Franciscan Spirituality strives to follow the poor and crucified Christ. We do that by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ in brotherhood.
"And the Lord gave me brothers"
One famous story of Francis of Assisi tells how, as a young man, he was afraid of people with leprosy. During his conversion, he went up to a leper, embraced him, and kissed him. According to Francis, “Then what was bitter became very sweet…” Francis confronted his fear, embraced it, and then began a life of penance.
In this life of penance and this embrace of the leper, Francis was enamored by two dimensions of God’s relationship with us. First of all, Francis was struck by the humility of God manifested in the Incarnation. The Eternal Word of God became Flesh and made His dwelling among us. Similarly, Francis was struck by the humility of the risen and glorified Christ, who makes Himself present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Secondly, Francis was enamored by God’s great charity, who gave His only Son for the life of the world; a Son who later gave His life over entirely in the incredible charity of saving us from our sins. These dimensions of humility and charity are lived out in our community life without anything of our own. In a life of poverty, we learn again that we need one another without possessing anything of our own. We can only experience humility and charity in relationship with one another as brothers.
Francis always said, “And the Lord gave me brothers.” Within the context of brotherhood, Franciscan friars strive to follow the poor and crucified Christ by living the Gospel.
God raised St. Francis of Assisi as a true disciple of Jesus Christ in the Church and in the society of his time, both of which faced wide and complex challenges.
He believed that he was divinely inspired to found our religious fraternity, stating:
“The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way: for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers.
And the Lord Himself led me among them, and I showed mercy to them…
And after the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel.”
St. Francis indicated two fundamental Gospel values as essential to the charism of the Order:
- Fraternity, which is a gift from the Lord (“And after the Lord gave me some brothers…”), and
- Minoritas, which is understood as conformity to the humble servant Christ (“Let everyone, in general, be called a lesser brother. Let one wash the feet of the other”). Minoritas is a way of following the poor and humble Christ.
It urges the friars to:
- Reject power
- Be subject to all
- Serve one another
- Be in solidarity with the least and most marginalized of society
- Foster and build peace wherever they might be, and
- Embrace a continual process of self-emptying
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Franciscan Order arose and developed under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The defense of the truth of her Immaculate Conception is recognized as “the golden thread” of our Order’s history. The friars’ duty is living in service of the Church of God, so the Kingdom of Christ may be extended through the Earth under Mary Immaculate’s guidance.
In continuity with the original charism and tradition of the Order, devotion to Our Lady was spread by means of the teaching and holiness of friars like:
- St. Anthony of Padua
- St. Bonaventure
- Blessed John Duns Scotus
- St. Joseph of Cupertino, and
- St. Francis Anthony Fasani
The unconditional entrusting of self to Mary Immaculate as taught by St. Maximilian Kolbe is a real way to be open to new challenges of mission by listening to the Holy Spirit and by understanding the signs of the times.