These days the word “follow” seems to be in fashion, especially in youth circles, through social networks. Influencers insist on being “followed,” so that people share their publications and subscribe to their channels, especially on platforms like Instagram or YouTube.
“Come and follow me!” says Jesus in the Gospel, while in the Earlier Rule, Francis invites us to follow Jesus’ teaching and footsteps.
We follow someone when he generates interest, when he has an interesting proposal, when his words, gestures, actions and life touch our hearts and our minds. Following someone is setting out on a journey, choosing one path and not another, it is committing oneself. It is not simply hitting “like” and moving on to something else. To follow is to risk your life for someone with a particular name. In this case, both for us and for St. Francis, that particular name is Jesus.
In one of his Admonitions, the Poverello of Assisi writes:
“Let all of us, brothers, consider the Good Shepherd Who bore the suffering of the cross to save His sheep. The Lord’s sheep followed Him in tribulation and persecution, in shame and hunger, in weakness and temptation, and in other ways; and for these things they received eternal life from the Lord. Therefore, it is a great shame for us, the servants of God, that the saints have accomplished great things and we want only to receive glory and honor by recounting them.”
Francis encountered the person of Jesus Christ and, following his example, he invites us to follow. We follow the Lamb of God through a concrete spirituality: Franciscanism. But how can we follow Christ in a spirituality that we think we know, but rarely examine more closely? We end up with the little we have learned over the years and with that, we believe that we can paint a portrait of Franciscanism just using the few brushstrokes of primary colors that we have been given, and which in turn we have given to others, during our initial formation.
Following Christ through Franciscan spirituality implies being on a continuous walk. Those who walk do not stop; those who walk renew themselves, they may fall, but they rise; those who walk are aware, they open their minds and hearts; those who walk become visible; those who walk find a style and our style is Franciscanism. Do we really know him or do we think we know him? How are we following Jesus through Franciscan spirituality in our contexts? The Earlier Rule speaks to us after eight hundred years to ask: who are we following? Within what spirituality are we doing it?
For this reason, in the first chapter of the Earlier Rule, Francis offers us a proposal about following: that we follow a concrete person; that we follow in obedience, chastity and without anything of our own; and that we always follow accompanied by others, those whom we call brothers.
Friar Elio J. ROJAS