Franciscan Reflections 1: Intro to Franciscan Spirituality through the Incarnation by Catholic Furries

As some of you may know, Matthias, Salvestro, and I have been working hard at FA to bring you teachings, devotions, and the like over on the FA side of the ministry. In doing so we (or at least I) have been coming from a perspective influenced heavily by the Angelic and Universal Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. Especially with my Dominican background, that most excellent of saints, his theology and philosophy, have been at the core of many of my offerings.

That said, the Church is not nearly as monolithic a thing as can be encompassed by only the Dominican perspective. There are in fact many ways to live as part of Holy Mother Church. A new friend of mine, Red V. Black (a.k.a. RedScotFox), has offered to start a series on Franciscan Spirituality. I'm sure you all know of the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, of the life of such holiness and unity with God that he was granted the honor of the Stigmata, and of the many saints such as Claire, Bonaventure, Kolbe, and Pio who have followed him. I want to thank Red for his willingness to share with us and start this conversation, and I hope that, as St. Dominic and St. Francis met in the streets of Rome and rejoiced in God together, so we may foster the many legitimate ways of living the Godly life found in the Catholic Church. And now, his reflection:

Franciscan Reflections 1: Intro to Franciscan Spirituality through the Incarnation

Pax et Bonum!

My name's Red Vopiscus Black and I've offered to do some reflections for the CatholicFurries page on Weasyl and FA.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, thank you all for watching the page. We've been multiplying our followers recently, and that's pretty darn exciting. Please invite your friends to join us, so that we can offer them love and perspective right from the heart of the Church.

This one, as the title says, is a very basic look into Franciscan Spirituality, a rich and wonderful way to come to know our Lord that isn't really known of outside of the Franciscan community.

First off, I am what is known as a Postulant with the Order of Friars Minor, in other words, I'm in my first year of formation, and in August I will be a Novice. I don't have any advanced education, and what I tell here is what I have learned from Professed Friars and Friar-Priests who have masters and doctorates in their respective fields.

Franciscan Spirituality is such a broad scope that encompasses so many things, so this here is really a bare bones intro, but there are plenty of resources to look into if you find this way of Spirituality to be uplifting. If you are unaware of the Franciscans and who they are, we are followers of the way of St. Francis of Assisi, a man from 13th Century Italy, who founded one of the largest Religious Orders in the Catholic Church, and β€œThe Rule and Life of the Friars Minor is this: to live the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property, and in chastity.” This quote from the opening of our Rule of 1223 is what St. Francis intended. Unlike other orders and societys that have specific goals (Teaching, Hospital Work, Prayer, Preaching, ect) the Franciscans separate themselves in that we have no set-in-stone mission but that! to live the Gospel in whatever way we see fit, so that is why us Franciscans are so diverse in our ministries, from Doctors, to Plumbers, to Priests and Gardeners if you have the calling, you can live it out with us.

But I digress, Franciscan Spirituality is very different then what most Catholics are used to, you see, back in the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure was also compiling Theology, and around the same time Bl. John Duns Scotus did the same. Aquinas and these two didn't agree on much, and their theologies reflect that. But ever since the late 1200s the Catholic church has mainly based it's theology, rules, and spirituality off that of the Dominicans (Aquinas was a Dominican), leaving the Franciscan viewpoint to stay within our Order. So I'd like to offer to everyone a chance to have an open mind, and perhaps see a brand new and completely Church accepted Theology and Spirituality. And at the heart of Franciscan life, is the Primacy of Christ and His Incarnation.

The Primacy of Christ. Jesus is the be-all and end-all. Seems like something any Christian would say, right? Well it probably is, but Franciscans look at it in a different way. In the Gospel of John we find that all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. And this is where Franciscan thought begins. We believe that everything created is for Christ, and at the center of all creation is Christ. And this was done out of love, for God and the Spirit so loved the Son that it couldn't merely be contained between them, and it poured out into creation.

This is an area where Franciscan's view things differently, we DO NOT believe Christ was merely sent to the world to forgive us our sins, no, for if that were true, that would give humans power over God, that we twisted God's arm into sending His Son to us to save us. We believe that God sent us His Son as the supreme act of Love, for that is what we believe God to be--Ultimate Love and Good. And so from the beginning, God intended to share that Love he has for his Son with creation and that that love would be the Incarnation. The fact that He also came to forgive us our sins is a distant second, we believe that even if humans never had sinned, Jesus still would have come to us to show us how to Love as the Father loves.

Franciscans focus on God's Love rather then human sin. We say, "God redeems us because he loves us? No, he loves us and then redeems us." God sees in us a union of Love with Him before He even begins to look at our sin. His redemption to us is an act of love for us not an act of saving from sin, and the first act of redemption--The Incarnation.

We don't view Jesus' coming into the world is not primarily for redemption but all of our need for love. A love so powerful and free that it incorporates all our failings and sins, a love that is always there and never taken away, a love that comes to be and know what being human is, and then go beyond it. A love to show us how to love, a love that blesses and glorifies all of God's creation poured out for Christ in the Resurrection.

We see Jesus, His Incarnation and Resurrection NOT as something to be hoped for or to look forward to, but something that is happening right now in our very lives and world. God is Love and that Love is our redemption and redemption is not solely being saved from sin, but is rather the gift of the possibility of openness to the experience of God in our life.

And since God intended Christ to come from all eternity, it has also been determined that Christ would come into a sinful creation, sin made the manner of how the Incarnation would happen, but not the fact that Christ would come.

To put it simply, Franciscan Spirituality begins with Christ, stays with Christ, and ends in Christ. That God is love and all that is and will be is because God is Love and is among us in Christ who is ever present. Not because we sin, but because he loves us and wants us to love Him in return.

TL;DR? Franciscan Spirituality focuses on God's Love not Sin

If you enjoyed this view I encourage you to delve deeper into Franciscan Spirituality and Theology. Read some of the works of Bl. John Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure.

If you didn't agree with this, that is perfectly fine, believe in what works for you, both Dominican and Franciscan schools of thought are accepted by Holy Mother Church and I am just hoping to expose more people to the Franciscan way of thought.

Nevertheless, I hope to do more of these on other topics. Maybe you can suggest some things I could talk on with the Franciscan spin on it, and at some point there will be a reddit style AMA on FA and Weasyl I hope as well.

Pax et Bonum, again!
-Red V. Black

RedScotFox RedScotFox introduced by geoffreythelion geoffreythelion

Franciscan Reflections 1: Intro to Franciscan Spirituality through the Incarnation

Catholic Furries

15 April 2015 at 09:44:19 MDT

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    I'm going to cross-post this on FA, but I have a few questions Red.

    1.) As a young Dominican I understand we have a lot of focus on the Passion. When you say that Dominicans don't believe Christ would have come into the world without the need for the Passion, do you have a source for that? That'd be important for me to know.

    2.) Where can we read more about St. Bonaventure's thought, or Blessed Dun Scotus? What are their major works?

    3.) Can you expand a bit on what it means to have the 'Incarnation happening here and now'? That seems to be a major theme of Franciscan spirituality, but is a bit mysterious.

    4.) What is the difference between "God redeeming us through Christ because He loves us" and "God loving us first then redeeming us"? It seems they are not mutually exclusive.

    Thank you again for this wonderful reflection, and forgive my curious-cat tendencies!

  • Link

    1) To clarify, it wasn't the Passion, but the Incarnation. I have to admit that we don't study Aquinas here, but it is a fact that Aquinas taught that God became human to forgive us our sins, Franciscans go a step farther in saying that even if we never did sin, God still would have become human. Here are two links that describe that difference in thought between Scotus and Aquinas. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/2014/12/for-mind-blowing-franciscan-thoughts-on-the-incarnation-by-bl-john-duns-scotus.html and http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/january/20.72.html The Passion is a major factor in Franciscan living and find it necessary that Jesus had his Passion, we focus on a different motive however. We say God came because he loved us, not because we sinned and made him send Jesus to save us, though that ended up becoming a part to it, but not the only factor.

