A singular gift of Francis and Clare to the Church was a new vision of contemplation, a departure from the monastic tradition where monks directed their vision upward, toward heaven to attain the goal of union with God. The monk began ascending the ladder of contemplative prayer with sacred reading, which led to meditation and prayer, and ended with contemplative union. For Franciscans, the focus or gaze is not upward, but rather outward toward ordinary human life, particularly focused on the Incarnation, where God chose to descend into our world to become one with us through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. In gazing upon the face of Christ, particularly in the Cross of San Damiano, Francis and Clare saw the faces of the poor, the rejected, the suffering of humanity and so were moved by compassion to acts of charity and service.
The path to contemplation for Franciscans is to gaze, consider, contemplate, and imitate—a goal focused on transformation by which one becomes like the face of God reflected in the Incarnation.
—from the book Franciscan Field Guide: People, Places, Practices, and Prayers
by Sister Rosemary Stets, OSF