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SIDIC Periodical XV - 1982/3
Francis and Hassidism (Pages 30)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Education: Franciscan and Hasidic Spiritualities and the Teacher - Notes for educators at all levels
Mary Travers


Francis might well claim to be the most popular saint in the Christian calendar; even Churches which generally acknowledge only the "hidden saints" known to God alone find something very attractive in this man who combined extreme physical suffering and austerities with an overwhelming spiritual joy and childlike simplicity which seemed to give him power over man and beast alike. In this last lies the danger for teachers, especially those who work with younger children. Francis, who preached to the birds, taught a wolf good manners and called on brother sun and sister moon to praise the Lord, is an easy target for superficial sentimentality in class-room presentation. The endless possibilities for art work and dramatization too often miss out on the 'real' Francis whose spirit of joy and total trust in God find echoes in the hearts of children. Let us not drown his true message in the twittering of sparrows or the hoot of an owl!

But even if we get nearer to the authentic spirit of Francis, we tend to leave him in glorious isolation, a colorful medieval figure, but not sufficiently linked to the many thousands of men and women who, for the past eight hundred years, have sought to follow Christ in the spirit and joy of Francis. Theirs has been the task of interpreting that spirit anew to succeeding generations, and they continue to do so today. The Franciscan down the road has a witness value that far outstrips that of all Giotto's wonderful frescoes, so who better to talk to our children and young people of Franciscan spirituality in the late twentieth century?

But even then we have not gone far enough! This issue of the SIDIC review shows clearly that the spirit we call 'Franciscan' is also to be found in the movement within Judaism known as Hasidism. There is a similar wonder and joy in nature, a similar spiritual freedom and detachment, a similar striving after union with God, always with the differences which derive from the two traditions. Francis needs to be shown hand in hand, so to speak, with his hasidic brothers if we are to appreciate the true universality of his message to the world. Together they wander through the woods and fields "serving the Lord with joy" and this is something which adolescents today find comprehensible in their own terms. Both Jewish and Christian youngsters can be helped to appreciate that man's yearning for the infinite has manifestations which are as much rooted in our religious traditions as in our common humanity, each drawing strength from the other. The content of this issue of the review should both enrich our own personal understanding and add an important dimension to our teaching!

* Sr. Mary Travers, ND.S. is a graduate teacher from England who trained in Religious Education at Lumen Vitae, Brussels. She recently joined the staff of SIDIC.


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