Spirituality is heart knowledge. It shapes our actions and our desires. It involves the deepest values and meanings by which we live. Spirituality is an inner path by which a person can discover the essence of his or her existence.
As Franciscan Sisters of Mary, our spirituality is deeply tied to our Mission: “to be the presence of the loving, serving, compassionate, healing Jesus.”
A Franciscan Spirituality
St. Francis of Assisi became aware of God’s image in all creation, and he honored all creatures as his brothers and sisters. As followers of Francis, our sisters live out a rich and dynamic spirituality that embraces creation as the outpouring of God’s love into the universe. The beauty of creation opens us to God’s love.
For us, as for Francis, the world is God’s incarnation, God’s Word made flesh. The world reflects God and draws all creation into unity with God. Rather than seeking to escape a world filled with sin, we are invited to communion with a Spirit-charged world in and through Christ.
We see the world as filled with God’s presence. Encountering the world with this awareness guides us to understand how we are called daily to respond to God’s grace in our lives.
Presence is the fundamental element of our Franciscan spirituality:
- Presence is who and how we are regardless of what we are doing.
- Presence is about being Gospel as we go about whatever we are doing.
- Francis’s only desire was to live as Jesus did—and that is our desire as well.
An essential aspect of Franciscan spirituality is presence, or mindfulness. We engage in contemplative prayer. In silence and solitude, we open our hearts to listen to God, connecting with God’s presence and love.
And then we bring God’s presence to our fellow creatures.
Being truly present to others demands that we leave behind our own issues to focus fully on others and their needs. Being mindful of another and of the world involves opening ourselves to what the other has to share with us, listening with our hearts as well as our ears, and observing the other on a deep level, respecting his or her needs as we respect our own.
Living Our Franciscan Spirituality
Presence is the essence of FSM Mission: “to be the presence of the loving, serving, compassionate, healing Jesus.” We see mission today not so much from the perspective of tasks we perform as from an experiential perspective of presence—who we are and how we relate to, connect to, and make meaning with the whole of life.
With the Mission and Focus adopted at the 2011 FSM Chapter and reaffirmed at the 2015 Chapter, our lives became more intentional, more oriented to presence. This shift called for new spiritual disciplines that would keep us present to ourselves, to God, and to all creation and that would help us grow in the practice of presence. Presence became a focal point of our personal and corporate lives. Who and how we are mattered more than simply what we did.
We begin meetings and gatherings by sharing presence—who we are and how we are as we come to the meeting. Sharing presence is a way to be transparent to one another, to build trust and form relationship. This practice has helped us to be present to ourselves and to others.
Presence isn’t easy. It is difficult to keep our heart space open, our minds without division or resistance, and our bodies not somewhere else, all at the same time. But our efforts to be present help us grow; in being fully present, we begin to see ourselves, our relationships, and our reality more clearly and truthfully.
Being Present to Others
The Franciscan Sisters of Mary have always valued presence. Through our healthcare ministry, we have brought God’s presence and compassion to those who came to us for healing, sharing empathy and care.
Through intercessory prayer we offer our presence and compassion to those who are hurting and in need, joining our voices with theirs, praying on their behalf.
We are present to the cry of the Earth, focusing our efforts on compassionate care of Creation in collaboration with others. We advocate for the safety of our neighbors threatened by the Bridgeton and West Lake Landfills, for all who are most in danger from the effects of climate change, and for Earth herself.
If you’d like to explore living the spirituality of presence more deeply, consider Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality; or Thich Nhat Hanh’s Essential Writings or The Miracle of Mindfulness.