What is Franciscan Spirituality?
Within the Catholic Church there is a rich variety of spiritualities. We speak, for instance, of “Benedictine spirituality”, “Dominican spirituality”, or “Franciscan spirituality” – to name a few.
These spiritualities have their origin in great spiritual leaders after whom they are generally named; for example, Benedictine spirituality is from St. Benedict and so on. A particular spirituality is a specific system, or schema of beliefs, virtues, ideals and principles which form a particular way to approach God and therefore all life in general.
Just because these spiritualities are different does not mean they are contradictory. They all arise from the same Christian heritage and they all aim at the same goal – to love as Jesus loved. The difference is a matter of emphasis. These differences in emphasis give each spirituality its unique character traits. In other words, each spirituality has its “preferred” virtues, ideals and principles without negating all the others. These preferred emphases are what make up each particular spiritual system. Franciscan spirituality, then, is that spirituality which comes from St. Francis and evolved within the Franciscan order. It has its own unique emphasis which characterizes it as “Franciscan”.
A general schema for Franciscan spirituality would look like this:
1. Franciscan spirituality is rooted in the general Judeo-Christian, Roman Catholic and Biblical traditions. It is rooted in the general Trinitarian theology of the Church.
2. It is Christo-centric focusing primarily on the Incarnate Jesus.
3. The humility and poverty of the Incarnation of Jesus is the pattern and model for Franciscan life (Imitation of Christ), theology (Primacy of Christ) and its approach to all creation.
4. This downward direction, movement, tendency is called Minority.
5. Minority is expressed in Poverty and Humility. Poverty is the external expression of Minority while Humility is the internal expression of it.
6. Along with Minority, Fraternity is essential to Franciscan life. Minority safeguards and effects Fraternity.
7. The third pillar of Franciscan life is Penance. Penance is on-going, continuous conversion.
8. The fruit of all this is the perfection of love with an particular Franciscan emphasis on peace and joy.
(From: The Franciscans of Canada http://www.ofmqc.ca/eng/spirituality/spirituality01.htm )
What are the elements that make up Franciscan Spirituality?
17 Essential Elements of Franciscan Spirituality:
1…To live the gospel according to the spirit of St. Francis (Articles 1,4,5,14)
2…To be converted continually (Articles 2,4,5,7,9,12,16)
3…To live as sisters and brothers of all people and of all creation (Articles 13,18)
4…To live in communion with Christ (Articles 1,4,5,14)
5…To follow the poor and crucified Christ (Article 10)
6…To share in the life and mission of the Church (Article 6)
7…To share in the love of the Father (Articles 4, 12)
8…To be instruments of peace (Article 19)
9…To have a life of prayer that is personal, communal & liturgical (Article 8)
10…To live in joy (Article 19:2)
11…To have a spirituality of a secular nature (Articles 3,6,8,11,13,14)
12…To be pilgrims on the way toward the Father (Article 11:2)
13…To participate in the apostolate of the laity (Articles 15,16,17,18,19,24)
14…To be at the service of the less fortunate (Articles 13,14,15)
15…To be loyal to the Church in an attitude of dialogue and collaboration with her ministers (Article 6:2)
16…To be open to the action of the Holy Spirit (Articles 1, 4:2)
17…To live in simplicity, humility and minority (Article 11:1)
G.W Irving, OFS