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Religions 2018, 9(10), 324;

Attitudes and Behaviors Related to Franciscan-Inspired Spirituality and Their Associations with Compassion and Altruism in Franciscan Brothers and Sisters

Professorship Quality of Life, Spirituality and Coping, Institute for Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, Witten/Herdecke University, Witten 58448, Germany
IUNCTUS—Competence Center for Christian Spirituality, Philosophical-Theological Academy, 48148 Münster, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 September 2018 / Revised: 15 October 2018 / Accepted: 19 October 2018 / Published: 22 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Franciscan Spirituality and Its Impact for Today’s World)
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In Christian tradition there are many different ‘schools’ of spirituality which address an ‘inner transformation’ referring to an individual experience of the Sacred. The focus of this study was to examine the ‘core’ component of Franciscan spirituality (life according to the Gospel) and the ‘transformative’ components (living with and for others in need and respectful commitment to the creation) in a group of brothers and sisters of the Franciscan family. In particular, the reflection on how this spirituality is connected with the perception of the divine in daily life, with feelings of awe and subsequent gratitude on the one hand and compassion and altruistic behavior on the other, was an essential aspect of the present work. Data from a cross-sectional study with standardized instruments among 388 Franciscan brothers and sisters (mean age 61 ± 25 years) showed that “Living from the Faith” and “Seeking God in Silence and Prayer” scored highest, followed by “Commitment to the Creation” and interpersonal factors such as “Peaceful Attitude/Respectful Treatment” and “Commitment to the Disadvantaged”. In all cases, women achieved significantly higher scores than men (with values of F between 5.3 and 23.5, p < 0.05). These dimensions were moderately to strongly associated with experiential aspects of spirituality (i.e., Perception of the Divine, Gratitude/Awe), particularly “Living from the Faith” (r > 5.0, p < 0.0001). With regard to the prosocial ‘outcomes’ (e.g., Compassion and Altruism), stepwise regression analyses showed that Compassion was best predicted by “Peaceful Attitude/Respectful Treatment” and Gratitude/Awe (both explain 27% of variance), and Altruism was best predicted by “Commitment to the Disadvantaged” and Gratitude/Awe (both explain 21% of variance). Mediator analyses with the standardized z-factor values showed that Gratitude/Awe is also a significant mediator of the effects of the Perception of the Divine (as a further significant predictor of prosocial behaviors) on Compassion (beta = 0.05 ± 0.02, p < 0.01) and Altruism (beta = 0.03 ± 0.02, p = 0.04). Surprisingly, “Commitment to the Disadvantaged” was only weakly linked to “Living from the Faith”. It could be shown that “Living from the Faith” was much more connected to Compassion as an intention rather than to Altruism as an action. “Living from the Faith”, as the fundamental aspect of Franciscan spirituality, mediated the effect of the Perception of the Divine on Compassion (beta = 0.08 ± 0.03, p < 0.01) and Altruism (beta = 0.06 ± 0.03, p = 0.04), as well as mediating the effect of Gratitude/Awe on Compassion (beta = 0.07 ± 0.02, p < 0.01) and Altruism (beta = 0.06 ± 0.02, p < 0.01). However, there are significant differences between more contemplative and charitably engaged Franciscans; “Living from the Faith” scored highest in contemplative brothers and sisters within the different branches of Franciscan orders when compared to more charitably engaged persons, while their “Commitment to the Disadvantaged” was significantly lower. These differences could also be ascribed to the different charisms and missions of the Franciscan branches. View Full-Text
Keywords: Franciscan spirituality; compassion; altruism; Franciscans; religious order; faith Franciscan spirituality; compassion; altruism; Franciscans; religious order; faith

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Büssing, A.; Recchia, D.R.; Dienberg, T., OFMCap. Attitudes and Behaviors Related to Franciscan-Inspired Spirituality and Their Associations with Compassion and Altruism in Franciscan Brothers and Sisters. Religions 2018, 9, 324.

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