I consider myself to be an ecumenical mutt- many denominations, understanding, theologies of who God is and who God should be (in our human minds), have shaped me into who I am, for better or worse (most often both).
But there was always something missing, something my soul was craving in all my questions and wilderness-wandering, in all my burning questions and doubts; something I could almost give words to but never adequately express.
As someone without a strong Franciscan background or influence (though as Sr. Mary Jo Chaves told me when I came, “you already have the Franciscan spirit. So, you are already one of us”), it’s been like coming up for air to see the way some of those missing pieces are naturally baked into the foundation of the Franciscan spirit. These things that I have believed in my bones to be so important and essential, but were often just afterthoughts (if that) in my previous faith spaces, were not only a part of the Franciscan way of being that was being taught to me, but they were baked into it as essential and foundational.
This week during Franciscan Education, Sr. Mary Jo spoke so beautifully to this, to the thing that no matter how often it comes up, it is difficult for me to hear without crying- the deep, unalterable belief that humans are beloved, just as they are, with dignity that is affirmed again and again through the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Eucharist.
And when I hear that I am filled with joy and happiness, because the dominant narratives I have heard in so many circles concerning humanity ranges from intense, blonde optimism that disregards the horrible things we do to each other OR horrible, self-loathing nihilism.
Neither of these have ever sat well with me. Because I love people, and I love this world, while often being heartbroken by the evil we are capable of. So to hear something like this at our Franciscan Education, is everything:
The Franciscan Spirit is not marked by joyless despair over the world, but nor is it marked with blind optimism. Rather it sits in that tension, of “we are beloved so we must also love”- which is filled with active, tenacious hope. It takes so strongly to heart the message of the Incarnation, that humanity is divinely touched by God, and because of that we can do better today then we did yesterday, we are capable of giving and receiving greater love than we ever imagined. The slightest shift from “do better because you aren’t good enough” to “you can be better because you were meant for more”, the change from fear to love, from threat to promise- made those chaffing pieces fall into place.
The more I learn about the Franciscan Spirit, the more I find myself enthralled with the beauty of it. The more I am here the more I see how long that spirit has been in me, without words, waiting to be unlocked.