The Edge is Embedded in the Core

I've always known that Franciscans sprout in all the nooks and crannies of the known world so it's good to find kindred spirits any and everywhere. Of course St. Francis is so widely admired that his followers exist passionately in both Catholic and Anglican communities. So when MikeF dropped in here at Perfect Joy, I was obligated to return the call over at The Mercy Blog; and in doing so discover a treasure trove of inspiration. Reflecting on his Franciscan vocation in a recent post he made this remark:

"I think this sense of living "on the margins", this sense that God's new word will be found out on the edges of things, is deeply embedded in the core of what it means to be a Franciscan."

I just love it when fellow bloggers drop inspirational crumbs off their table. I responded of course but this topic is so juicy that it needs an entirely new post. My comment (and this post's title) involved a charitable twisting of his remark to accommodate my insight and yet it concluded this way:

"But you're right, when [Francis] drives down into the mystical core of faith he emerges always at the margins. This is not so much being 'countercultural' or 'on the edge of things' as being freed from entanglements which he knew from experience would fasten chains around him."

There are at least two meanings contained in these remarks. The more obvious is that Franciscans look to those who are marginalized to discover God's 'new word'; that is, to hear what Our Lord is saying for our times. We're apt to find 'the wisdom from above' lacking among the comfortable, the proud, or the powerful: for them the gospel message is so often 'inaudible'. They are more likely to dispense 'conventional wisdom'; the 'wisdom of the world' spoken of in the Letter of St. James [cf. Jas 3:13-18]. This is why the followers of Francis cultivate 'the spirit of detachment' primarily through the use of penance (mortification); and also foster 'ongoing conversion' through Scripture and Sacrament.

The second meaning and the one taken up in my response is that Francis doesn't aim for the margins per se. For St. Francis the center of all of life is the Person of Jesus Christ, so to 'drive down into the mystical core of faith' is to engage Jesus. And in doing so he always emerges somehow on the 'edge of things'; more commonly called 'the margins'. He and his 'lesser brethren' have purposefully taken up the gospel in its most undiluted form; living the Beatitudes, fully and intensely; trusting in the Providence of God, wholeheartedly and without reserve. This form of life and commitment leads them away from the worn barren pathways where God's seeds are continually trodden underfoot.

For Francis the 'new word' is always fresh and inspiring. No matter what the cost of implementing some new insight, there is no concern, for he has set himself free to love and serve the Lord. The further along and the more often Francis discerns God's inspiration the greater is his delight. Whatever resistance he faces in the objection of others is quickly cast aside, because he has completely abandoned his attachments to his former way of life. He has purified his heart; a heart which now is burning intensely in love of Our Lord's Incarnation. Just as the Book of Revelation promises a New Heavens and a New Earth [cf. Rev 21], Francis can glimpse the reality of this new world even now, where all are invited through conversion into the Temple of God.

Those worldly souls who reside in the 'center of things': who have each other to rely on along with their material wealth, are in great need of conversion. Here is where the power of 'preaching by example' rises to the fore, as his life becomes an unmistakable beacon of God's love. His compassionate words, whether consolation, admonition or rebuke; along with his tender witness of love, are like divine tenderizer that softens and transforms even the most hardened heart.

To say that 'the edge is embedded in the core' is of course, a play on words--a twist and almost nonsensical. In the worldly way of seeing things 'the edge' is farthest away from 'the core'. But the gospel is full of seeming contradictions and St. Francis like no other is able to embrace them fully. So too, any followers of his spiritual path must come to embrace the hallmark virtues of minority, poverty and humility that free them from the grasp of the worldly majority. These are the spiritual ways that speak of finding Jesus on the outside of the mainstream-- 'the edge'; while simultaneously embracing Him in the core of one's life.

4 comments:

MikeF said...

Great post! I love that phrase, "the edge is embedded in the core". Of course it's a paradox, but then as you point out, so much of this Christian life seems to be paradox when you try to express it in words.

"So too, any followers of his spiritual path must come to embrace the hallmark virtues of minority, poverty and humility that free them from the grasp of the worldly majority. These are the spiritual ways that speak of finding Jesus on the outside of the mainstream-- 'the edge'; while simultaneously embracing Him in the core of one's life."

YES!

I'm so glad I set you off on this train of thought!

Every possible blessing, and peace...

Mike

teresa_anawim2 said...

The way I am seeing it ...we are all on the way to the same..the Beatific Vision.
We just have different charisms to aid us on that course, regardless of the denomination, etc.
It was one of the Cowley Fathers here in New England who explained to me the way of St John of the Cross and showed me that the way I was following and seeking to know more of was the Carmelite charism.
Without his openmindedness and generosity I would not be a Teresian Carmelite today.He was not interested in numbers on the rolls, but he was concerned, as my spiritual director , to see me in the middle of God's will for my life..the direction God was leading me.
For that very reason, I am always thrilled when I meet and hear of those like you, tausign and MikeF who are brothers (or sisters) in the Body of Jesus Christ...regardless of boundaries we set up for ourselves!
Don't you find that the more we mature in the Faith the more inclusive and open minded we become..getting rid of the fear that is the source of the closemindedness??

Tausign said...

"Don't you find that the more we mature in the Faith the more inclusive and open minded we become..getting rid of the fear that is the source of the closemindedness??'

Yes, that has been my experience. There are proper boundaries of course, but the Holy Spirit is urging us to move about, guiding us and protecting us from disastrous pitfalls.

Regarding discovering charisms. Try this post: Finding Your Spiritual Family. You might truly enjoy the book recommendation.

teresa_anawim2 said...

" Everyone who is sincere about living the Gospel in true disciple-union with Jesus chooses one or the other without always knowing which one is being followed, i.e., without being able to give it a name"
quoted from the book mentioned in the archived post previously.
I say.."That was my story exactly"!
Didn't know what it was, but knew I had to go that path and I was being led. Eventually help and guidance came in God's perfect timing...when I was ready and thirsty enough to say 'yes'.
Thanks be to God

ok...off to mix the potato salad for lunch.
Blessings to you and your family.