An Alternative Orthodoxy: Paying Attention to Different Things...
Our guest blogger today is Richard Rohr, best-selling author of the new book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. To learn more about Richard, click here.
One of the earliest accounts of Francis, the “Legend of Perugia,” quotes Francis as telling the first friars, “You only know as much as you do.” His emphasis on action, practice and lifestyle was foundational and revolutionary for its time and at the heart of Franciscan alternative orthodoxy (“heterodoxy”).
For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship.
Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often based in “correct belief ” or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity. That is a major shift.
Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five. Heart is used 42 times to one use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time. This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway for the next thousand years. He took prayer on the road and into the activity of life itself.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons