Notes on Chapter 6: Learning More about St Francis and Creation

Eager to loveChapter Six, “An Alternative Orthodoxy: Paying Attention to Different Things

Quote from page 81-82

One of the earliest accounts of Francis, the “Legend of Perugia,” quotes Francis as telling the first friars   “You only know as much as you do.” His emphasis on action, practice, and lifestyle was foundational and revolutionary for its time and at the heart of Franciscan alternative orthodoxy (“heterodoxy”). For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship.

Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often based in [orthodoxy] “correct belief” or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity. That is a major shift.

Conversation Question

  • What are some examples of how loving the humanity of Jesus has shaped the way you live your life?

Quote from page 87, 94

The early Franciscan friars and “Poor Clares” wanted to be Gospel practitioners instead of merely “word police,” “inspectors,” or “museum curators” as Pope Frances calls some clergy. Both Francis and Clare offered their rules as a forma vitae, or “form of life,” to use their own words. They saw orthopraxy (“correct practice”) as a necessary parallel, and maybe even precedent, to mere verbal orthodoxy (“correct teaching”) and not an optional add-on or a possible implication. History has shown that a rather large percentage of Christians never get to the practical implication of their beliefs! “Why aren’t you doing what you say you believe?” the prophet invariably asks.

Every viewpoint is a view from a point. One group’s terrorist is another group’s freedom fighter. One group’s devout friar is another group’s dangerous heretic. But the Franciscan School found a positive and faith-filled way around such dualistic and self-serving thinking. They found a way to be both very traditional and very revolutionary at the same time by emphasizing practice over theory. At the heart of their orthopraxy was the practice of paying attention to different things (nature, the poor, humility, itinerancy, the outsider, mendicancy, mission instead of shoring up the home base, and the Gospels “without gloss,” as Francis put it). In doing so, without fighting about creedal statements, they created a very different imaginarium (the unconscious container inside of which each group does its thinking) for many people.

The Franciscan gift is nevertheless to both reveal and hold that tension between idealism and actual existence within the Church. We do not resolve such a creative tension by any mental gymnastics or papal dispensation. When you honor both power and powerlessness, you quite simply come up with a third something, a very different kind of power. Third Force activity is invariably the gift of the authentic Gospel for the world, and mystics are Third Force people.

Conversation Question

  • Would you consider yourself a “Gospel practitioner”? Explain.