By Sister Marcella Nachreiner
Among the edited writings of St. Francis there is a collection referred to as his “Admonitions”— 28 of his exhortations, warnings, encouragements and advice. They are fairly brief, but they reveal an abundance of practical wisdom on how one can “know, love and serve our God ” — the gospel spirituality of St. Francis.
If one were to summarize Francis’ “Admonitions” into a phrase that would be meaningful and doable in this century, it would come out more or less like this: respond to the challenges of life with great love and hope.
The scientific, analytical culture of today encourages us to doubt, to have faith only in that which can be proven. We have learned to rely more upon analysis and evidence and less on intuition and trust. Yet both our dissatisfaction and our intuition lead us to search for new horizons, to search within ourselves to realize the potential that we sense is possible for us.
In facing life’s challenges, making new beginnings and traveling new paths, we need to be acutely watchful for the insecurity and self-doubt that can accompany us. These are the feelings that lead us to settle for boundaries rather than horizons. Hope opens us rather than narrows us. It emboldens us to question, to explore, to inquire. Hope encourages us to discover our own answers and to trust in our own experiences. It leads us to a change of heart. Hope enables us to listen and learn from the guidance and experience of others, like St. Francis and his “Admonitions.” Through hope we can overcome the greatest obstacles. It can open us to learn from the challenges and mysteries of life.
St. Francis’ “Admonitions” lead us to ask ourselves what do we have faith and hope in? Do we trust our own potential for inner change of heart? What difference does hope make in our life?
A Gospel way of life was Francis’ way of life — a life full of hope. Ours too is to be a gospel way of life, for to live without the gospel is to live without hope.