“. . . this great servant of God had neither master nor teacher to guide or instruct him, save only Christ our Lord . . .”
Reading this reminded me of Saul. Acts 9 records Saul’s conversion. He was transformed by a vision of Jesus on his way to Damascus where he intended to persecute Christians. Afterwards, Saul took on the name Paul and wrote much of the New Testament. But Paul, like St. Francis, had no teacher. He neither had the opportunity to know Jesus personally before Jesus’s ascension nor did he spend a great deal of time with Jesus’s disciples learning about Jesus. Upon his conversion, almost immediately, his life was threatened and the disciples sent him to Tarsus to protect him from being executed. He later wrote that his knowledge of God was:
“ . . . not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit . . .“ (1Co 2:13 NRS).
St. Francis, like Paul, had a deep intimate relationship with God. He depended on the Spirit to lead and guide him. That kind of relationship is what God desires of each of us. But so often we don’t take time to let God speak to us. We shout up prayers – instructions telling God what we want God to do – but we rarely take time to hear God speak. Both St. Francis and Paul spent time alone listening to God. In doing so, they needed no other mentor.
It isn’t that mentors and teachers are bad. But if we substitute them for directly going to God for guidance, we miss out on knowing our creator personally. In fact our mentors, spiritual guides, and teachers do us the most good when they teach us how to listen to God for ourselves.
April is a progressive Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs.