Posts Tagged ‘St. Francis of Assisi’


Justice. Love. Humility.

Three parts of a Franciscan Community of Reconciliation. Why does it matter?

Well let’s share a story that brought me to typing this now.

Mnay moons ago when I was still a student at SAIT, I went back to church with my Nan and Aunty Bert. In that process I inquired about prayer, and was given an answer that peaked more of my curiousity. As I had just recently started working at a bookstore, I stumbled across Talbot’s Life Lesson’s of St. Francis, one of the early works in my reading to shape my understanding of the gospel (this with the Great Love Commandments that brought me back into church began shaping, unconsciously, my ministry).

Over time I would move from a less structured spiritual formation to inquiry and postulancy with the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, when I would serve in the Anglican church, I would transition to the Third Order, Society of St. Francis, to complete my postulancy, and two years of novitiate and fellowship with the RC Secular Franciscan Order (as my Dad would call us the shit disturbers of the church. A quick history lesson, third/secular orders exist as St. Francis realized not everyone was gifted with celibacy, and as such needed to go make babies, as he blessed Brother Leo to go forward and have blessed family.

When a new blessing would emerge, as my Nan needed extra help, I would rejoin her in church, and the great the barriers of church labels would halt my official membership in the orders, and would move forward in the work of living my rule for continuing to make my own part of the world a better place (which is debatable to some if I did or not).

There was times the orders would touch base about re-joining, but I did not have the right church pedigree in those moments, and as such nothing moved forward.

That has changed, with an ecumenical community out of the new monasticism paradigm, my life vows (24 years on from the first opening of Talbot’s book) have been accepted.

No matter how impossible things may seem, if you are called, never give up for there is a path for it to be light.

Pax et bonum (peace and goodwill)


The winter was endless

Had thirds and fourths even

extreme cold…thaws…slush

drips to ice ponds

statue contracting and expanding with each weather change

the melt was swift from the flower bed

the Patron collapsed onto a stone

shattering in allegory

to the stigmata that claimed him in life

peering down

picking up the pieces

watch as they fall into the rubbish bin

sometimes saying good bye

or leaving one chapter to the next

you may not hold the ritual for…

but Mother Nature, Father Time

conspire to provide

the ritual you need.

 


Did you know in Franciscanism there is no historic Reformation?

Just a community constantly called to invention, reformation, restoration and reconciliation.

spong3I am monastically formed. I have done my Curseillo. The wife and I were blessed to be apart of a formation/discernment process for Companions in Mission with the FCJ Sisters that renewed a call to expansive-cosmic Christianity. I would also work alongside the formation materials of the Order of St. Luke the Physician in healing ministries. I continued to learn from the ancient writers, and their orders ala Ignatius of Loyola.

Before that though, I was and still hold to Franciscan formation. It began with a book, John Michael Talbot’s The Lessons of St. Francis when I was trying to understand Christian prayer in 1998-1999 upon returning to church.

From there the journey opened a world of formation and community. For my writing opened the ability to write for and be an editor on an international journal; write for another national religious publication, be a writer/editor for a local publication and locally aided in provided great spiritual formation for youth who had never even heard of Christianity, and created a dialogue within the political realm federally of our nation when I ran. It saw me go through and be mentored by members of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans; Third Order, Society of St. Francis; and as both the OEF and TSSF had no Calgary chapter, but community of Franciscans transcended denominationalism, I could fellowship, journey and learn with the Roman Catholic Order of Secular Franciscans. All these orders were what is dubbed, Third, or as Francis told his fellow Friar when the brother received the call of love…go forth, marry and carry on living the life, for without new families and communities growing the work of the other orders dies away (just ask the Shakers).

It was a formation that some would understand as putting works above faith, yet that is wrong. It is a formation that shows faith and works as so woven together it would be like pulling apart your own DNA strands.

Preach the Gospel everywhere you go, if you must use words.

-St. Francis of Assisi

spong5spong4

The most important part of the formation the drive for mystic wisdom. Understanding it is easy to accumulate knowledge (anyone who has a smart phone knows knowledge is at our fingertips). Within Franciscan teaching it is the application that matters. I am a student of life, psychology, sociology, anthropology, culture, religion, spirituality, politics, history, story—the list can go on. Learning is the first step, but it is not moving from the learning until it is so applied it becomes second nature. Francis discipled his followers not to move onto the next teaching of Jesus until they were living the first one this way. The underpinning to be learned was the Great Commandments for out of that flows everything.

The question asked by the lawyer of Jesus in the market after Jesus shared the Great Commandments, the commandments that had me decide to go back to church when I read them in a broken and discarded Gideon’s New Testament in the bottom of my closet…the question that led to another shaking of the institutional foundations:

Who is my Neighbour?

spongUpcoming: Watch for my review on John Shelby Spong’s last call to reformation Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith today (2018) as he enters retirement following a stroke, here he stands once more.

 


Unity. Oneness. Interconnected. All things in the Holy Mystery, the Holy Mystery in all. There are many ways to reflect the core truth of existence.  But these few passages sum it up quite good from the Aquarian Gospel 9:15-17:

  1. Before the worlds were formed all things were One; just Spirit, Universal Breath. 16.And Spirit breathed, and that which was not manifest became the Fire and Thought of Heaven, the Father-God, the Mother-God. 17. And when the Fire and Thought of heaven in union breathed, their son, their only son, was born. This son is Love whom men have called the Christ.

(For more on this common thread read Aquarian Gospel 10-12)

Quite simple, the thread that connects all is L-O-V-E- full stop, no additions, or buts. Another term (man what a thesaurus event) is Christ. Firstly many believe The Christ refers to Jesus the Christ or Jesus Christ, because was Christ not Mary & Joseph’s son’s last name? No, technically it was Jesus Bar Josephson (Jesus Son of Joseph) or in Mediterranean, Jesus of Nazareth.

Christ was his state of being, an awakened state. The Fillmore’s write about this in their 12 Powers of Man, where each disciple in the Gospel Journey tie into energetic powers within (ala Chakras if you will) that by unlocking and learning to live out of these powers you awaken the Christ within yourself.

In Franciscan formation, it is the idea St. Francis of Assisi laid out, that you learn to live without thinking (essentially make part of your very being) the Gospel lesson, before moving onto the next one. Forming the Christ within intentionally to know life in Love.

The Christ within, or as Rev. Matthew Fox as the Cosmic Christ, that awakened being—or if you prefer an Eastern flavour —Buddha. Ah those common threads again, connected in the eternal holy breathed existence that is all love.

This is the core, this is what any religious-spiritual path should lead a traveller to…a state of oneness, embrace, acceptance and love.

So…what road are you currently journeying towards Cosmic Oneness with the Holy Mystery?

 


Our home has always been a bee hive of activity. During my journey in the ministry, one saint has been there, St. Francis of Assisi, former rich boy, failed soldier, and beggar. Trouble Maker, or as I worked spiritual development with the Lay orders and explained it to my Dad, apptly described as “shit disturber.”

It is interesting that as my family goes deeper within the New Thought Movements, and we begin to discern which path for us to take, and perhaps rejoin the ministry within (Centres for Spiritual Living or Unity) it strikes me that Francis re-enters my mind more deeply. The formation, the vows, the Rule of Life all have spoken so deeply and engrained themselves within my life that I walk the Charism daily without even formerly acknowledging it, it just happens when I am healthy.

It was the basis of my book, Pilgrimage to the Heart of the Sacred, how to develop one’s own spiritual praxis.

Matthew Fox’s (the defrocked Dominican priest, current Episcopal Priest, wisdom teacher) recent works around Hildegard of Bengin and Meister Eckhart showing the connection of wisdom/mystery schools, panentheism, mysticism and the Holy Mystery.

For the untrained reader this may appear as a senseless ramble, yet like the two mystics Fox writes on and works with, Francis shook the world just as much– it not more. When he renounced the world of materialism to be one with Holy (full on acknowledgement of the Unity of all things) and entered into the world to transform it…well he attracted followers that also challenged and shaped his understanding of the world.

Clare, a wealthy young lady, who renounced aristocracy, and would prayerfully fight four popes on equality fo women to choose their own path…an she would win (we remember this blessing each Easter with our eating of Hot Crossed Buns).

And then little randy Brother Leo, who well couldn’t keep from leering at the ladies, and chasing them, Francis could have cast this friar out, but Francis was astute. If the whole world was celibate, soon there would be no more children of God for it is very hard to have babies in celibacy. So Francis would commend, release and re-vow Leo to go forth with the love of his life, And with a slight wink, to produce many fine bambinos.

As I continue to reflect, I ponder the metaphysics that connect with Francis’ story, connect with the Master Teacher, Rabbi Jesus, and wonder about my own city and community, and wonder if there is a place for a grassroots Franciscan Mystic movement within Alberta?

Discernment continues—


Call to Worship:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love,

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is discord, union

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is darkness, light

Where there is sadness, joy

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

Seek to be understood as to understand

Seek to be loved as to love

For it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Dancing the Circle Wider (speaking notes, but the spirit does lead)

July 20, 2014 @ Centennial Presbyterian Church (10:30 a.m.)

