“One of the earliest accounts of Saint Francis, the ‘Legend of Perugia,’ quotes him as telling the first friars that ‘You only know as much as you do.’ His emphasis on action, practice, and lifestyle was foundational and revolutionary for its time and at the heart of Franciscan alternative orthodoxy (“heterodoxy”). For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship. Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often founded in ‘correct belief’ or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity. That is a major shift. Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to 5. Heart is used 42 times to 1 use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only 1 time. This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway from then on. …Francis and Clare’s approach has been called a ‘performative spirituality’ which means that things are only found to be true in the doing of them. At the level of idea, issues will be forever argued about, because thinking is invariably dualistic. Francis wanted us to know things in an almost ‘cellular’ and energetic way, and not just in our heads. This knowing is a kind of “muscle memory” which only comes from practice.” Richard Rohr
“…faith by itself isn’t enough.
Unless it produces good deeds,
it is dead and useless.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- What’s wrong with “verbally argumentative Christianity?”
- Does your faith require you to “imitate Jesus” in specific ways? How so?
- In reality is your Christian life more about ideas and words (right doctrine), or actually imitating Jesus (loving practices)?
- If … “You only know as much as you do.”, how much do you know?
Abba, help me practice daily what I believe.
For More: Eager to Love by Richard Rohr
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”
I have always wondered about the practice of living in a monastery, and not “doing” Christianity. If we are indeed God’s “hands” and “feet”….then we need to be active in the world…….and sprinkling our “salt”. Thanks for the article, one of the few I read every day!
Thanks for your comment Laura, and for reading the blog daily! I’ve found the few books I’ve read about monastery life very interesting, challenging and helpful. It makes me wonder how seriously I’m taking my approach to the life of faith. In the past I probably would have just been (ignorantly) critical of cloistered people – or at the least, oblivious to the contribution they make (e.g., Merton!) and the necessity of having someone keep apart from the fray – just so they can remind us of reality now and then when we succumb the the illusions that are everywhere around us.