Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

MONTHLY DOSSIER

OCTOBER 2012 – YEAR 3 – No.34

 DOC

A SPECIFIC VOCATION FOR A PARTICULAR MISSION

by Benedetto Lino, OFS

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team

Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator

Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR

Doug Clorey, OFS

 

 

OUR MISSION: THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH

In this dossier, part of Benedetto Lino´s presentation at the General Chapter 2012 in Sao Paulo (Brazil), we recall the specific charism of St. Francis in the life and mission of the Church. The mission of the Church and the mission of Secular Franciscans are not different missions. It would be very useful to study again what the Rule and Constitutions of our Secular Franciscan Order say about the nature and essential direction of our mission.

Our Mission: the Mission of the Church

Our mission is the mission of the church, of the entire Church. “Francis, go, repair my house” means to repair the whole house, not just a part of it.

Our Rule begins by describing the nature of this mission: “to make present the charism of our seraphic Father St Francis in the life and in the mission of the Church.” And the mission of the Church is to evangelise: To evangelise is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, it is her most profound identity. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14)

Evangelised: conformed to Christ, like Francis.

To evangelise: to bring Christ to the world: They should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words. (Rule 6)

To offer the total Christ

But what Christ must we bring to the world?

In his homily of 9 April 2000, on the occasion of the Great Franciscan Jubilee, Cardinal Roger Etchegary indicated it to us with prophetic force: "And now, at the dawn of the new millennium, does the Franciscan adventure still have meaning? Does it still have any chance of success? Never has true fraternity been so longed for and at the same time so little lived. Never has the Franciscan charism been more needed than today in order to offer the total Christ to a disintegrating world which fears a brotherhood of solidarity among all human beings without exclusion."

It is the total Christ, all of Christ, every aspect of Christ, which we Franciscans must, like Francis, bear within us and offer to the world!

The areas of service to which we are called are, therefore, unlimited and demanding.

A total Mission

The Crucifix of San Damiano entrusted Francis with an unequivocal mission: Go, Francis, repair my house.Repair my house” refers in the most extensive and complete way to the whole house, to “whatever” might be in need of repair in the Church-Body-of-Christ. There are no limits.

This is the task to which we are called, like Francis, with Francis and with his whole Family1 and, through the Rule, the Church has formally entrusted us with this mission:

Called like St Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity. (Rule 6)

The OFS, as an international public association, is connected by a special bond to the Roman Pontiff from whom it has received the approval of its Rule and the confirmation of its mission in the Church and in the world. (Gen. Const. 99.2)

Our Rule and Constitutions provide us with the essential directions of our mission. These, while not substantially differing from what is required of every true Christian without distinction, offer us precious indications which highlight what the Church thinks of us, of our role and what she expects of us.

Look in particular at: Rule 6, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and Gen. Const. 12 and 17 to 27.

This short presentation does not allow us to go as deeply into these matters as they deserve. I would strongly urge all of you to take the Rule and Constitutions in your hands to meditate on these articles and to deepen your understanding of them.

Finally, our mission includes also whatever the Church hierarchy, both universally and locally, might indicate to us at any time, starting with the immediate needs of the Church, as a consequence of the mission we have been entrusted to accomplish, in nomine Ecclesiae, in the name of the Church, as an International Public Association of the Faithful (CIC 313) – in an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

Catholic, Open And Universal

Francis wanted nothing more for himself and his brothers than to be “catholic”, open and universal. He wanted them to be the authentic expression of that God who, out of love, came forth from the heart of the Trinity, took flesh and immersed himself in the depths of human nature, ceasing to be the “wholly Other” to become just “Other”, the Father, the Brother, the unconditional Love.

Men and Women of Communion

Francis is, par excellence, a man of communion. He is the man who has made the fraternity revealed to us by Jesus Christ the centre of his life.

Francis wove bonds of communion between everyone and everything, all creatures animate and inanimate. His specific mission therefore was, and is, to draw all things and people into the unity of Christ. His mission was to destroy all ghettos, all fences, and to draw everyone into the humility, the poverty, the chastity, the obedience which Christ gave to the Father, to make us aware of how beautiful it is to be true children of the Father and a sister and brother of all.

