Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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“EVANGELIZED TO EVANGELIZE”

 

 

On April 18th, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Franciscan Family during the Mat Chapter saying:

"Dear friends, the last word I wish to leave you with is the same word that the Risen Jesus consigned to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28: 19; Mk 16: 15) …and continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. … Like Francis, always begin with yourselves.”

 

As a living stone of the Church, the Secular Franciscan Order is involved in this mission. The XIII General Chapter taking place in Brazil, close to the Church of Our Lady of Aparecida, will deal with the subject “Evangelized to Evangelize”. In order to have a fruitful event, we invite every Local, Regional and National fraternity to assume and enrich the reflection previous to the Chapter.

 

 

THE NEW EVANGELIZATION[1]

 

 

· The "new evangelization" is the courage to forge new paths in responding to the changing circumstances and conditions facing the Church in her call to proclaim and live the Gospel today

· The "new evangelization" is primarily a spiritual activity capable of recapturing in our times the courage and forcefulness of the first Christians and the first missionaries.

· A "new evangelization" also means to have the boldness to raise the question of God in the context of these problems, thereby fulfilling the specific character of the Church's mission and showing how the Christian prospective enlightens, in an unprecedented way, the great problems of history.

· The "new evangelization" calls us to engage in dialogue with this world, not remaining confined to our communities and our institutions, but accepting the challenge to take part in these realities so as to speak and bear witness in these sectors, from the inside. This is the form of Christian martyria in today's world, engaging in dialogue even with the recent forms of militant atheism or extreme secularism, whose purpose is to eliminate the subject of God from human life.

· A "new evangelization" means that the Church must convincingly sustain her efforts at uniting all Christians in a common witness to the world of the prophetic and transforming power of the Gospel message. Justice, peace, living with others and the stewardship of creation have characterized ecumenism over the decades.

· The "new evangelization" is an invitation to Christian communities to place greater trust in the Spirit who guides them in the course of history. In this way, they can overcome the temptation of fear.

· "New evangelization" means, then, to work in our local Churches to devise a plan for evaluating the previously mentioned phenomena in such a manner as to transmit the Gospel of hope in a practical way.

· "New Evangelization" means personal renewal of Paul’s burning sentiment proclaiming: “How terrible it would be for me if I would not preach the Gospel!(1Co 9:16).

 

THE INDISPENSABLE BASES FOR THE NEW EVANGELIZATION[2]

Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him.

It is not therefore a matter of inventing a "new program". The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is a program which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication.”

 

These priorities underline that to which the Spirit is calling us through the profession to live the Gospel within the SFO and according to its rule. It is a question of committing ourselves resolutely.

Holiness

The new evangelization must have as its principle objective to give new life to the ideal of holiness for the faithful, this high standard of ordinary Christian living. A holiness which is manifested by the witnessing to our own Faith, to charity without limits, to love lived and put into practice in our everyday activities ». (Cf. Rule 2)

Prayer

“Our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love". Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: by opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan.” “If the preacher does not pray, he will end up “preaching himself” (cf. 2Cor 4:5) and his words will be reduced to “godless chatter”[3]. (Cf. Rule 8)

The Sunday Eucharist

“The truth of Christ's Resurrection is the original fact upon which Christian faith is based. We do not know what the new millennium has in store for us, but we are certain that it is safe in the hands of Christ; by celebrating his Passover every Sunday, the Church will continue to show to every generation "the true fulcrum of history, to which the mystery of the world's origin and its final destiny leads".. “What the world needs is God's love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him. For this reason the Eucharist is the source and summit of Church’s mission"[4]. (Rule 8)

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

My God, have pity on the sinner that I am!” (Lc18, 13) Face the crisis of "the sense of sin", we are calling for a rediscovery of the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Lord's gifts come from the One who well knows the human heart. (Cf. Rule 7)

Listening to the Word

“In this dialogue with God we understand ourselves and we find answers to the deepest questions hidden in our hearts. God only responds to the thirst which is in the heart of every man!” “The root of sin is in the absence of listening of the Word of God”[5] (Rule 4)

Proclaiming the Word

“Our responsibility is not limited to suggesting shared values to the world; rather, we need to arrive at an explicit proclamation of the word of God. Only in this way will we be faithful to Christ’s mandate: there is no true evangelization unless the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are proclaimed”[6].

