Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Little Franciscan Prayer--And Plans for The First Day of Class

Today, I am taking a much needed day of rest from exercise.  The past six days included a tempo run at the Y on the treadmill, the rowing machine, a 6.6 mile run in ridiculous humidity with some big hills, a 10 mile run on a cooler morning at a faster pace, biking, and a tempo run on the streets of Baltimore that was nearly as fast (on average) as the tempo run on the treadmill.  Life is good, but my legs need a rest.  

Resting my legs gave me a chance to take my dog for a longer walk than usual and for trying a Franciscan prayer approach.  The other day I mentioned that we had learned about four types of prayer and that one of them was Augustinian.  My "default" type of prayer.  Lots of thinking.  Lots of pondering.  Transpose the Words of God into life today.  Helped along by images, music, etc.  Highly symbolic prayer.

So, today, when I took my dog for a slightly extra long walk, I tried Franciscan prayer.  In one description it goes along with the SP personality type.  This is not "diametrically" opposite of mine (that would be ST) but it is much different.  It is described as "The SP personality type does not respond well to the symbolic but is primarily interested in the real and literal."  This is a stretch for me.  It means looking at nature.  Looking at the here and now.  Not focusing on symbols and what could be.  It focuses on action rather than process.

So, as I walked the neighborhood I just looked around. And I thought of all the things that I saw that I could be thankful for.  I was thankful for uphills for making me stronger when I run.  I was thankful for downhills that make the going easier.  I was thankful for the red of the stop sign that is associated with safety when everyone follows the rules.  I was thankful for the yellow of several signs for the beauty of yellow--particularly forsythia yellow--that is my favorite color.  There were sunflowers.  I thought of dandelions.  I was thankful for the grass.  Soft to run on.  Soft to walk on.  Soft to lie down on after a hard run.  And the color green for being the symbol of forward motion.  I was thankful for the moon--it's beauty and it's light.  I was thankful for the stars and planets--the light and the patterns that move across the sky in ways that make humans imagine and think.  The list went on. This is a common approach in Franciscan prayer life, apparently.  Free flowing and made up as you go along prayer.

You can even see that within my efforts to think in a Franciscan way I was still a little Augustinian.  Several of the reasons I was thankful for real things I was seeing had to do with the symbolic meanings that were attached.  I can't escape being an Augustinian at heart.  But that is not a problem as long as I recognize the value of other types of prayer for me to try and for my students that may be the most appropriate.  

While not every third grader will be an SP personality type, third graders are into literal and concrete things.  The first lesson in the text book that I will be using this year is about creation.  There could not be a better way to try Franciscan prayer with my students.  If the weather holds old (rain is predicted for Sunday) we may go outside on the first day and look around.  I will have the kids walk with me and take turns noticing things that they notice, thanking God for them, and thinking of the reason that we would thank God.  I might even try to get the kids to think a little about how we could write a creation story today if God had created the world as we see it now.  It could be really fun to get the kids to think about how they would divide up the days.  And what they would say is good. And how they would tie it together.  I suppose that is again a little Augustinian twist on a very Franciscan approach, but it should be fun.

Finally, on a side note, I have thought about my recent running and the Augustinian versus Franciscan prayer life.  For my next race, I think I'll try to go a little more Franciscan during the race.  I want to try to concentrate only on the here and now of the race.  Not thinking about the end of the race when I start.  Not thinking about my next race.  Not thinking about the bigger picture of all my running in the past six and a half years or over my lifetime.  Instead, just focusing on the here and now.  How does my body feel?  How can I remain under control?  What will make me run the next step at least as face as the one I am in the process of running?  A very concrete here and now approach to running.  Never a dull moment in how my prayer life and running life are related.     

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