We have inherited this same mission and, above all else, we must seek the Holy Spirit and his holy workings, as Francis did. We must be catalysts of communion, destroyers of divisions, examples of humility, obedience, chastity and poverty. We must lead everything back to the sole centre which is Christ, with and in His Church, prompting all human beings to recognise one another as true brothers and sisters, one for the other.

How does the Lord want us to be? How does the Church want us to be? They want us to be saints!

Yes, they want us to be different, but different in holiness, a holiness which treads in the footprints of St Francis, non-conformist, courageous, passionate. Different, because we must be total Christians, like Francis.

The Church counts on us.

We have just recalled the Message of Blessed John Paul II to the OFS General Chapter of 2002: The Church expects, the Church desires, the Church awaits . . .

And the Church has always stated quite clearly what she expects of us.

Sons of St Francis, make sure that, when people accuse the Church of having polarised its centres of interest in other aspects of Christianity – whether doctrinal, cultural or practical - rather than in Christ Jesus, they may recognise in this saint, “the catholic and wholly apostolic man”, and in his faithful children and disciples who keep alive his testimony, the proof that the “primacy of all” belongs to the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Church confesses and celebrates.”

And further:

“Others may follow other ways; yours is that of . . .  non-conformity. Do not despise the forms of your Franciscan way. Provided you follow them with dignified simplicity, they can have the power of a free and daring language, which is all the more suited to impress the world, the less it conforms to the dictates of worldly tastes and fashions. (Paul VI to the OFM Chapter 22 June 1967)

“To be a Franciscan does not mean showing some particular sign or wearing some special clothes, but having unique magnanimity, liberty of spirit, the capacity to go beyond established patterns and frontiers, to be in solidarity with whoever needs understanding and love. Those who follow Francis cannot be sectarian, iconoclast, racist, aggressive. Rather, wherever they go, they must sow serenity and confidence, in other words, peace and good.2

It takes passion, passion on a grand scale, like that of Francis:

“The OFS has a huge mission in the Church, a reason for living and for putting forward your vocation, accepting a definite task which is in keeping with your secular state. It means: accepting the past with gratitude, living the present with passion, preparing the future with hope.

The Franciscan who has no passion had better quit altogether.

To be prophets in our day, today, one needs to be attentive and alert. All I ask is that, wherever you find yourselves, rather than listening to your words, people may see that you are different. It is extremely urgent to undertake a new course.” (Fr. José R. Carballo OFM)3

For Reflection And Discussion In Fraternity:

1. As the Secular Franciscans of today, what do the words “go, repair my house” mean to you, individually and as a fraternity?

2. How does the OFS Rule and Constitutions provide essential directions for our mission?

3. In what way do you see Secular Franciscans charting “a new course”?

 

 


1 “The vision of Innocent III, of Francis supporting the Lateran Basilica, i.e. the Church, mystical Body of Christ, in its central and historical manifestation, one and hierarchical, in Rome, has prophesised the vocation and mission of your great religious family” (2 Cel. 17). Paul VI to the OFM General Chapter, 22 June 1967.

2 Ortensio da Spinetoli OFM Cap. “Francis: l’Utopia che si fa storia”, page 13.

3 Fr. José Rodriguez Carballo, OFM Minister General, to the OFS General Chapter, November 2005, and at the Pastoral Visit to the CIOFS Presidency, April 2006.

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

MONTHLY DOSSIER

SEPTEMBER 2012 – YEAR 3 – No.33

(  DOC)

 

A SPECIFIC VOCATION FOR A PARTICULAR MISSION

by Benedetto Lino, OFS

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team

Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator

Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR

Doug Clorey, OFS

 

 

HEIRS OF HIS MISSION

 

In this Dossier, Benedetto Lino exhorts us, Secular Franciscans, to flee from the tendency "to define ourselves more and more, to the point of creating unjustified lines of demarcation between ourselves and the rest of the Church, ourselves and the world, presumptuously claiming superiorities which do not exist, resting on Francis’ laurels". Indeed, there is a danger of "over-specifying" what we Secular Franciscans are and to run the risk of losing the central object of our vocation; that is, to be completely conformed to Christ, like Francis.

Heirs of his Mission: Signs and Points of Reference for an integral Christianity

And what of us, whom God has called to continue the work of Francis, heirs of his mission, how do we cope?

