“The friars to whom God has given the grace of working should work in a spirit of faith and devotion and avoid idleness, which is the enemy of the soul, without however extinguishing the spirit of prayer and devotion, to which every temporal consideration must be subordinate.” (Chap. 5, 1223 Rule of the Order Friars Minor)
“To Brother Anthony, my bishop, Brother Francis sends greetings. It is agreeable to me that you should teach the friars sacred theology, so long as they do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness over this study, as is contained in the Rule. Farewell. (St. Francis of Assisi Letter to St. Anthony of Padua)
“As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.” (Art. 8a, 1978 Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)
At the last meeting of my Secular Franciscan fraternity, I closed the opening prayer service with reading the letter of St. Francis to St. Anthony. It seemed appropriate since the following day was June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. Since then, the phrase: “do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness,” has continued to come up in my mind. Then, of course, I found the reference in the OFM Rule of 1223: “without extinguishing the spirit of prayer and devotion.” In the bright light of those words from Francis, I have to say that I have fallen short of the mark. In today’s American society, there are so many distractions; television, radio, podcasts, mp3 files, and the Web. Add to that the demands of work and family; we could say there is just not enough time for “prayer and contemplation.”
But I, and I am sure others, will find that we are fooling ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves about what activities we could give up to make time for prayer. Because prayer is so important, it helps us open ourselves to the Presence of God, become aware of Him, of His love for us. Prayer gives us the opportunity to respond to that love, with thanksgiving and praise. Prayer can enrich us, inspire us, and strengthen us for the day. As Francis had learned and taught, a life dedicated to conversion to the Gospel life, but without the practice of prayer, will fail.
So here I begin again and may the Holy Spirit be with me. And may she give me a quick kick in the rear if I need it.