Franciscan Spirituality is Incarnational and Trinitarian. At the heart of Franciscan Spirituality is the greatest act of love when God became a human being through the Incarnation in the Person of Jesus Christ.
For Franciscans, the Trinity serves as the model for how we relate to each other and to all of God’s creation. Therefore, we see God in all things.
There are four core values that characterize the Third Order Regular:
Characteristic of Franciscan Third Order Regular spirituality is its emphasis that turning to God and being conformed to Christ is never accomplished once for all. These are ongoing religious experiences. To be faithful to the gospel, as St. Francis’ experience shows, is to do penance always. This is Evangelical Conversion that is central to the Franciscan way of life and is the root value that grows in poverty, minority (humility) and contemplation. Evangelical conversion as a style of gospel life has three basic elements:
To acknowledge God – in creation, in the word of scripture, in the manifest goodness of God, and especially in the words, life, deeds, and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To adore God – concretely with one’s whole life by living prayerfully, in a childlike way, with purity of heart, in poverty and in loving obedience which impels the true gospel person.
To serve God – in one’s neighbor by service in charity and “action on behalf of justice” in the promotion of peace. From this rootedness in evangelical conversion the fruits of contemplation, poverty and humility grow.
St. Francis and St. Clare call their followers to prayer with a decidedly contemplative dimension – to be present to God who is present to all creatures is prayer. Our prayer is to be Trinitarian. Prayer is always addressed to God in the Son by the power of the Spirit. Prayer is to be Incarnational: we become alive to God’s deeds in the greatest gift of God, the Incarnation, in which God becomes one with us in the Son. The purpose of Franciscan prayer, then, is to give God ceaseless praise and thanksgiving for all God has done and does in creation and in our re-creation in Christ.
As an attitude of heart, poverty is the admission of our powerlessness to save ourselves and the acknowledgement in faith that God wills our salvation. It is absolutely necessary to the life of conversion. God is totally good and sent Jesus, the Incarnate Word, among us to hand back all of humanity and all creation to a loving God. To recognize God’s “all good” self-sufficiency and our creaturely need for God is the basis in faith for evangelical poverty. Positively, poverty calls us to be totally open to the divine riches. Poverty of spirit equally means actual material poverty. Poverty becomes the condition that best preserves us in the state of total dependency on God. Material poverty is the sign of our uncluttered and converted selves. It further associates us with those who have always been closest to the Lord, the helpless poor to whom the good news is proclaimed.
Francis wanted his followers to be like Christ, humble and truly submissive to all. Minority means to conform oneself through a life of penance, to Christ who is the servant of God sent into the world, the place of our redemption. It is the “holy ground” where we live God’s redeeming will with others. Minority means cherishing life as sisters and brothers, bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom to captives, giving sight to the blind, setting the down-trodden free and announcing God’s year of favor. Penance and Jesus’ announcement of the nearness of the Kingdom are linked because childlikeness, minority, is the one thing necessary for entrance into the Kingdom. The adult experience of this “littleness” or “childlikeness” before God is the joyful awareness that one is the subject of the pure love and favor of God.