The very first phrase in the Franciscan Rule reads, "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Discover Christ in the Gospels and all of Scripture and in a prayerful way get deeper and deeper into his mind and heart, and then you can, as Francis liked to say, "follow the footprints of our Lord Jesus Christ." That is what Francis himself wanted to do and wanted his followers to do as well. He was not satisfied simply with knowing what Scripture said or being in awe of the wonderful God that he found there, but he had to give his whole self to follow Christ and through that give his whole self to God.
Lord I often pray with many words. Now I offer you my prayer of listening silence in your holy presence... Amen.
If we can love those people who are not really enemies, we can even be led to love those who really hate us, who persecute us, who blame us. In our world today, there are a lot of people like that; maybe some of them even hate us because they have good reason to. Many of us have a way of life that a lot of people can't--people who hardly have enough to eat, who don't have the material things that we do, who don't have the freedom we have in our lives.
They have reason to hate us. Maybe instead of getting all upset when some people in those circumstances rebel and get mean, we might try to understand that they're simply rebelling from a situation that is oppressing and demeaning and dehumanizing them.
As we look at the world today, for example, we see people who own companies in other countries. The owners are wealthy, yet they give the workers less than a living wage, sometimes making their employees work in oppressive conditions, simply to be profitable at the expense of the workers.
Here we can't only love the people being oppressed, but we must love their their oppressors. These are the people Jesus tells us to love. Can I love them into a new vision of the world in which they see the most important thing is not profit, but human beings?
Litanies to God
When navigating our way through life, prayer is the most effective way of keeping God close. Litanies are a great place to start. Why not send our petitions skyward? Some may find in litanies a helpful source of prayer. Not only can we pray a litany straight through, but we can just pick out one or the other invocation to open our hearts to God. In the litany of the Sacred Heart, for instance, we might pick out “Burning furnace of charity.”
The image of Jesus’ heart as a burning furnace of charity can lead us to a deep relationship with him. It’s a marvelous reminder that Jesus’ love for us is beyond measure. We might keep this image in mind as we read the Gospels. It could be like a title to every episode we read. Think of the burning furnace of charity as our Lord heals the blind, the deaf, the woman suffering from the flow of blood, Jairus and his dead daughter brought to life, and so on throughout the Gospels. Or use the invocation as a mantra for centering prayer.
Or again, “King and center of all hearts.” This is true of every human being whether they know it or not. It may be obvious in the case of those we love and respect, but it’s true of all. The image may help us to accept even those who are different from us, even those who hate us. These and other images can help us pray and live lives of love in the way that Francis did.