We, like Francis, are called to fulfil his very own task of being a sign, of being a sure point of reference for a Christianity which is lived in its fullness, to 100%, without containing ourselves within the restraints of our respective Order, or Family or Church. We are called to be total Christians, like Francis. We must flee from the tendency to define ourselves more and more, to the point of creating unjustified lines of demarcation between ourselves and the rest of the Church, ourselves and the world, presumptuously claiming superiorities which do not exist, resting on Francis’ laurels. Let us be mindful of that which Francis so severely reminded us: “… it is a great shame for us, servants of God, that the saints have accomplished great things and we want only to receive glory and honor by recounting them!”1

In the effort of over-specifying what we are, we run the risk of losing the central object of our vocation which is that of complete conformity to Christ, to be only and entirely Christian with all the intensity of our will, our heart and our mind, like Francis.

Open towards the World in Service of the Gospel, with the Church

It is essential, instead, not to close oneself to the world but to open oneself, as Francis did, with no superiority or inferiority2 complexes. We must adopt an attitude of evangelical parrhesìa,3 as Cardinal Rodé urged us in his letter to the Order dated 6 May 2009. In our Rule and General Constitutions there is an insistent call to turn towards the world in order that, with courage and simplicity, we may bring in it Christ and the revelation of God’s love.  The Church insistently asks us for this.

Duc in altum! Launch out into the deep! The Church expects from the OFS. . .  a great service to the cause of the Kingdom of God in the world of today. [...] The Church desires your Order to be a model . . . in such a way as to present the world with a “community of love” [Rule 22]. The church awaits from you, Secular Franciscans, a courageous witness, one which is consistent with the Christian and Franciscan life, reaching out to the construction of a more fraternal and evangelical world in which to realise the Kingdom of God.”4

In reality, the Pope rightfully summons us to put into practice what we have promised: “I renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of the Kingdom.” (Profession OFS)

With our response at Profession, we have undertaken a demanding and absolute commitment to the call of God, to our Vocation, which is a Vocation that in-forms the whole life and apostolic activity of all and of each one of us.

Instead, many of us lead a wearisome life, turned in on ourselves, frequenting always the same restricted circles. Many seem concerned only to go from one meeting to another, one celebration to another but always among ourselves, concentrating on ourselves in an attitude of self-complacency and unable to step into the wide world in order to accomplish Francis’ mission: to Go, like the Lord, towards the world.

We shall not be more authentic disciples of saint Francis or become holier persons by spending more time in Church buildings or talking among ourselves or vaunting our superiority and specificity.

Francis, our essential Reference Point to start afresh from Christ.

Francis urges us, by his life and his example, to be complete Christians.

We must look to Francis, mindful not to yield to the world’s prevailing trends and vagaries, in order to learn how to realise our vocation. We must always go back to the beginning. We must always start again from Christ. We must also always start again from Francis in order to learn how to start again from Christ, to be true Franciscans and secular Franciscans.

On the contrary, recently, there has been a tendency to distance oneself from Francis’ own experience as the irreplaceable cornerstone for all Franciscans, as if the fact that he belonged to the world of the thirteenth century unfitted him for the world of today. There is a widespread tendency to consider the developments of the successive centuries to replace our point of reference towards a largely undefined today of the Franciscan experience, rather than in the perennial Saint-Franciscan experience (St. Francis’ own personal and paradigmatic experience).

There is in this attitude a negation of the perennial relevance and definitive manifestation of Christ and His revelation of the Father and of the Being of God.  Francis appealed to this way of interacting with God, and his approach has a modernity which will never become out of date. The form of it may belong to a certain period and its customs, but the spiritual expression and the attitude of conversion and approaching God, are never out of date.

Let us humbly acknowledge that, eight centuries later, in our today, Francis is still the one who draws the people of the twenty-first century towards Jesus, not us! Francis is still the one who inspires, who leads with his simplicity, humility and perfect following of Christ. Not us, burdened as we are with superstructures, distractions and tepidity.