“Jesus has commanded us to transmit this revelation to others with His own authority. Every Christian has to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God's mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called "blushing for the Gospel" - or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?”[7] “The fact that the proclamation of the word of God calls for the testimony of one’s life is a datum clearly present in the Christian consciousness from the beginning, even in situations of persecution. None of this should cause us fear. Jesus himself said to his disciples: “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn15:20)[8] (Cf. Rule 6)

The live in Fraternities

Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion. She indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. […] Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, "masks" of communion rather than its means of expression and growth. (Cf. Rule 5 and 8)

The mission

Beginning with intra-ecclesial communion, charity of its nature opens out into mission, a service that is universal. If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he himself wished to be identified: the poor. […] Without this form of evangelization through charity and without the witness of Christian poverty the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood (Cf. Rule 6-19)

In the footsteps of Mary

“Our apostolic and pastoral action will never be efficient if we do not learn from Mary to allow ourselves to be modeled by the work of God within us”.[9] In the new evangelization, as at the first Pentecost, Mary has her place”[10]. (Cf. Rule 9)

The primacy of grace

“There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work: that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. It is fatal to forget that "without Christ we can do nothing" (cf. Jn 15:5)” (Cf. Rule 4)

 

OUR MISSION AS SECULAR FRANCISCANS

 

When John Paul II received in audience the International Chapter of the SFO on November 22, 2002, he replied the questions, firmly guiding the SFO towards the future which is Christ. Three times he exhorted us: The Church waits for you… as per our Rule Art.3 The present rule adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times.”

[…] You must now look to the future and put out into the deep:  Duc in altum! (Lk 5, 4)

The Church expects from the unique Franciscan Secular Order a great service to the cause of the Kingdom of God in the world today. She wants your Order to be a model of organic, structural and charismatic union at all levels, so as to present yourself to the world as a "community of love" (Rule, art.22). From you, Secular Franciscans, the Church awaits a courageous and consistent witness of Christian and Franciscan life that aims at building a more fraternal and evangelical world for the realization of the Kingdom of God. […]

 

You are called to make your own contribution, inspired by the person and message of St Francis of Assisi, to hasten the coming of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, co-responsibility and love may be living realties. You must deepen the true foundations of universal fraternity, and everywhere create a spirit of hospitality and of brotherhood. Firmly oppose every kind of exploitation, discrimination and marginalization, and attitude of indifference to others. Secular Franciscans, you live by vocation your belonging to the Church and to society as inseparable realities. For this reason, you are asked first of all to bear a personal witness in the place where you live: "before all: in [your] family life; in [your] work; in [your] joys and sufferings; in [your] associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same Father; in [your] presence and participation in the life of society; in [your] fraternal relationship with all creatures"(GC,art.12.1). Perhaps, you will not be required to pour out your blood as a martyr, but you will certainly be asked to give a coherent and steadfast witness in fulfilling the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation, which you renewed and confirmed with your profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. […]

 

“WHAT SHALL WE DO,BROTHERS?” (Ac 2, 37)

 

We may agree at a Fraternity level– local, regional, national and international – on the elements for a pastoral project (objectives and methods, formation and appreciation of each brother and sister, pursuing necessary means) in order to facilitate the announcing of Jesus which should reach people, shaping communities, deepening society and culture, thanks to the testimony of the evangelic values, as the Pope asks St. Francis. May a renewed boldness encourage each one of us, and our fraternities, our SFO and Franciscan Youth. “The parrêsia of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason.”[11]

 

Young people, families, those who suffer, the world of politics, of culture, etc. all these human sectors call for Secular Franciscans. The strong invitation coming from the Rule to “go from Gospel to life and from life to Gospel” is a wise practice when one has to choose, either at a personal level, or a communitarian level, and favors the attention that has to be placed on the “sign of the times”.

There is a need of evangelization:

for families – sanctuaries of life and love.

The family is the sanctuary of life and love, and today needs strong support more than ever. The institution of marriage is in many ways under attack from the current mentality, and the rise of ways of thinking which trivialize the human body and sexual differentiation (gender). The word of God re-affirms the original goodness of the human being, created as man and woman and called to a love which is faithful, reciprocal and fruitful. [12] The family is irreplaceable. Intense, vigorous family pastoral care is necessary. Authentic family policy must be promoted, and must provide rights for the family as a social subject. Our rule calls us to this (R§17, CG §24).

“Go, Francis, and repair my domestic Church which is in ruins”.

to favor the birth of Franciscan Youth and of groups of Franciscan children

There is an educational emergency, which is the urgent need for transmitting to new generations the basic values for living and right conduct. When the conscience is no longer educated, the light of the truth is no longer perceived. Many consider speaking of truth as too "authoritarian". Such thinking leads to doubting the goodness of life ("Is it good to be alive?") A sort of "hatred of self" characteristic of certain cultures develops, and the validity of relationships and commitments which make up life becomes something relative. There is a real need for true educators capable of forming individuals capable of living life to the full, of entering into a living relationship with Jesus Christ, and of making their unique contribution to the common good. Our Fraternities are called upon: many members are parents, some of whom personally experience this educational confusion. And yet the experience of Saint Francis and of the saints in the SFO is an extraordinary source of inspiration for educational training and action.

for the trainers of trainers.

