Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Blessed be the Lord who saves us” (cf. Ps 68). Blessed is He who has gathered us (from many parts of the world) to make this experience of community life which is the General Chapter.

 

Among the many statements of Pope Benedict XVI, I was particularly struck by this one: “Persecutions, despite the suffering they cause, do not constitute the gravest danger for the Church. Indeed she suffers the greatest danger by what taints the faith and the Christian life of her members and communities, corroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening her capacity for prophecy and witness, and marring the beauty of her face”.1
“The problems of division, inconsistency and infidelity to the Gospel are those that seriously threaten the Church,” the Pope added (ibid.).The same happens also within the Franciscan family, “in which (as stated in the SFO Rule,2) the Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place”.

When we encounter a divided Council, isn’t this what stains a fraternity? When the SFO is used to gain personal benefits or to gain prestige, honor and even money, doesn’t this stain a fraternity? (cf. 1Tm 6:5). Many say, “we are poor, we have no money”. Could it be rather that there is no money because there is no union, because there is no transparency in the administration of the resources, when most of the times we know that resources are there? This is the way some justify the lack of participation in various events that are organized as chapters, meetings, training courses, etc..

I am also convinced that the greatest dangers for the Church are within herself, and they are our infidelities, which make her uglier, dirtier.

Fortunately, the Lord comes to our aid and helps us to straighten up, as He did with the sick woman of the Gospel who could not stand up straight (cf. Lk 13:13).

The hypocrisy of the Pharisees (cf. Lk 13:15-16) unfortunately also affects us, and so we no longer have the courage to call things by their name. We keep silent when we should talk, and we open our mouths and talk (sometimes too much) when it would be better to remain silent.

If by the Spirit of Christ, as St. Paul says, we renounce to evil works, selfishness, darkness, then the light of our Baptism, of our Profession of evangelical life will shine. And so we will be able to call God our Father, and feel truly brothers.

We hear again the words of the Apostle: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry «Abbà! Father!»”(Romans 8:15).

We must not be afraid! The General Chapter is an extraordinary instrument to address our real problems and to reinforce the good initiatives that many brothers and sisters are pursuing. Let us bless the Lord for all the good that He does through our frail persons.

Let us say once again with the Psalmist: “Blessed be the Lord who saves us”. Yes, let us praise the Lord for the brothers and sisters who live a coherent Christian life and give us an example and witness of evangelical life.

[1] See Benedict XVI, Homily of  the Holy Mass for the Imposition of the sacred Pallium on metropolitan archbishopsi (June 29, 2010), in: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20100629_pallio_en.html