Much of the conversation in recent days centering on the self-expressed ‘prism’ selected by a certain American bishop to view the President and contemporary political events is reliant on the admittance of a plurality of paradigms with which people today view the world. Some assert that one’s outlook is conditioned by unchosen characteristics that shade experience and reality in the hue of our rearing, personality or some other factor. While others suggest that we have much more to say about how we opt to look at the world.
I believe there are ways in which our predispositions and personality influence our worldviews, that there are factors outside of our immediate control, but that we also have significant control over what we allow to guide our outlook. Because of this, it is up to us to take some (if not most) of the responsibility for what we permit to shape the way we see the world.
St. Francis offers us one particular model for seeing the world. His paradigm was that of Christ. Franciscan scholar Bill Short, OFM, explains Francis’s approach this way:
It is through ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ that Francis understands Mary, the Church, the Scriptures, priesthood, the poor, his brothers and sisters, and all creatures. It is ultimately through and in Jesus that Francis even understands himself. Though he seldom used the title ‘Christ’ by itself to refer to Jesus, his spirituality, and that of the Franciscan tradition after him, has been characterized as ‘Christocentric.’
What do we allow to shape and inform our outlook? Is it Jesus Christ and the Gospels? Or is it something else, say a singular political, social or moral issue? Is it a singular personal attribute like ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender? Is it a patriotism or nationalism that borders on xenophobia and jingoism?
Certainly we are influenced by a number of factors, but of those over which we have some control St. Francis shows us that it is Christ that should be the greatest characteristic factor in our worldview and outlook. Following in Christ’s footprints, as Francis did, requires a lot of dedication and courage.
It requires risking one’s life, not just for the sake of one’s friends and family, but for the enemy too. It means love takes priority over power and peace over violence. It means embracing the untouchable and forgiving the transgressor. It means providing for the daily bread of another because we have been given our daily bread.