One of my most favorite of all the saints is St. Francis. I have in fact, been privileged to visit his tomb in Assisi. It was quite a moving experience to visit his tomb, and to see the threadbare tunic he wore in his sacrificial life. “Francis was born to a merchant family in the Italian city of Assisi. As a young man, he was attracted to adventure and moved by romantic tales of knights. When he himself became a knight, Francis met a leper while riding through the countryside. Overwhelmed by a divine impulse, Francis dismounted his horse, shared his coat with the leper, and kissed the man’s diseased face. Captivated by the experience, Francis began to re-imagine his life in light of the gospel, renouncing his selfish desires and his father’s wealth. A beggar for Christ’s sake, Francis inspired thousands to walk away from worldly success and join his movement of friars who sought to renew the church in their day.”
I wonder, what are we willing to do to renew the church in our day? Are we willing to begin living, not for ourselves, but for the world around us? Are we willing to commit ourselves to prayer and the application of that prayer to bring a fresh spirit of love to bear?
Shane Claiborne writes about some of the marks of a new monasticism…
“For many of us, the judgmental, arrogant, legalistic Christianity we knew growing up has created a suspicion of discipline and order that can lead to a pretty sloppy spirituality. Reacting against the institution’s sickness, we easily find ourselves with little to help us heal from our own wounds, create new disciplines, and carve out a space where goodness triumphs. People who are afraid of spiritual discipline will not produce very good disciples.
The longing for community is in all of us. We long to love and to be loved. But if community doesn’t exist for something beyond us, it will atrophy, suffocate, die. Discipline and disciple share the same roots, and without discipline, we become little more than hippie communities or frat houses. We easily fall short of God’s dream to form a new humanity with distinct practices that offer hope and good news to the world. Like any culture, we who follow the way of Jesus have distinct ways of eating and partying, different from the culture of consumption, homogeneity, and hedonism. Our homes, our living rooms, even our parties can be places of solace and hospitality for those with addictions and struggles. But it doesn’t happen without intentionality. Dorothy Day said, ‘We have to create an environment where it is easier to be good.’
St. Francis of Assisi is a model for us not only of what it looks like to follow hard after Jesus but also how we can celebrate the disciplines that have been passed down to and become the church we long for, even among people who have given up on ‘church.’ Our communities should be places where people can detox, whether that be from alcohol, tobacco, gluttony, shopping or gossip. We long for a space that tips us toward goodness rather than away from it, where we can pick up new habits — holy habits — as we are formed into a new creation, transformed by God.”
Now, I know that was a mouthful, but I wanted you to hear the depth of what Shane is urging communities gathered in the name of Jesus to begin to be about. What would it look like if our gatherings in our homes, in our outings, in our place of worship, were all geared toward creating an environment where it is easy to not only be good, but to “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God,” as the prophet Amos would remind us?
Your fellow traveler on the Way,