About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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"I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?"
— Pope Benedict XVI, writing in 1997

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Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone
published 15 February 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

More from my journals of 1997:

At a group of faculty at Franciscan University of Steubenville gathering to share about how to apply the Franciscan spirit to the university scene, it became apparent that each of us had different aspects of the life and spirituality of St. Francis and his Order that attracted us:

how he personally cared for the poor,
his freedom of spirit,
his utter simplicity,
his contemplative ecstacy,
his love for the Cross,
his love for creation,
his poetic way of loving God, etc.

In many ways the Church as a whole has followed St. Francis both as laity and as religious.
All Catholics are enjoined to follow the Gospel in caring for the poor, in loving the Cross and in praising God for the beauty of Creation. All Catholics wish they could experience the ecstatic prayer life of St. Francis – though some would shudder to experience the painful part of contemplative union.

The more controversial aspects of Franciscan spirituality would usually concern freedom of spirit and simplicity of life.

Freedom of spirit consists at least in part in having such burning zeal for the salvation of the world that a Christian is willing to risk looking foolish within their own families and in public to become a fool for Christ. Flamboyance was characteristic of St. Francis, but even a very quiet Franciscan person will demonstrate a counter-cultural freedom of spirit, for instance, by bringing the love of Christ into ordinary conversation as an expression of her own intimacy. Or, reaching out to a person in tears in the back of a Church. Persons with freedom of spirit simply do not start with the thought of what others will think so much as with what the Holy Spirit is telling them would please Jesus.

With regard to simplicity of life, there has always been much controversy even within the Franciscan Order. Few of the early disciples of Francis wanted to live in such utter poverty as did their founder. Some Third Order Franciscans spend endless hours in their chapters debating about what degree of wealth is compatible with a Secular Franciscan vocation.
Pope Paul VI reflects well the universality of the Franciscan spirit in admonishing the people of God that all Christians should have a simple and austere life style in solidarity with the poor.

For Watershed readers who are often living in the world, some questions that could be posed are these:

- have I developed a habit of acquiring unnecessary possessions as a boost to sagging spirits or for other reasons?

- do I feel a need to compete with others or bolster my own sense of attractiveness or success by adornments or expensive possessions costing money that could he used for my own necessities or to help the needy?

- do I go along with practices that are more worldly than holy such as viewing television programs that are not helpful to my vocation?

- do I promote a spirit of simplicity in my family by avoiding too many or too luxurious gifts and suggesting simpler less expensive though nice clothing where possible?; substituting creative play for more addictive amusements?

- do I actively see where it may be possible to spend less and give more to the needy?

The Franciscan spirit is not to become glum, fearful, insecure and miserable through impossible austerities. Franciscans always point out that poverty is not an end but a means. Franciscans try to let more God in so that they can do without so much else in a joyful spirit.

The many Franciscan spiritual themes listed at the beginning of this short piece all come together in an integrated Catholic personality. There is more time for contemplation when less time is spent acquiring things. There is more time to help the poor when there is more joy in creation so that we are not frightened that ministry to the needy might be a downer.

May St. Francis of Assisi intercede for us as we open ourselves to new forms of holiness.