    2) A google search will be of good use. If there are 1, 2 or 3 Order Franciscans in your area they will likely have some books available, Catholic goods stores might have them, but they as well tend to have more Thomistic literature, Here is what I would recommend to everyone to start with as an introductory:
    By Bonaventure: The Souls Journey Into God and The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus
    By Scotus: Commentary of the 'Sentences'

    3) To really get a good grasp on this, one should read The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus, a hard text to come by, but available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Bringing-Forth-Christ-Fairacres-Publication/dp/0728301024 (I must warn though, the paperback edition here is greatly overpriced, if you can get the Kindle version, do so. If you can find it elsewhere, it is a MUST READ) However, I will paraphrase the text here, but I wont do it justice.
    Anyways, for Franciscans the Incarnation happens every day. To understand this one must think of themselves as a Mother to Christ. By letting God enter us Spiritually we see ourselves as conceiving Christ. And then, by healthily growing this 'child' through prayer, good faith, and devotion Christ is born into our soul even greater then before. Once we recognize this we name it 'Jesus' as it is a grace given to us from above, what that grace is? depends on the person, perhaps the 'Christ' you bore was patience or love, appreciation for the other or seeing the beauty of God's creation, but once we recognize it we name, and thereby claim it as our own. Here then we 'Magi' come to see our new child, these 'Magi' are the powers of our soul. For the soul wishes to be in union with Christ, and it does so by coming to see this gift, this grace from God within us, and there the soul can then begin to create a change within us, change our nature and thought to be in more union with Christ. Finally we Present Christ in the Temple. And this means, we share that newborn Christ that has become a new part of us with the world, we share these gifts with all to spread the Gospel and preach it without words. And then, we begin anew, as God deems us ready to bear another Child Jesus, another Grace of Christ into the world.

    It is in this way that we see a living Incarnation.

    4) It is simply a way to state that Franciscans believe God loved us first and foremost, and that he wanted to share that love by sending us his Son, and that the Forgiveness of Sins was a second thought, so he loved us first and then redeemed us.

    Hopefully that answers your questions. I can try to go into it more if you'd like me to.

    • Link

      1) Oh yes, I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. I meant Dominicans are focused on the Passion. I realize Franciscans focus on the Incarnation. I was wondering where you learned that Dominicans don't think Our Lord wouldn't have Incarnated had sin not entered the world through the fall of Adam. I've never heard that being taught by Dominicans. I personally agree that Christ would likely have Incarnated with or without Original Sin. Did you have a source where Dominicans teach Our Lord wouldn't have come except for the fact that Original Sin happened?

      2) That's true, we do have Google and I do have a parish nearby run by the OFM, and there are Franciscan Sisters here, though I don't know the order. Certainly not Capuchins. They're out of the Habit, as it were. I will take a look at those books you recommended.

      3) Thanks for clarifying.

      4) Dominicans would agree with you there. Since God is love, and the very creation of Man is a sign of infinite love of Man, the love presupposes sin. Sin does not make God love us less. Thus love came first, and because Christ loves us He came to atone for our sins.

      • Link

        It's all not so much against Dominicans, but Thomas Aquinas' teachings (which Dominicans tend to hold true). Thomas taught that the Incarnation came to be because of Sin. And it's what is taught to me by the Friars and can be found in the Summa, individual Dominicans might go with the Scotist and Bonaventurian theory, but they probably go with the Thomist view that he came due to sin. Here is an article that goes into Thomas and Duns Scotus, it quotes Aquinas quite a bit and how he felt that there would be no need for the Incarnation if sin never happened. And since this is a teaching of Aquinas, it falls in with Thomist Theology, which is what is held by Dominicans and most of the Church, but like I said, individual Dominicans may feel differently. The article states his belief in this explicity in Ch 3 of the Summa http://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2008/12/aquinas-vs-scotus-on-motive-of.html