I was only vaguely aware of St Francis for many years. He was a sort of medieval Dr Doolittle who went about talking to animals and feeding birds. That was about the sum of my knowledge.
Then on my journey, I fell in with some Franciscans. I spent time with them, talked with them, tried to get under the skin of what made them want to nail their colours to the mast of this itinerant preacher who went about loving people without censure, binding up their leprous wounds and preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God.
And I discovered a band of pilgrims who are committed to making our Lord loved and known, to peace and justice, to living simply. To do this in their prayer, their study, their work. And to do it in the spirit of love, joy and humility.
I like the joy bit. Franciscans tend to have a sense of humour. They tend to see the lighter side of life. Always a plus if you ask me. But then I find also that the members of the Third Order also have a profoundness about them – an awareness of deeper issues, our shadow side if you like.
The two sit comfortably together.
Trouble is – most of the time I feel like an imposter. I’m waiting to be found wanting and drummed out of the Order with the equivalent of my spiritual P45 pushed into my hand. But then – as my wise priest-friend told me, in a sense we are all imposters because none of us is good enough.
I haven’t been excommunicated yet. Francis himself said ‘You can show your love to others by not wishing they should be better Christians.’ He was comfortable with negatives. Some boy.
I like that.
At one of our Franciscan meetings the other week, we were invited to share why we joined the Third Order. All I could say was that the thing that drew me most was its inclusivity – Francis’ inclusivity and Jesus’ inclusivity. No-one is left outside. No-one is rejected. The whole of creation is loved and cherished by God and is being renewed and transformed and resurrected at each moment. All of creation matters.
And for me following this way in community with a bunch of other people is healing in itself. This is a place which accepts those on the fringes. I’ve always felt on the outside. I’ve always struggled with church but I have hung on in there because there is much that is good about it. Just as Francis did.
As a fledgling Franciscan, I undertake to read one of their thirty principles each day. One for every day of the month. These say what Franciscans are about. All the stuff I’ve just mentioned.
I really like these principles, so I decided to write about them in this blog. These days are not in any particular order. I just wrote them as the muse took me.
Read whether or not you are Franciscan. It doesn’t matter. You can’t go too far wrong with love, joy and humility. Honestly.