The today of God is always today, it never becomes yesterday and is never overcome by the changing trends of man! We are not speaking here about going barefoot like Francis, of punishing ourselves with extreme fasting or other such things but to convert ourselves in the depths of our souls, like Francis, and as people of our own time, allow the Spirit of the Lord to tell us what He wants us to do and act according to the promptings of the same Spirit, with the same determination of Francis.

Every spirituality belongs to the one who lives it, in the first person. It belongs to the one who interprets it, and not to anyone else. We, secular Franciscans, receive it directly from Francis and from nobody else and we implement it, with its own characteristics, into secular, lay and ordinary life. It is to Francis that we must first look. Brothers and Sisters, we are the ones who must incarnate Franciscan spirituality in secular life, drawing it directly from the spirit of St Francis.

Is our Mission Particular?

What is, therefore, our mission?

It is certainly not particular, unless we want to consider that its particularity consists precisely in its non-particularity, in its all-inclusiveness. The word “particular” is one which refers to a part of the whole and, it seems to me, that our mission, instead, includes everything.

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY:

1. Why is it so essential for Secular Franciscans to open themselves to the world, as Francis did?

2. In which way is Francis still the one who inspires and leads so many people, especially the young?

3. What does it mean to "incarnate Franciscan spirituality in secular life"?

 


1 Adm. V

2 cfr. Rule 13

3 Parrhesìa is the Greek word used in the New Testament to express freedom, frankness of speech, without fear or hesitation, to give uncompromising witness to the truth of the Gospel. See, e.g., Acts 28, 31. Comment to Card. Rodé’s letter available at www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html.

4 Message to the OFS Gen. Chap. of Bd. John Paul II, 22 November 2002

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

MONTHLY DOSSIER

AUGUST 2012 – YEAR 3 – No.32

(  DOC)

A SPECIFIC VOCATION FOR A PARTICULAR MISSION

by Benedetto Lino, OFS

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS

THE SPECIFITY OF OUR VOCATION

This month’s selection from Benedetto Lino’s presentation to the 2011 OFS General Chapter deals with three aspects of the specificity of the secular Franciscans’ vocation. His reflection emphasises the singularity of St. Francis’ own vocation and that of all Franciscans in connection with that founding and lasting experience of his. Benedetto states that if there is a specific nature to our vocation as secular Franciscans, it is the call that we share to be total Christians, as Francis was. It is specific only in that it refers to an example or model, St. Francis of Assisi, who shows us how to be Christians in a radical, total and permanent way. We have been attracted by the example and life of Francis and God has used this interest to lead us to the form of life to which we have committed ourselves.

THE SPECIFITY OF OUR VOCATION DEPENDS ON SAINT FRANCIS

Our specific vocation is to be Franciscan and secular and, as such, it is directly dependent on Francis of Assisi and his vocation. His example and his life have attracted us. God used him to lead us to a specific form of life. So we must turn to and start from Francis if we are to understand our own specific vocation.

Francis did not undertake a “specific” way of life in the sense of “specialising” in a circumscribed area. Let me explain.

St John Bosco was concerned with youth; St Camillus of Lellis, St John of God were concerned with the sick; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta with the abandoned poor; holy contemplatives with their task of immolation for the life of the world, in contemplative prayer – and so on.

St Francis “specialised” in nothing. St. Francis placed himself at the disposal of all, he had become all things to all (1Cor 9, 22-23). Francis, in the first place, sought God in order to find himself.

First of all, he sought to respond to the fundamental core of his primary vocation (which is the same for everyone), namely, to establish a living relationship with God, to give a sense of completeness to his own existence. Through long periods of prayer and contemplation, he succeeded to perceive the intimate essence of God as a Father, Abba. A God who has made Himself close to us in His Son, in His Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, through an act which was a total and perennial gift of Himself. A Son who, in turn, leads us to the Father, who gives us life and who makes us holy through His Spirit.

This brought about in him a desire to allow himself to be totally transformed by the Spirit in order to be conformed to Jesus the Son, and to respond to his fundamental vocation from God by sharing the very life of the Triune God.1

Francis wanted nothing else in life than to draw his life from Christ, to live in Christ, to live the Gospel totally. In a word, he wanted to be only and wholly Christian, and nothing else. Francis did nothing except to respond fully to what Jesus Christ has asked and always seeks from each and every one of us, without distinction.

