What does it mean to follow in the footsteps of St Francis today? The two extracts on this page are by Brother Ramon, an Anglican Franciscan who lived at one time as a hermit in North Wales, “where sheep were blown off cliffs and the cabbages had to be staked to survive!”
Franciscans began as mendicant (begging) friars, and one of the ways in which this is still possible is by hitching a lift on an evangelistic or ministry trek. One day a lorry stopped on the A303 in the West Country in response to my “thumbs up” sign. It is comparatively easy to get a lift in a Franciscan habit!
As we sped along, the driver asked: “If you could tell me in one sentence what you stood for, what would you say?”
“Oh, that’s not an easy question,” I replied, “because I would want to say something about Jesus in my life. But if I could communicate my attitude in one sentence, I would say that I seek to be open to every other human being as my brother and sister.”
“Gosh, that’s mind-blowing,” he responded. “If everyone was like that, the world would change.”
“Hold on!” I grinned. “I didn’t say I actually live like that, but I want to.”
Franciscan spirituality is especially relevant in our own day. Not only does it ground us in the biblical faith from which the Franciscan experience springs, but it roots us into the very stuff of creation, with its immediate awareness of earth, sea and sky.
Our environment is increasingly polluted by modern culture, industry, commerce and warfare, Our natural resources are being depleted by the hour, and we are poisoning and infecting our fellow human beings and other creatures.
In such a world, the Franciscan love of nature, reverence for life and openness to our fellows leads to joy and peace, with a down-to-earth and practical desire to correct our mistakes and reverse our wrong practices.
In our own day, when political ideologies are collapsing, when religion is being exploited as an argument for exclusivism and violence, and when the poorer nations are calling for equality and justice, then the life and teaching of St Francis is a beacon in the darkness. In him the light of Christ shines most clearly, and the love of Christ continues to manifest itself.
The extracts above are taken from the book Franciscan Spirituality by Brother Ramon SSF and published by SPCK. Brother Ramon died in 2000. His books have inspired many people. Click the link below for his book on the thorny questions of life and faith, My Questions, God’s Questions.
Can the life and teachings of St Francis have anything to say to us in the world of now? Here are three questions to think about…
• St Francis chose to live in poverty – how can we simplify the way we live to help the world’s poor?
• What practical steps can we take to follow St Francis’s love and respect for nature?
• What difference might it make to pray St Francis’s prayer, Lord, make me an intsrument of your peace, over a friendship of yours that has broken down?
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Francis of Assisi is one of the best-loved of all Christian saints, who renounced possessions in his quest to be a follower of Jesus Christ. His ideals of poverty and peacemaking still inspire people today.
These pages were written by Howard Ingham.
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