Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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.

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.

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

Saint Clare of Assisi

The Franciscan family celebrates the Feast of Saint Clare of Assisi during the month of August. Her feast day is on August 12. She is the founder of the second order of the Franciscan family.  She was the first woman to have a Rule of Life approved by the Church. Today, there are over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in 75 countries throughout the world. Their way of life is dedicated to contemplation, poverty, and community.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

St. Francis of Assisi and the Virtues

Although you will seldom hear the word in public discourse, virtue is making a comeback among those who study and teach philosophy and theology.

I put this presentation together on St. Francis and the Virtues. Feel free to share it with others. Of course, it is not the last word on the subject. However, it is a good start. I encourage you to begin your own exploration of Franciscan Virtues.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

November 2018 Gathering

The next gathering of the People of Peace SFO fraternity will be on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 12:30 pm in room 105 of the Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences on the campus of Marian University. We try to wrap things up by 2:30 pm. All are welcome. For more information, feel free to contact me at

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Franciscan Creation Therapy

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 iPhone is too high. And, I see too much depressing news on it.

Spending time outdoors in God's creation can help us deal with the busyness and stress of modern life. It is called nature therapy and there is a good deal of evidence that being in nature helps us cope. In this blog post I sketch out a Franciscan version of nature therapy. It uses techniques associated with Shinrin Yoku, Japanese Forest Bathing, which is related to nature therapy.

To begin, rather than using the word nature the Franciscan version uses the word creation because doing so presupposes a Creator, i.e., God.

In the 13th century, 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 and was sustained by God. He saw God's active presence in everything around him and that gave him peace and a different perspective on many aspects of life.

From reading the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, it is clear that Saint Francis spent a lot of time praying in the forest near Assisi. His early followers also spent a lot of time in forests praying and contemplating God.

Regarding the world around us, Saint Bonaventure, the great medieval Franciscan theologian, urged us to open our eyes and attune our ears to see some sign of God in all aspects of creation. Bonaventure saw the contemplation of creation as the first step in a process that he created that leads to a mystical experience of God.

For Blessed John Duns Scotus, another Franciscan theologian of that era, creation was created for the incarnation of Christ. Every rock, animal and person in some way gives material, outward expression of the Word of God, i.e., Christ.

By now, it should be clear that creation is important to Franciscans. For Franciscans, God is found in the world. The goodness of God permeates the world.

What I am calling Franciscan Creation Therapy 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 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.

Start by reading and reflecting on Francis' poem The Canticle of the Creatures. (I have downloaded Francis' poem to my iPhone so that it is always handy.)

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.

Now relax and take a deep breath.

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.

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.

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.