A spirituality of the heart in the context of the Franciscan eremitical tradition : a scriptural understanding of "heart", "desert", and "conversion" as the basis of this, both historically and in the present day
Jordan, Sheila Patricia
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To speak of the heart is to speak a universal language. After a brief examination of poetry, prose, art and music, we discuss and analyse the word heart in its universal applicability within different religions, eras, cultures and creeds. Our particular focus is then centred in Sacred Scripture where we find the most comprehensive understanding of the word heart. Tracing the depth and richness of its meaning throughout the Scripture texts, we are faced with the human paradox of good and evil, both of which proceed from the mysterious realm of the heart where freedom and grace engage us in ways that are at times beyond our comprehension. Examining the place of the desert in the process of forming the heart - which we understand to be the vital, inner core of a person - we highlight the struggle involved in this process, suggesting as the desert Fathers have before us, that the heart itself is at times a battlefield. Rooting ourselves in the Sacred Scriptures and in continuity with the Christian tradition, we introduce St. Francis of Assisi. Analysing and interpreting St. Francis' journey into his own heart and to the heart of others, leads us to a consideration of the part the desert plays in this journey. This analysis is directly related to the active-contemplative question that has been the subject of debate ever since the time of Jesus in his encounter with Martha and Mary. Dualistic language and thinking suggests that the different dimensions of life stand in opposition, leading to an either/or situation rather than an acceptance of a more integrated both/and approach. In an effort to avoid dualism and embrace paradox, we facilitate the journey of the heart towards wholeness and integration, combining theory and practice by bringing the fruit of this research to completion in The Portiuncula, a centre for Franciscan prayer and solitude, a new expression of our Third Order Regular Franciscan charism. Developing an innovative approach to St. Francis Rule for Hermitages, we discuss the significance of this, not only for members of the Franciscan family but for every person on the spiritual quest and the journey of the heart. After the example of St. Francis of Assisi, we have tried to capture the spirit of his following in the footsteps of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. In grappling with the implications of a literal following of Jesus Christ, and the challenges this poses for every individual in his or her uniqueness, we enter the realm of mystery, paradox, freedom and grace: the heart. Presenting a spirituality of the heart in the context of the biblical understanding of "heart", "desert", and "conversion", in the context of the Franciscan eremitical tradition, we continue the universal quest for the fullness of love which is mysteriously contained in the twofold but unified experience of contemplation and compassion.
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