Ezekial 16:49

Matthew 25: 31-46

quote for sermon 2

And with those two scriptures, and the quote I just shared to open, everyone lets out a groan thinking, oh there goes the poverty worker again preaching on about helping the needy and trying to make those haves feel bad…

Or not. For if you were here last week we discovered our voice through the story of a peasant girl of some note, Mary, Mother of Jesus. So this week, we hear her son’s words.

For you see when I hear these words, I reflect on these stories I truly think about the heart they are speaking too, the spirit of the words, not the letter of the words. Literal reading of holy stories is such a late 19th to 20th century phenomenon; we miss the true mysticism of these words.

Who are the poor? What were the deeper sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? Who are the least of these?

Jesus said his life fulfilled The Law & The Prophets, Ezekiel’s words challenge the institutional church to actually live their faith, not hide behind words. Jesus’ calls us out of our comfort zone. The true depth wasn’t the “sin of the week” that one can target to make themselves feel good, na, and it wasn’t even speaking about have and have not’s, although that is a part of it. These speak to the heart of community, family, and something that needs to be challenged within our faith, we are not a community hierarchy, and we are a circle with a heart beating in the centre called Jesus. Why a circle? Because it speaks to the equality of all.

Think about it, when you boil Sodom and Gomorrah down, the true sin was inhospitality, brutality, and exertion of power not love. Who have we ever made feel unwelcome? Personally? Communally? Who do we need to open the circle wide to so Ezekiel will not be speaking to our institution?

Yet even more challenging is this teaching of Jesus. Where he points to those that if the community, their family, that which the church says we are with humanity, do not choose to care for then we are not doing our faith. Who are the least of these for us in the 21st century church?

There’s the big meta issues, the Drop-In Centre has a banner on it inviting one inside to meet the other 1%; we can talk of those trafficked into human slavery of all brutalities; former prisoners and addicts. These are the easy ones for a person of faith to name of because, well they are sort of already named on the page. But who are those that truly need an uplifting and loving community to exist?

I could share the experience my family had running the Rainbow Chapel out of our living room in Rundle, where we became a hub of love if you will. Where neighbours say no problem, and some still do, to knock on the door, many times where we would sit down for a meal and be throwing on extras because our door was a rotating experience of who was going to be at family dinner that night. Our kids made many friends and discovered many new aunts and uncles and being loved on from what some would say is the fringes.

But why?

Simple, our circle was drawn wide. As an aside, at my Mum’s funeral I discovered she had opened our home on the block when first built running a free food Hubbard for neighbours in need.

Who should draw your circle wide? Who are you comfortable with coming into your home and being friends with?

Is it a young adult recently out of prison attempting to turn their life around? Widowers? Seniors? A family whose loved one is in prison and needs support? A single teenage mother or father? That couple not married, but living together in a deeper love than most married couples? Differently abled persons? Those so spiritually abused they have no desire to know the loving God, until they come to a family and discover through the lives of others? Someone in the process of transitioning genders? An older gay couple struggling to adopt their first children? An older woman coming into her sexuality and love of women for the first time in her life? Someone throwing off the patriarchal shackles of their Christianity and learning to dance the circle of a loving God? Children gleefully playing and discovering together, teenagers seeking a safe space to be themselves and for many it simply is a place they do not have to be the label their school community has placed on them. New Canadians struggling wit the immigration process, awaiting for years their family members, admitting they left to come here when their child was born and now their child back home is almost school age, sharing joy when word comes of the reunification. Watching language barriers melt away through the youngest members. It is letting the abused in, and not judging or pushing, but just giving a space they can exist and rediscover themselves.  Someone struggling to be seen beyond their previous labels of addict, nerd, sex worker, pimp, criminal and just wanting to be their name for once….

Who are those you feel God calling you to draw the circle wide to include?

(Leave a space of silence for congregation to respond)

A church that draws the circle wide is one, as Pope Francis said, that has gone outside of itself into the streets of its community and taken its lumps to get to know its neighbours. It is one that has celebrated triumphs, wept and grieved with those in crisis, had their hearts fall a little when someone embraced continues a negative choice of life… yet you stand awaiting a possible good outcome or just a shoulder for the tears.

Are we ready to heed Jesus words’ a seek those others may class as least, others may state are “sinner”, others or even ourselves may cast a label on to keep them outside the circle, are we ready to widen the circle and welcome them in?

Will we dance with God today and meet Jesus in each person and welcome them as such into our circle?