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Rediscovering the Roots of Franciscan Spirituality

Saturday 12th May 2018

The InSpiRe Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation based at St Mary’s University, Twickenham

The conference celebrates the arrival at St Mary’s of the world-renowned Franciscan Studies Collection from the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury. The collection is believed to be the largest collection related to Franciscanism in Northern Europe, combined with a Holy Land collection, and including over 5,000 volumes, plus 50 runs of periodicals and smaller magazines.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dr Sarah Jane Boss
  • Dr Chris Dyczek
  • Dr Tom Herbst
  • Sr Patricia Rumsey
NEWS: Conference held for St Mary’s Acquisition of Franciscan Studies Collection

A one-day conference to celebrate the acquisition of the world-renowned Franciscan Studies Collection was recently held by the Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation (InSpiRe) at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Read more...


“The Lord made a short word on the earth.”

In this statement, Francis of Assisi encouraged his followers to consider the fragility of communication, and the importance of capturing the deeper hope of the resurrection in a few phrases. What Christians share in their gatherings had to have spiritual vitality, and make use of imaginative resources. That vitality was, for him, a community gift from God. It might focus on the Son of God as Incarnate, on Jesus’ Passion, or on the mission set in motion at Pentecost.

In every case, its core will consist of forgiveness, active love, and peace in the heart. Francis’s followers have appreciated that this core can remain life-affirming, so long as their engagement with neighbours is open to the grace of God, and permeated with the energies of that grace. A language of patient and concerned interaction has to combine with a language of prayer and praise. This combination will probe the deeper layers of each person’s interior life, and also of their self-giving in relationship to others.

Within Francis’s life-time he was aware of people joining his communities who came from Portugal and Germany, England and France, as well as fellow Italians. The mutual self-giving to which they were called would have to transcend narrow cultural outlooks. It succeeded in creating a vision of all created beings, as well as all humanity, as brothers and sisters in a new planting of the Gospel.

About the speaker

Chris Dyczek, OFM was born in Reading in 1953. With a Philosophy BA, he taught English and African Literature in Malawi. He joined the Franciscans in 1979, did Ministry course training, and spent a year and a half in Edinburgh, where wrote and produced a musical with fellow friar Frank Campbell. By 1987, in a large Franciscan community in Manhattan, he obtained an MA in Historical Theology. Back in Canterbury, he lectured in Church History, Early Christian Writers, Formulation of Christian Doctrine, and Theology and Literature. From 2003 to 2009, his doctoral work tackled memory and journey symbolism in 19th century writers. He has run a Franciscan Spirituality distance learning programme. His published articles include 'Bonaventure and Islam: Possibilities for Dialogue' in M. Diemling and T. J. Herbst, Interpreting the 'Spirit of Assisi' (Tau Publishing, 2013).

A dominant biblical view of the person and role of Christ is one of profound self-emptying, motivated by the kenotic characteristic of love. This would also function as a foundational perception for early Franciscans and, indeed, would provide the rationale for the radical practice of evangelical poverty. Perceived, in its profoundest sense, as the truest form of imitatio Christi, the Franciscans perceived God as fundamentally ‘generous’ and based both an interior spirituality and its exterior observance on that principle.

About the speaker

Thomas J. Herbst OFM is a Franciscan friar of the Saint Barbara province in the western USA presently residing in the UK. He received a BA in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a MDiv from the Franciscan School of Theology and a MA in Theology at the Franciscan School of Theology/Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He obtained a DPhil in Theology from the University of Oxford in 2001.

Fields of interest include: Historical Theology with emphasis in the Patristic and Medieval eras, Christian iconography, exegesis with special reference to the Gospel of John, and Systematic Theology with particular emphasis in Christology and the Theology of Nature. He is also interested in various fields of Franciscan Studies, especially Franciscan Christology and the writings of Francis and Clare and Bonaventure.

I look at how sanctity for women was regarded before Clare's time, when Mary was taken as the model and see how Clare both continues this pattern but also breaks away from it in her later life. I set her in relation to the more troubled Francis and show how she grew into a serenity which is reflected in her later letters and which we see especially on her deathbed.

View the presentation (PPT)

About the speaker

Patricia Rumsey is a member of the Poor Clares, the second Order founded by Francis, and is the abbess of the community in Arkley, North London. She is an Associate Professor of the University of Nottingham and has written and lectured widely on Liturgy, especially the early history of the Divine Office, on early monasticism, on feminist studies, particularly on the place of Mary in early Christian theology, and on Franciscan studies.


All speakers will take questions at this point.

  • Peter Bamford: Possible Influences of Troubadour Poetry on Francis of Assisi
  • Paula Pearce: The Historical Roots and the Nature of the Secular Franciscan Order
  • Prof John Sullivan: Bonaventure and Catholic Higher Education 
About the speaker

Dr Sarah Jane Boss is a Catholic theologian and Director of the Centre for Marian Studies at the University of Roehampton. She has published several papers on the work of Ramon Llull, and is especially interested in his teaching concerning God's presence in the natural world.

Franciscan Vespers in the Chapel will follow the conference.

Conference highlights

Click play on the video below to see the presentations. To skip forward and back between presentations click the 'next' and 'previous' buttons that show in the bottom-left corner of the video.

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Saturday 12th May 2018

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