“To set up truly effective pastoral care, we must promote training for trainers, including specialized schools and courses.”[13] We must make our Fraternities places where free, adult persons are trained, who are then in turn capable of training others, of placing the question of God in their lives, in work, in the family. This is certainly one of the commitments which are characteristic of the new evangelization (Cf. 2Tm 2, 2). Our Fraternities also have the duty of supporting persons who commit themselves to educational tasks, tasks which are essential for the future of the Church and humanity. Their training cannot be reduced to a simple technical preparation. It is first and foremost integral training.

for human and environmental ecology

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society. This means that we, Franciscans, must convey the logic of the Gospel in public life, in politics, in the field of culture, health and education

… through courageous initiatives and activities which will build the civilization of love. (Rule 14)

for service of the poor in Christ poor

If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he himself wished to be identified: the poor. There is a special presence of Christ in the poor, and this requires the Church to make a preferential option for them. In our own time, in addition to the traditional forms of poverty we think of the newer patterns: by despair at the lack of meaning in their lives, by drug addiction, by fear of abandonment in old age or sickness, by marginalization or social discrimination. Now is the time for a new "creativity" in charity, by effective help but also by "getting close" to those who suffer. We must therefore ensure that in every Christian community the poor feel "at home".[14] This is the true sign of the life and teaching of Francis: “I know poor and crucified Christ”. Secular Franciscans following the example of Francis must also feel “at home” with the poor, and become ingenious with them (Cf. CG §10, 18-20).

For this reason, training in the social doctrine of the Church is needed in our Fraternities.

for mass-media to announce Jesus to all

For the new evangelization to be effective, deep and up-to-date understanding of the current culture is required. Here the different communications resources play a major role. One has to know these resources in their usual forms (Francis wrote to his followers, to leaders etc.), and in their most recent forms (Maximilien Marie Kolbe used printing, radio, and television) and be able to use them.

Internet sites, forums and many other systems must be used to effectively communication the message of Christ to great numbers of persons.[15]

 

 

Questions base on a common overview on new evangelization

 

Our Fraternities are experiencing significant changes:

1. What has been discerned from evaluating the present situation in the various local Fraternities SFO and YouFra from the vantage point of the new evangelization?

 

 

The world is undergoing significant changes which bring about new situations and challenges: culture (secularization), society (the intermingling of peoples), mass media, economy, science and civic life.

2. What questions and challenges have they posed? What responses have been made?

 

 

In the new evangelization, our Fraternities have to be transformed in their thinking so they can continue to carry out the mission of proclamation within these new sectors.

3. How have our Fraternities undertaken and accomplished Pope John Paul II's appeal for "a new evangelization; new in its ardor, in its methods and in its expressions"? By what actions or concrete changes?

 

 

Our times call upon the Church to renew her manner and forms of evangelizing and display a new readiness to render an account of our faith and the hope which is ours.

4. Has the urgency of a new missionary proclamation become a habitual component of the pastoral activity of our Fraternities? Or has there been a decline in the conviction that this mission is also to be done in our Fraternities and local Christian communities and the everyday situations of our lives? How does it become a concrete reality?

 

 

The new evangelization requires to live out this call for proclamation and witness, which promises to bear fruit.

5. What evangelization projects do the Fraternities propose? How are the Fraternities reaching out to their members and training them to evangelize families, young people of the YouFra, children?

6. How can we prepare our Fraternities for this growth, for the fecundity of evangelization, for the welcoming of new brothers and sisters?

CONCLUSION

Duc in altum! An enthusiastic work of pastoral remodeling is waiting for us. It is a work where we are all involved. The Holy Ghost in person –who made Francis heart to be illuminated by His flame, who also identified him with the mystery of Jesus, poor and crucified, in fraternal communion with all creatures, and who trusted him the greatest mission of repairing the Church – has called the Secular Franciscan Order and the Franciscan Youth. The Spirit has taken us to his own at the moment of our SFO Profession or our commitment to the Franciscan Youth, and has sent us to the entire world in the name of the Church.

 

I have done my part, let Christ show you yours” (Mayor Legend, 14, 3)

 

Mary, star of the new evangelization, will support and guide us in this faithful path to living a more daring life according to the Gospel.

 

“Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, give to us wretches to do for Thee what we know Thee to will and to will always that which is pleasing to Thee; so that inwardly purified, inwardly illumined and kindled by the flame of the Holy Ghost, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by Thy grace alone come to Thee the Most High, who in perfect Trinity and simple Unity livest and reignest and gloriest God Almighty forever and ever. Amen”

(The Writings of St Francis, Letter to All the Friars §50-52)



[1] Lineamenta 02-02-2011 for The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, §5, 7, 10, 19, 24

[2] This Chapter is essentially inspired by the §29-41 of the Apostolic Letter (06-01-2001) Novo Millenio Ineunte

[3] Audience 1-07-1998

[4] 6-02-2010 Message for the world mission Sunday 2010

[5] Verbum Domini §23, 26 et 27

[6] Verbum Domini §98

[7] Evangelii nuntiandi §80

[8] Verbum Domini §98

[9] Verbum Domini §28

[10] apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa §57 (14-09-1995)

[11] Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason § 48

[12] Verbum Domini 85

[13] Apostolic Exhortation 30-12-1988 Christifideles Laici § 63

[14] Apostolic Letter of John-Paul II, 06-01-2001 Novo Millenio Ineunte § 49-50

[15] Apostolic Exhortation (22-01-1999 Ecclesia in America §6