8. As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do. Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.
Prayer, contemplation, Sacraments, especially Eucharist, and liturgical prayer—these are the elements of Article 8 of our Rule— “…the soul of all [we] are and do.” That gets right down to our very nature, doesn’t it? Let’s take a brief look at what this means in our daily lives as Franciscans.
We know that St. Francis spent much time secluded from his friars immersed in prayer and contemplation. We know that in one of these sessions near the end of his life, he was blessed with the Stigmata. We also know that St. Francis was just following the example of Jesus who also would steal away from his Disciples and go to a private place to spend time in prayer and contemplation, especially before some other major event in his life. (CCC 2599 & 2602) The most visible example of these prayer sessions is the glimpse that we get in the garden on Holy Thursday. So, we have excellent examples from St. Francis and Jesus of just what the results of prayer and contemplation can accomplish.
Our Constitutions enlighten us further.
Article 12, 3. Rule 8 The brothers and sisters should love meeting God as His children and they should let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do. They should seek to discover the presence of the Father in their own heart, in nature, and in the history of humanity in which His plan of salvation is fulfilled. The contemplation of this mystery will dispose them to collaborate in this loving plan.
Here we see that an essential aspect of our prayer and contemplation is to “discover the presence of the Father in [our] own heart...” This kind of prayer is much deeper than a few Rosaries or Our Fathers. We spend time in quiet solitude contemplating how God works in our lives and quiet the mind so that He can “talk” to us. As we do this, we find the remainder of that second sentence becoming a part of our awareness of who we are. We find ourselves not only loving God, but really, truly loving our neighbor with a deep agape and collaborating with God’s loving plan. One follows the other. (See Constitutions, Article 14.1 & 5)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the processes of contemplative prayer and would be well worth your time to review. (Consult Part Four, Chapter Three, Article I, Section III, Articles 2709—2719.) Incorporating this form of prayer into our daily routine will take us well beyond our usual repetition of formal prayers into a “state of being with God.” As we set aside these quiet moments, we experience how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and changes us dramatically—like He did the Apostles. In so doing, we discover how to become holy as Pope Francis is calling us to do in his recent apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate, which we are running in our Newsletter on page 3.
Article 8 of the Rule continues to encourage us to fully participate in the Sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist. We already know how important the Eucharist is to Franciscans. St. Francis reminds us that the Eucharist is “the bodily presence of the most high Son of God in the world.” In our prayer addendum to the Liturgy of the Hours for Thursday we pray, “O God, Francis and Clare had great awe and reverence for the Eucharist—may our devotion to Jesus’ Body and Blood be an example to those who aspire to the Franciscan life.” Even the document Lumen Gentium from the Second Vatican Council tells us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (LG 11)
Yes, the Eucharist is important. But our Rule does ask us to participate in the sacramental life of the church. That means the other six sacraments are important too. Most of us will have participated in at least six of them, a few will have been ordained Deacons as well. What we realize is the we receive much grace through all the Sacraments and, having received that grace, need to witness our faith through a radical change in our daily lives. (See Constitutions, Article 14, 2-3; Article 53.2)
The brothers and sisters, as well as the fraternities, should adhere to the indications of the Ritual with respect to the different forms of participating in the liturgical prayer of the Church, giving priority to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours. (Article 14.4)
The Ritual lists a number of these optional prayers which include, a shortened form of the Liturgy of the Hours, The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Office of the Passion, The Office of the Twelve our Fathers, other forms of liturgical prayer approved by the Spiritual Assistant, and Spiritual Prayer Forms for the liturgical seasons, e.g., The Way of the Cross and The Crown Rosary. (pp. 103-104.) Utilizing these other liturgical forms of prayer help to vary our talks with God and keep our prayer life fresh. This variety helps us “relive the mysteries of the life of Christ,” thus bringing us closer to Him and his Way of Life. As we become closer to Christ, we imitate our Seraphic Father and become better servants of our Lord, helping others who are the less fortunate of the world, not only in physical things but in spiritual things as well.