The Rule of Saint Francis for regular people belonging to a secular order, known as the 3rd order, was first penned in the early 13th century. Third Order Franciscans work their jobs, raise their kids, and live into the Franciscan ideas of generosity, love, and prayer while surround by, and participating in, the world around them.
I first read the rule, around 2005, as an oblate in The Company of Jesus, a blended Franciscan, Benedictine, and Celtic third order now associated with ACNA under the Diocese of the Great Lakes. As I read the rule it seemed foreign and antiquated to me in some places, but also oddly relevant and fresh in others. I felt I had discovered a long forgotten treasure that is vitally needed today.
In chapter 4 of The Rule of Saint Francis, The Way To Serve And Work, we find this:
Let the sisters and brothers be gentle, peaceful and unassuming, mild and humble, speaking respectfully to all in accord with their vocation. Wherever they are, or wherever they go throughout the world they should not be quarrelsome, contentious, or judgmental towards others. Rather, it should be obvious that they are “joyful, good-humoured,” and happy “in the Lord” as they ought to be (c.f. Philippians 4:4). And in greeting others, let them say, “The Lord give you peace.”
Speaking Peace to the World
In a day and age of rage that does not produce the righteousness of God, the Franciscan Rule challenges us to live life in a stark contrast to what we witness on TV, and in the news. Bad news brings good ratings, but good news brings life to those all around.
The spirit of Francis’ words challenge us to be gentle, peaceful, unassuming, mild and humble, being respectful to all. These things bring life and peace in society. To be quarrelsome, contentious, and judgmental can rob society of blessing, shows our own tendency toward hypocrisy, and reveal our own blindness to our unfairness and our sin. Francis admonishes us to speak peace over our world, but that we must be sure to first allow peace to have its place in our own hearts.
The Challenge of Peace
Francis says we should be joyful, good-humoured, and happy. We ought to be. When I remember and center myself on Jesus, and his love for me, I am happy and at peace. It is challenging to live this kind of life, but I know it is also the best way to live. It’s the best way to dismantle the atomic bomb of hatred, rage, anger, and un-peace so prevalent now in our culture.
It is completely counter-cultural in our context to be happy, kind, and nice. It was probably somewhat counter-cultural in Francis’ day too, or he would not have made such a point of it.
I confess to you, sometimes I struggle to bless instead of curse the person who is inconsiderate, blindly opinionated, or who cuts me off in traffic. Am I the only one? My challenge is to have peace on my lips, and also in my heart towards that person, as much of the time as I can be mindful to do so.
How about you? This may not sound like real power to the conventional structures of our world, but it is power, first according to Christ, and also according to Saint Francis. It is great power, real power that heals and gives new life. “Pax et bonum!”, “Peace and all good!” is a traditional Franciscan greeting.
May the Lord give you peace as you go, and may you also spread peace to those around you, and to the world!