I would like to share some reflections with you on various topics related to Franciscan formation.
Sometimes we read something that we may or may not agree with, which nevertheless causes us to reflect and helps us make right choices in our lives. Thus, these reflections may be useful in our own formation. Please approach these reflections with an open mind. Their purpose is to inspire the personal reflections of the reader, so that he may develop attitudes that help him follow St. Francis of Assisi more closely.
Friar Piotr STANISŁAWCZYK
Delegate General for Formation
Closer to Heaven
“Formation…is a sharing in the work of the Father who, through the Spirit,
fashions the inner attitudes of the Son in [our] hearts”.
Many of us remember our first attempts at hiking in the mountains. In the beginning, each hike took a lot of effort. Even on short hikes, we would take walking sticks and carry backpacks with snacks and water. From time to time, we would take breaks to catch our breath, quench our thirst and rest. Then, we would return home—as though back to square one—yet, something in us had changed. These rest breaks were what we needed to be able to travel further. They became part of the hike. We gained experience and got better at walking on difficult terrain. When we refused to be discouraged by fatigue and went on hikes more regularly, we began to see, after some time, that we were getting fitter. We no longer needed snacks and backpacks for short hikes. We started tackling longer and more difficult mountain trails. Over time we learned what kind of clothes, shoes and accessories we needed to hike further and higher. We acquired ever greater skill and experience. It also became easier to teach others what to do during hikes and how to prepare for them.
This example is meant to illustrate the lifestyle we have chosen. Our life is like a hike. At home we are comfortable and warm. We usually prefer to stay that way. However if that is all we do, it becomes increasingly difficult to get motivated to go forth on a hike. We are constantly tempted by thoughts like: “I don’t want to do it anymore. Maybe I’ll just wait for a better time or good company.” There are some folks living in the mountains who just sit on the porches of their cozy cabins and say: “Why hike in the mountains? After all, you can see them just as well from here.” Perhaps we all have our own “cozy cabin.” What is it? Why do we stay inside of it? It is only by practicing “going forth” can we become guides for others. Going forth gives us an opportunity to experience everything from a perspective that is closer to heaven. In the spiritual life, this “perspective closer to heaven” means that we are constantly learning to think, feel and act like Jesus. In order to do this, we must persistently make an effort to “go forth.”
How do we translate this into something concrete in our lives? St. Francis, who loved going forth, told the friars that what they “must desire above all else is to have the Spirit of the Lord and his holy operation”. In everyday life, many spiritual matters seem to fade away and become trivial. Perhaps a good start would be to daily invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. Through this personal request, we will begin to rely on the One who will change us inwardly. Let us ask Him to sharpen our vision and remind us of the desires we had that brought us into the Franciscan community.