THE SECULAR ORDER OF ST. FRANCIS
Since without good reason, I rarely turn down a request for help, I have been assigned to promote a series on little known vocations within the Catholic Church to single people in the archdiocese. This week we had the second of six monthly meetings. We heard from a Consecrated Virgin, or Bride of Christ, and a gentleman in the Secular Order of St. Francis. I was grateful that through no effort of my own I had the opportunity to hear this man speak and educate us on the convictions of St. Francis, since our new pope chose the name Francis.
Pope Francis I, although a Jesuit, has modeled his life much like St. Francis of Assisi.
The Secular Order of St. Francis – Based on the Work of St. Francis of Assissi
- Poverty – Work the fields – (similar to Mother Theresa)
- Social Justice – St. Francis had an abhorrence toward lepards and experienced a real conversion while helping them.
- Simplicity – Anything owned can easily be lost without a care. Attached to nothing.
- Preaching – St. Francis was very charismatic – he laughed and sang, and danced and spoke freely of his love of God without judgment of others.
- Creation of God – God is the source of everything. St. Francis loved everything and everyone and every animal. He was the first to bring all live animals into the church for a live Navitity.
- Community – We need a sense of community as followers of Christ. The community of men who were with St. Francis carried on the secular order after his death.
- Recognition of the Catholic Church – St. Francis through deep faith protected the church. Many people have a problem with the pope or the magisterium, and think “I am not Catholic”. Many go in search to later realize what they are searching for is what they have been the whole time.
After the meeting, Bob and I spoke about the Secular Order of St. Francis. I asked him about the main focus of his order. He reminded me that St. Francis said “God is the source of everything”. He told me the biggest part of his life is prayer. Formal prayer is great because it helps to keep us centered, but our prayer must go deeper.
Prayer is communion with God. Prayer is part of you. I asked how to pray. “What if we want something?” Bob said to think of it as talking to your mother. Possibly you have cancer and you beg your mother to take it away. She may say, “I cannot do that, but I will be with you. I will make it easier for you and I will help you.” That is what it is like when we talk to our Heavenly Father. He may not do what you ask, but he will help you with what you must endure. God’s will is already determined, but ask for clarity, strength or help and it will be given.
ABOUT ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
St. Francis had almost a child-like love of all creation. He did not judge anyone for what they did because he did not know them. Only God knew them. St. Francis was never a priest because he did not feel worthy.
St. Francis did not believe we were saved by faith; instead faith was the starting point on the journey to salvation.
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.to salvation.
St. Francis was born in Italy in 1182 to an upper-middle class family. He was a leader in town enjoying fine clothing, good food and drink, singing and dancing. He was expected to become a cloth merchant like his father.
Francis joined the forces from Assisi. When he was twenty, he was taken prisoner. A year later, sobered by jail and sickness, he underwent several religious experiences. In one of these, while he was praying he heard a voice from the crucifix telling him, “Francis, go repair my house, which is falling in ruins.” Francis went quickly back to the city, sold his horse and some cloth from his father’s shop and gave the money to the priests.
Francis’s father, furious that his son wasted his money on churches and beggars, took him before the bishop to bring him to his senses. When the hearing began, Francis took off all of his clothes, gave them to his father (the astonished bishop quickly covered Francis with a cloak), and said that he was now recognizing only his Father in heaven. He lived his life from this time on without money.
Francis believed “God is the source of everything”. He founded the religious order known as the Franciscans. The force of his personality held the group together. He insisted that the poverty he felt was so important: the order could not possess money; all its houses must be simply furnished; and each Franciscan could have only a tunic and cord (Francis himself wore an old sack tied at the waist). Francis went to Rome in 1223 to present the new rule to Pope Honorius III, who approved it wholeheartedly.
While he was praying on Mt. Alvernia in 1224, Francis had a vision of a figure that looked like an angel, and when the vision disappeared he felt the wounds of the crucified Christ in his hands, side, and feet. He was careful not to show them, but several close friends reported after his death that Francis had suffered in his body as Christ had suffered on the cross. His last two years were lived in almost constant pain and near-blindness. He died in 1226. Two years later he was made a saint.