments and bode well for the Order.

The Second Vatican Council encouraged religious communities to explore the founder's charism. The Degree on The Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life Perfectae Caritatis Proclaimed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965 is the first major milestone in the renewal of the Franciscan Movement. It said "The spirit and aims of each founder should be faithfully accepted and retained." As a result, among Franciscans there was a renewed interest in Sts. Francis and Clare and their earlier followers.

After Perfectae Caritatis, the next major milestone is the publishing of St. Francis of Assisi: Writing and Early Biographies: English Omnibus of the Sources for the Life of St. Francis in 1972 by Marion A. Habig and Raphael Brown, et al. In its day, the Omnibus, as it was affectionately referred to, was the "gold standard" of sources for information about the life of St. Francis. The Omnibus gave Franciscans and scholars access to the early Franciscan sources.

The next important milestone is the development and approval of new SFO Rule in 1978. Amazingly, the new rule for Secular Franciscans incorporates Francis of Assisi's "First Letter to the Faithful," which had been misplaced for 750 years. The 1978 rule is perfect for our time. Secular Franciscans are encouraged to devote themselves to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

The next important milestone is the publishing of Studying The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi - A Beginner's Workbook (1st Edition) in 1996 by William R. Hugo, OFM Cap.  I highly recommend Hugo's method for studying Franciscan documents. Simply put, you have a mind and Hugo shows you how to use it.

The 2nd Edition of Hugo's book is coordinated with the Francis of Assisi: Early Documents Volume I, II and III, which is the next important milestone. The three volume set, published in 1999, is in widespread use by scholars, academics, and the laity.

The next important milestone occurred in 2001. That is when "The Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT) was established in 2001 by the English-Speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) to promote a contemporary retrieval of the distinctive theological and spiritual vision that animates the Franciscan movement." Around 2007, CFIT established an internet presence allowing scholars, academics and laity to have access to an array of digital documents, including the three volume set of Franciscan documents published in 1999.

In 2010, during a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI offered the world a catechesis on St. Francis of Assisi and two more on St. Bonaventure.

The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) published For Up to Now: Foundational Topics for Initial Formation in 2011, which is the next important milestone for the Order. The FUN Manual is an absolutely outstanding resource that is widely available on the internet as a digital document.

Finally, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013, a papal conclave elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as his successor in March 2013. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. The first pope to do so.

Yes, this is a very good time to be a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.