June greetings Dear sisters/associates J
I came across this (see below before reading the rest of my commentary. I invite you all to add yours as well) in my reading and felt the need to share with you. This piece for me, lays out simply and clearly the forces shaping injustice and conflict today, as some 800 years ago…and as I believe, will 800 years from now. So I guess you could argue that Francis failed.
So why do we continue to deliberately take the same path that he walked. Why do we seek the simple lives of St. Joseph and the many others who have trod ( and will trod) this same path? Why do we believe that we can make a difference?
…I don’t believe we have a choice. If we are to remain true to ourselves, we must walk this path as surely as we must breathe. We have been gifted the ability to become aware of our relationship with God and wish to do nothing to jeopardize this loving unity with All…all that was, is and will be.
Once we have been made aware, there is no turning back. We are so filled with this peace of unity that we feel we must, out of shear love, reconcile all that we meet in our lives to this same unity with the All.
If all the saints and apostles who have gone before us have not managed to totally reconcile the world to God, why do we continue to beat ourselves up for failing to do so? We continue to live our lives of voluntary poverty knowing that it is the only way for us. People see this love radiating from us in all that we do. And I believe that this all that is asked of us. To live our lives simply and happily, we touch others daily in a way that allows God to shine forth...thus, the world becomes our church and our lives become the communion to feed all creation.
With love as always,
Francis was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy. Already, Europe and the Muslim world had endured two crusades. The third crusade began when Francis was a boy, and the fourth when he was twenty-one. In short, the world was obsessed with war, fear, and security needs. Assisi itself was fighting an ongoing war with Perugia, a neighboring city. Francis rode off to fight and was taken prisoner by the Perugians in 1202. In 1204, the Christians of the West sacked and looted Constantinople, which the Eastern Orthodox Christians have never forgotten.
Shortly after that, Francis came out of prison dazed, disillusioned, and feeling there must be something more than all this torture, cruelty, and aggression. Francis seemed to realize that there is an intrinsic connection between violence and the need to protect one's possessions, perks, and privileges. His own father was one of the first generation of propertied businessmen in the new trading class of Europe. One biographer found city records of 12th century Assisi showing that Pietro De Bernadone, Francis' father, was indeed buying up the lands of the poor. Francis recognized that his father's obsession with money had in many ways destroyed his father's soul, and so Francis set out on a radically different path than his father, and in some ways, in overreaction to it.
Francis concluded that the only way out of such a world was to live a life of voluntary poverty, or what he called a life of "non-appropriation," and to simply not be a part of the moneyed class. The rope that Franciscans wear around the waist is a sign that we carried no money, since the leather belt at that time also served as a wallet. Francis knew that once you felt you owned anything, then you would have to protect it and increase it. It is the inherent nature of greed--there is never enough. For some reason this is no longer considered a capital sin in our capitalist society. In fact, I (Richard Rhor) have never heard anyone confess an offense against the 10th commandment. "Coveting our neighbor's goods" is the very nature of our society.
One of Francis' biographies, written in his own lifetime, tells of Francis saying, "Look brothers, if we have any possessions, we will need arms to protect them, and then this will cause many disputes and lawsuits, and possessions impede the love of God and neighbor. Therefore, let us decide we do not want to possess anything in this world." This is a radical idea, one we later Franciscans have not followed very well. We found a way to have possessions, and yet we recognized that our possessions tend to possess us after a while. In fact the more we have, the more true this is. Even so, I have met many poor people who are very materialistic, and I have met many people of means who are extremely generous with their possessions.
Adapted from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis,