Here's the radical essence of "Franciscan" theology:
We have come into existence, as "individualized units of the One Love Consciousness" -- the Holy One, our Beloved Friend, Companion, and Divine Lover...
We live, move, breathe, love, and have our being within the Radiance of the One Love Consciousness...
And here, next, is the saddest of facts, from which originates every suffering and injustice: most of us give away most of our time and our consciousness into forgetting who we are: though we are offspring of the Divine, which has imparted a share of divinity to each and every one of us: and though we are meant to live as "mirrors" of the Sacred, it is in forgetfulness instead that we choose to live -- on just the "other side" of the fog that clouds our "mirrors"... Hence, the one essential task of the awakening human is that of remembrance and the "polishing of our mirrors": know that it is possible to purely and truly reflect the Radiance of the Beloved through our very own face -- and being!
In this cosmic "game of tag" in which we are supposed to live and love in pursuit of "gottcha moments" with Love, our Beloved has never abandoned us: remembrance is meant to be actively cultivated by practices such as meditation, mindfulness trainings, the use of intention and affirmation, an activated compassion extended to every "other", and a radical engagement with life for the purpose of personal and global transformation... Remembrance is to live in the spirit of St. Teresa of Avila who taught her sisters and students the essential spiritual attitude of "O Christ, may I be your hands, your feet, and your voice on this precious Earth"...
Remembrance is our spiritual transformation into "identification" and "solidarity", perhaps best exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi. As the story goes, the young Francis was horrified at the thought of the merest possibility that he one day would catch the foul and dreaded disease of leprosy. Yet, in the mystery of things, the gentle promptings of Spirit became increasingly active in his heart: and so one day, while out riding his horse and pondering his desire to identify completely with his Divine Beloved, Yeshua the Poor Man of Nazareth, Francis heard the sounding bell of a leper in the distance: he turned his mount away and rushed into a gallop... yet more persistently, the Spirit kept caressing his heart, so much so, that he had to turn around and seek out that leper...
Francis then dismounted in front of the startled leper -- who was a putrid, rotting, remnant of a human being... Francis, dizzy with revulsion and fear, followed the requirements of his now shattered mind and heart: he embraced the leper, gave the Kiss of Peace -- in the luscious way of total abandonment -- and then turning, he mounted his horse again and walked away: but with each breath that he took, thereafter, his heart rose in ecstasy: he had done it! Not only had he cast his fears aside, but he also found himself awakening into his birthright splendor as a child of the Holy One: he turned to look back to the one who was now "his" leper: and to his utter amazement, he saw the being who had been in the form of his leprous sister, mystically transfigured into the Flaming Radiance of Yeshua, the Cosmic Christ...
This primary mystic event awakened Francis into the "franciscan" whom we know and revere. What was the essence of his transformation, and of the Franciscan spirituality that followed, and what does it mean for us today? Simply put, identification and solidarity. First, identification: the essence of franciscanism is identification with the Beloved: for Francis, the words and example of Yeshua were a pathway into liberation. Francis found the new life radiance of intimacy with the Beloved: the love words of Yeshua became his words: the love acts of Yeshua became his acts: with as little difference as possible! Secondly, solidarity: for Francis, his awakening into Yeshua was an insistence that every human, and every creature, and finally, that every thing was "Only One" within the One Love of the Beloved: and that there was an intensive practicality of praxis to this awakening: the poor deserved the very best -- equal to the rich! Every suffering was an invitation to service -- not in order for the server to "feel good", but instead to serve the suffering all the way into the discovery of a mutual liberation! Finally, for Francis, this included every creature: he famously preached to the birds and converted a wolf from doing harm: he sang of the beauty of Mother Earth, Sister Moon, Cloud, Water, and Wind, and Brother Sun, Fire, and Peace: Solidarity means that every "other" is one's "other" or truest, "self": requiring the goodness of kindness, compassion, justice, equality, and peace as daily actions: including the collective actions of Neighbors, Faith Communities, and State. In this elemental franciscanism, we are all the same: in some mysterious way, the sum total of every being who exists at any given "now" of time, along with every being who has ever existed, and every thing all the way down into sub-atomic particles, completes the Body of the Cosmic Christ.
The radical essence of St. Francis is an awakening call into the unity of mysticism and action. There are both practical and political ramifications to identification and solidarity, as there is also an economics of cooperation awaiting our implementation. So too, there is in franciscanism a new world attitude of tolerance and reverence that recognizes the essential unity of spirit animating each of the world religions and proclaiming that we are all sisters and brothers and must not, in any way, harm one another. And in this 21st century, Franciscan reverence for the Earth and the creatures urges us forward into new lifestyles of a simple-abundance for all and an ever-increasing harmlessness... All together, the spirit and life that has continued to flow from that first encounter of Francis, his sister, the leper, and Yeshua, the Cosmic Christ, is meant to make of each one of us: franciscan workers: about the sacred task of remembrance and of "polishing our mirrors", that we might awaken into "identification" and "solidarity": and finally, begin to live: putting our "toe to the line" in the Holy Competition of trying to love more than the One, Who-Is- Love-Without-Limits... That is the "game" of life as it was meant to be lived!
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.