Right Relationships and The Presence of God in All Creation
In the time of Francis, Italy as a nation state did not exist. Each town—like Assisi and Perugia—were sovereign. It was a time of great political instability, a time noted by the Crusades, battles such as those which occurred between Assisi and Perugia, and internecine struggles between the classes of any town: the nobles and the merchants.
Against this backdrop, we see Francis, pushed forward by his family to participate in commerce, to increase their wealth and standing, and to engage in the battles that would bring he and his family glory. And yet, Francis was also having his own personal battles as he struggled to understand his place in this medieval world marked by aggression and conflict.
Out of these struggles emerged two pillars that characterised his thinking and his spirituality, and these pillars became the source of Franciscan spirituality. The two pillars are: Penance or Right Relationships and The Presence of God in All Creation. It is these two pillars that are the core of the Spirituality of Francis of Assisi.
For Francis, being in right relationships is essential to the spiritual life; and that means engaging in a practical love that repairs relationships that have been ruptured by war and poverty, famine, greed, self-centredness, and consumerism.
The Presence of God in All Creation
Late in his life, and approaching “Sister Death”, Francis wrote a piece of poetic praise to the God he knew was present to him in all of creation. This renowned piece of writing is a beautiful hymn of praise that we Franciscans have treasured throughout the centuries; but it is also an inspiration to many within the Christian community. It is the The Canticle of the Creatures.
This glorious hymn to the God who loves, summarises the Spirituality of Francis of Assisi. For Francis, and for we Franciscans, God is present in all created things. All of creation must be treasured, protected, loved and cared for, because the footprints of God can be seen in all that we see, all that we touch, and all whom we encounter. Fractious attitudes and behaviours must cease. Even death is the place where God is to be found.
Franciscan Spirituality is not about praying to a distance, unapproachable God who has not become present to us. Franciscan Spirituality—our shared spirituality—begins by finding God in the world we inhabit and the people we encounter.