‘To live a life according to the pattern of the holy Gospel’
As Christians we are all through our baptism called to follow the example of Christ and to share the Good News in our daily lives. To do that we need to be nourished and sustained in our faith through prayer, word and sacrament and are encouraged on our journey by members of the worshipping community, the Body of Christ. In all that we do Christ is at the centre influencing our thoughts and words and actions and we are called to love, obey and serve the Lord in the whole of our lives.
A process of conversion as the call is recognised…
For St Francis the journey of discernment, revelation and understanding was a gradual one with various turning points along the way. It was as though with each step another piece of the jigsaw began to fit into place. The journey took him from his early years as the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, enjoying a rich social life with his friends, to begging and preaching in the same streets where he used to sing the songs of the troubadours. About Francis the link to our brochure, opens a new window (PDF document) – Followers of Christ in the way of Francis and Clare
As a young man Francis had romantic ideals of knighthood and so at the age of 20 he went to battle in a dispute between Assisi and the neighbouring city of Perugia. However he was taken captive and spent a year in jail before he returned to Assisi a changed man after his experiences, restless and searching. In time he continued to pursue his ambition to be a knight, until one night on the battlefield of Spoleto, he had a dream. In it he recognised God’s voice asking him to return from the battlefield to Assisi. Slowly it began to dawn on Francis that God was saying ‘Come Francis, follow me’.
In realisation of this Francis spent the next year living as a hermit, trying to discern what God was asking of him
Meeting with a Leper
Another turning point on his journey of conversion was Francis’ meeting with a leper on the road. He had in the past gone to great lengths to avoid any contact with these diseased and suffering people. But here was the moment of truth as he stood face to face with this poor leper. God not only gave Francis the strength and courage to remain steadfast and to face his fear but also enabled him to take that extra step and to embrace the leper and to give him alms. As we hear in ‘The Testament’ of Francis what had been bitter for him was transformed into a sweetness of body and soul.
During this time Francis spent much time in prayer and it was kneeling before the crucifix in the broken down church of San Damiano that the next stage of Francis journey was revealed. Deep in prayer, it was as though the figure on the crucifix spoke to him, telling him to rebuild the church. Francis responded with enthusiasm and taking the message literally began to physically rebuild the church by begging for stones.
The message of the Gospel
Another definitive turning point for Francis was on hearing the gospel of the day being read in the Church of St Mary of the Angels. Its message so touched his soul that a fire was ignited in his heart and was to become the foundation for the rest of his life (Matthew 10: 7, 9-10). In response to the message Francis clothed himself in a simple tunic, put a rope around his waist and removed his shoes and began to preach and proclaim the good news with great simplicity and power.
“People are still inspired by this message today and seek to follow Christ in the way of St Francis.
This is how Francis heard the call. If something of these stories touches you God may be calling you. God still calls people today”.
So what makes our life as Franciscans distinctive from any other religious community?
Through all of creation he was able to see the hand and work of his Creator God and as Francis’ ‘turning to God’ unfolded, he was gripped by the fact of the Incarnation and nature became truly holy for him. He was enthralled by God’s presence in the created order.
At the end of his life Francis completed his song of the praise of all creation ‘The Canticle of the Creatures’, see also Christ in creation. The Canticle reflects a transformed relationship with creation, where everything created, animate or inanimate was revered because of its common origin in God, the Source of all Being.
So it is from this basis that the First Order Anglican Franciscan brothers and sisters try to live out their lives in a spirit of humility, love and joy. Guidance for the living of our daily lives is laid out in the Rule of Life and in The Principles of the Order, a portion of which is read each day by the brothers and sisters.
We strive to achieve a balance between the three elements of Prayer, Work and Study through all of which we seek to serve.
Prayer – We try to live lives rooted in prayer, with the Eucharist at the heart of all that we do. In addition to the corporate times of prayer, time is set aside for private prayer and individual communion with God. See Praying with SSF and How I pray.
Works – As Anglican Franciscans we have no one particular ministry or apostolate, but have different ministries according to the gifts that God has given us. However The Principles state that the active works begin within our houses and gardens, in which ‘the tasks are apportioned among all so that all may contribute their own share to the work of the household and the cost of their own living.’
Study – We are as Franciscans committed to a life of on-going formation and seek to find opportunities for study and learning that will help with that process of life-long learning
(l-r: Prayer; Work; Study)
In all of these areas we offer ourselves as channels of God’s grace to one another and to all with whom we have contact, seeking to live our lives in the spirit of humility, love, and joy
Humility – This is about recognising our dependence on God, and about following the example of Christ who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and who on the last night of his life washed his disciples’ feet (c.f. Philippians 2:5-11). We endeavour to live all relationships in humility towards one another, seeking rather to take the log out of our own eye than the speck out of the eye of another (c.f. Matthew 7:1-5). The things that we find difficult in others must be the subject of prayer rather than criticism.
Love – As Jesus said to his disciples: ‘ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ (John 13:34 NRSV), so too we seek to make this love a distinguishing feature of all that we do in the service of Christ.
The Principles say …’brothers and sisters “must be on their guard against all that injures this love: the bitter thought, the hasty retort, the angry gesture, and never fail to ask forgiveness of any against whom they have sinned’.
Joy – Joy is a gift that comes from God, abiding even in days of darkness and difficulty. Francis was the epitome of joy and indeed his writing of the Canticle of the Creatures at a time of deteriorating health is an example of light shining through the darkness, of the joy and beauty of creation being praised amidst much pain and suffering. As Franciscans therefore “we delight in laughter and good fellowship”. The Principles SSF
(l-r: Footwashing on Maundy Thursday; Drumming at Hilfield; Yetminster Show Team)
To read more follow the link to our brochure, opens a new window (PDF document) – Followers of Christ in the way of Francis and Clare