Here and Now: Francis & Clare

In moving to look at Francis and Clare, we travel past about 800 years of Christian history–years that have numerous insights with respect to present-moment living.  But the best we can do in a blog series is to take some snapshots of people and practices that help us live abundantly here and now.

Frances and Clare are a “mountain peak” stopover in our journey.  Essentially, this is because they consciously sought to renew the Church of their day along the lines we noted in the previous post about the early Christians.

They reveal the abba/amma inclusiveness of here-and-now living.  They embodied the principle of regulated living (as per the Didaché), and they did all this in the spirit of the monastics’ singular devotion to Christ. [1]

But they personified something more.  They were among those who believed that the Christian life is essentially uncloisteted–a life outside of monasteries and convents–a life lived in the world.  The Franciscan movement was (and still is) a Third Order–that is, an order that includes laity who live in society for the sake of Jesus. [2]

The best way to see this is in the Prayer of St. Francis…

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console;
    to understood as to understand
    to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  [3]

Not a phrase in this prayer can be understood, much less prayed and lived, in any other way than in the present moment.  One of the things that Francis and Clare teach us is that here-and-now is the container for living as God intends.  We will explore this topically and practically in future posts.  But today, through Francis and Clare we see that the present moment is the only reality we have for living a holy life.  Every moment is a God moment.

[1] The best exploration I know of regarding Francis and Clare is the volume in the Classics of Western Spirituality series, ‘Francis and Clare’ (Paulist Press, 1982).  It has an excellent introduction/overview, as well as the complete writings of both saints.

[2] John Michael Talbot is lay Franciscan who is seeking to make Franciscan living applicable today.  His books, ‘Reflections on St. Francis’ and ‘The World is My Cloister’ are two excellent resources in this regard.

[3] Kent Nerburn has written excellent meditations on the petitions in St. Francis’ prayer in his book, ‘Make Me an Instrument of  Your Peace’ (HarperCollins, 1999).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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