|St. Francis of Assisi by Nancy Earle, SMIC.
In the first six centuries most of the mystics were identified with the early desert fathers and mothers of Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria, and the area of Palestine. Then the search for encounter moves into the monasteries where it becomes more academic trying to explain itself. And later St. Francis would bring mysticism from the monasteries to the streets and cities. He said “Don’t speak to me of Benedict and Augustine. God has shown me a different way!” (Although Francis had nothing personal against these saints, he did have great inner clarity about what was his to do, and knew that the church would try to put him inside of its known modes of religious life.)
Franciscan men are not monks (from Greek monos, “alone”). We are called friars (“brothers”). A friar is one who mixes with the people. Often we were found near city centers in Europe, because we were a part of city life, the working people, and the poor. This was the beginning of a real “alternative orthodoxy,” a kind of practical mysticism of the streets, and with those who were on the edges of society. In fact, our poorly named “vow of poverty” was to structurally assure that we would stay on the edge and not become establishment people. St. Clare and the “Poor Clare” Sisters tended to live this much better than we, the later “ordained” friars. (Francis himself refused ordination to the priesthood.)
From an unpublished talk in Assisi, Italy, May 2012
For more on Franciscan Mysticism, consider
Great Chain of Being: Simplifying Our Lives (CD/DVD/MP3)
I will seek the goodness and humility of God.