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Francis Is Our Model for Peace

Saint Francis began a new evangelization in his own time, not by trying to be social reformer. He simply loved Christ and lived the Gospel, and he and his brothers became thereby catalysts for social change. They became “Holy Fools” who turned the world upside down by simply living the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Like Francis and his brothers, we all can learn to love again, even in the midst of division and war. And the map Francis gave us for learning to love is the Gospel and his own life of following in the footsteps of Christ. This map has been summed up beautifully in his Peace Prayer, a prayer he did not write but certainly is the way he prayed and lived and taught by example. It is a prayer that outlines everything that made Francis the peacemaker that he was and the model for peace that he is for us today. It is a prayer that shows us how to find the truth again, if we’ve lost it, or to continue living in the truth we’ve already found and are trying to live.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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Finding Our Inner Peace

There will always be false prophets and deceivers, “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Jesus called them. But this does not mean that we are to go about criticizing and correcting; that only separates further. It is only necessary to be true to oneself; and if it is called for, to speak our own understanding of what the truth is without denigrating others. Peace is achieved more effectively by trying to bring out the best, not pointing out the worst, in others. And we bring out the best in others by being ourselves peaceful. Our own peaceful presence will do more than trying to persuade others that we are right and they are wrong. Peacefulness is its own persuasion. That is the best option, it seems to me, for those committed to living the Gospel. The Franciscan response to sin and division is to forgive myself and my neighbor, thereby becoming peaceful in my own center, and then to reach out to others and “work mercy” with them, even with those whom I find it difficult to love, who repel me in any way. We work together toward the good, or we perish as individuals, as societies and as civilizations.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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Called to Be People of Truth

Without the kind of internal conversion of heart that Francis came to in his own life, we can easily find our certainties elsewhere, even from those who have elevated their own opinions and prejudices to the level of truth. And without our own inner certainties we can easily start listening to these false truths of others, often listening to the loudest, most convincing speaker rather than listening to God in the silence in which God speaks to the depths of the soul. And then we begin to imitate others’ words and actions, as if they are our own hard-won truths and ways of living that we have come to after pondering prayerfully and carefully what is said and acted upon by others. So, if we are to learn from St. Francis today and live the words of Christ in the Gospel, we need first of all to ask what part we ourselves may be playing in disseminating lies without considering more carefully whether or not they are the truth they pretend to be, or being silent when we know lies are being proclaimed as the truth. And then, seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness, like St. Francis, we try to begin again, listening to the words of the Gospel to find the truth, praying over them, and living them out in our daily lives, all the while asking God to help us to be people of the truth who try always to speak the truth.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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God Will Show Us the Way

A preference for light and beauty is one of the reasons St. Francis is attractive to us and why he was so successfully a peacemaker in his own time. It is why today his town of Assisi has been the site of peace conferences and prayer meetings to promote peace. St. Francis is seen as the gentle saint who shows us that the way to peace and justice is the way Christ has shown us in the Gospels, namely, the way of the love of God, which is THE way; and its companion is the way of love of our neighbor as ourselves. This basic Gospel truth is the message of the Gospel St. Francis finally was able to hear in the Gospel he lived and preached. He learned that if we put those two commandments in precisely that order, we easily see how and when we sin in departing from the truth and in hurting our neighbor. All truth is from God, and God’s truth is that we are to love God, and loving God will show us how to love our neighbor. Living the Gospel must start with embracing this basic Gospel truth. Only then will we, too, begin to hear the voice of God.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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Loving Lady Poverty

A very early Franciscan document, Sacrum Commercium, The Sacred Exchange, begins with words reminiscent of the Bible’s Song of Songs: “Francis began to go about in the streets and crossings of the city, relentlessly, like a persistent hunter, diligently seeking whom his heart loved. He inquired of those standing about, he questioned those who came near to him, saying, ‘Have you seen her whom my heart loves?’” This kind of language and imagery for Franciscan poverty makes of poverty and penance a joyful enterprise, the joyful knight, Francis, going about the countryside as the embodiment of the good knight whose virtues are those of a knight of the new Round Table of the Lord. Poverty and penance, then, are not a grim affair, but the kind of derring-do a knight would perform to impress the Lady of the Castle, even rolling in briar bushes in the dead of winter to show his fidelity to her. This charges the tone of the early Franciscan Order with the chivalry and adventure of the Quest, a Spiritual Battle, fired by a deep and abiding love for Christ the Lord whose self-emptying is symbolized in Lady Poverty who was Christ’s vesture.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

 

 

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A Grand Humility

In these “Praises of the Lord God Most High” are contained Francis’s experience of God. This is who this God he has loved late and long has become for him. These praises say, “O God, this is your song, you who are beauty so old and new. Late have I loved you.” And through it all Francis has tried to return such incredible love, a return of love that, Francis being Francis, was a great, though humble, love. As he sang at the end of his “Canticle of the Creatures,” we are to praise God “con grande umilitate,” with grand humility, not a puny, wimpy humility but a paradoxically huge, grand humility. For all his littleness and humility, there was in Francis something big, a heart full of largeness and largesse. Once Francis knew God’s love, he knew, as well, what St. Augustine put so beautifully. “And you see, you were within, and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things you have made.”

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

 

 

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The Underlying Mystery Is Always Present

If we are to come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, then we will come to that belief by developing the capacity for a simple, clear, and uncluttered presence. Those who can be present with head, heart, and body at the same time will always encounter The Presence, whether they call it God or not. For the most part, those skills are learned by letting life come at us on its own terms, and not resisting the wonderful underlying Mystery that is everywhere, all the time, and offered to us too.

—from the book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr, OFM

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Healing Past Hurts

To keep our bodies less defended, to live in our body right now, to be present to others in a cellular way, is also the work of healing of past hurts and the many memories that seem to store themselves in the body. The body seems to never stop offering its messages; but fortunately, the body never lies, even though the mind will deceive you constantly. Zen practitioners tend to be well-trained in seeing this. It is very telling that Jesus usually physically touched people when he healed them; he knew where the memory and hurt was lodged, and it was in the body itself.

—from the book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr, OFM

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