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Yesterday, today and forever

October 4, 2014

Breathe was asked to share some of our motivation and inspiration with a Third Order Franciscan gathering in South-East London today (on the Feast Day of St Francis, for those who follow such things!). So the Franciscans now know a bit about us, but what do we know about them? Who was St Francis, who are the Third Order Franciscans and what relevance do they have to us as members of Breathe?

St Francis lived over 800 years ago. He was a rich young man whose life was turned around by an encounter with God, after which he was moved to live in extreme poverty, even giving up the clothes he was wearing at one time! He is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment. You can read a bit more about St Francis and his choice of living simply here.

franciscan funnyFortunately, unlike this picture, it is possible to be inspired by St Francis without donning a habit! The Third Order of the Society of St Francis are vowed to a lifelong commitment to Christ and bearing witness to the Gospel life in their homes and workplaces. To do this they commit to a Rule of Life – a framework for living. Today, we shared with them Breathe’s Promise of Life which is our “rule”.

The Third Order has three aims, all of which will resonate with us in the Breathe Network:

  1. To spread the knowledge and love of Christ

They believe that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all by bearing witness to Christ through word and example in our daily lives. They remember St Francis’ injunction to “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words”.

  1. To promote the way of love and unity with all creation

The Order sets out, in the name of Christ, to break down barriers between people and to seek equality for all. They are pledged to fight against the ignorance, pride and prejudice that breed injustice of partiality of any kind. They try to live in the spirit of St Francis’ prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

  1. To live joyfully a life of simplicity and humble service

They commit to living simply and to sharing with others. They aim to stay free from attachment to wealth, keeping themselves constantly aware of the poverty in the world and its claim on us. It is not a call to absolute poverty, but to a life lived in a spirit of generosity.

It is this third aim that most closely links to Breathe’s specific purpose – a life of “Less stuff, more life”. To illustrate this, at the gathering today, we showed the Conspiracy of Freedom videos, which inspired us to think about how we could make changes in our daily lives in response to the themes of Life, Home, Children and Enough.

An extract from the Franciscan booklet Chasing the Wild Goose, or a Wild Goose Chase can help us to explore in greater depth the themes of simplicity and poverty. It may challenge us to embrace a deeper understanding of why we should be aiming for less stuff, more life (i.e. poverty), which is so totally counter-cultural, but runs through the heart of the Gospel:

  1. Poverty may be seen as reverence for the integrity of creation.
  2. Poverty is the refusal to exploit or manage the natural world without reference to the needs of other people and to our responsibility as stewards of God.
  3. Poverty recognises the beauty, the sanctity and the goodness of things, as all are creatures of God.
  4. Poverty seeks not to be excessively attached to our possessions, but to use them for God’s glory, for the welfare of people and the universe itself.
  5. Poverty in clothing, transport, holidays, relationships and houses, needs to be characterised by simplicity.
  6. Poverty avoids dominating or exercising undue power over people’s lives, remembering the words of Jesus: ‘But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant’ Luke 22:26 NLT
  7. Poverty strives for that simplicity which is the fruit of humility.
  8. Poverty seeks to be free from all attachment to wealth and material gain by being aware of the poverty of the world and its claim on our stewardship.

St Francis was known as “God’s fool” due to his extreme way of life. Do you sometimes feel foolish as you try to live a life that challenges the all-consuming consumer dream? Do your friends or colleagues ridicule you for the choices you are making? Take heart from this verse:

The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer foolishness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.                             1 Corinthians 1:18-19 The Message

I don’t know about you, but I find it inspiring and encouraging to know that we stand on the shoulders of giants – Franciscans have been striving to live simply for over 800 years! When I’m feeling disheartened about the state of the world, it is reassuring to know that – yesterday, today and forever – others are also wrestling with the challenges of living a counter-cultural Gospel life. And together, with prayer and commitment, we will make a difference!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Andy in Germany permalink
    October 5, 2014 11:14 am

    What I find most disheartening is that our attempts to live like this are understood and respected be lots of people outside of the church: it’s the people who call themselves Christians who laugh, belittle and mock us, and shout us down the loudest when we say anything.

    Thanks for the post: I’ll be looking more closely at the Fransiscan order…

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