OUR VOCATION: TO LIVE CHRIST, TO LIVE THE GOSPEL

God has raised up Francis and his three-fold family for the Church and for the world, so that both would believe that it is possible to live the Gospel sine glossa, without gloss, and that it is concretely possible to be a complete Christian, with no further specifications.2 Francis did this. And we too, his disciples, have solemnly promised it: “. . . I promise to live, in my secular state, for the whole time of my life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Secular Franciscan Order.” (Profession Formula, OFS)

Our Rule is full of pressing exhortations to put Christ at the centre of our lives, to live the Gospel, which is Christ, like Francis, recognising the Fatherhood of God to which we must tend with all our strength and Whose will we must do. (Rule 4, 5, 6, 7, 10; Cost. Gen. 9, 10, 11, 12). This is the heart of our Rule.

We do not have particular or specific prescriptions but rather quite the contrary: “The spirituality of the secular Franciscan is a plan of life centred on the person and on the following of Christ, rather than a detailed programme to be put into practice. (Gen. Const. 9.1).

So convinced am I that Francis’ vocation, and ours, is simply and solely to be fully Christian, that I think Francis would not be very happy that we call ourselves “Franciscan”. I believe he would have far preferred that we simply call ourselves “Christians”.  He chose a name for his disciples which would not draw attention away from Christ and one which, instead, served to define the distinctive traits of their following of Him: “Friars Minor” (Lesser Brothers) - brotherhood and being lesser and subject to everyone; “Brothers and Sisters of Penance”- fraternal life and permanent conversion; “Poor Sisters” – Poverty, as a concrete sign of total self-giving, pro mundi vita, for the life of the world.

Today however, it is not uncommon to meet “Franciscans” for whom “being Franciscan” is almost more important than to be Christian! I believe that if he could speak to us today, Francis would say: “My dearest brothers and sisters, in order to be my true and faithful disciples, you have to be only Christians, wholly Christians. You have to be perfectly Christian, just as the good God has granted me to be, by His grace alone.

THE SPECIFITY OF OUR VOCATION: TO BE TOTAL CHRISTIANS; AS FRANCIS WAS

Our vocation is certainly specific, not only because we are called to live out our lives in the saeculum, in the ordinary conditions of the world, in the lay or ordained state, whether celibate or married. The vocation to this state of life is that of the great majority of believers. It is specific only because our call refers to an example, a model, a unique way of following: Francis of Assisi.

This is the true and the only specific element of our vocation that distinguishes us and unites us: to be total Christians, as Francis was.

Beyond this, there is nothing specific. Further, I would dare to say that our vocation is, on the contrary, like that of Francis, non-specific. Let me explain.

What did Francis do which was not only what the Gospel, what Jesus, asks of every believer? Francis did nothing other than attend perfectly to everything Jesus has asked of everyone. Francis is humble? Jesus asks humility of all believers. Francis is poor? Jesus said to everyone “Blessed are the poor”. Francis is chaste? Chastity is enjoined on all believers. Francis is meek? Jesus recommended it for everyone. Francis lived in fraternity? Do not monks and religious in general as well as all Christians live (or at least should live) fraternity among themselves?

We could go on in this way with everything, and we would see that what Francis did is exactly what Jesus has asked of all believers. Francis did not have a charism and a mission which were confined to a contingent narrow and specific area. His charism, his vocation and his mission are non-specific in the sense that they correspond to that of the Church at all times, the Church of Christ in its purest and integral state. They are rooted in the deepest essence of Christian life with no further specifications. His way is not reserved for a restricted number of elected people but rather for all!

The Letter to the faithful3, which is the reference text for secular Franciscanism and is placed as the Prologue to our present Rule, is the most evident proof of this. Francis writes to the “penitent faithful” (de illis qui faciunt poenitentiam4), therefore to all of us, but for him all must undertake the way of penance-conversion. Francis discovered the Absolute Good and exhorted all with passion to discover that this is the only way to achieve life, the only true life: to be converted so as to share in the communion of his and our Lord Jesus Christ, of his and our Heavenly Father. The Franciscan ideal coincides with the vocation of all Christian Faithful (and not only the lay ones).

Our specific vocation is, therefore: to be Christian, as Francis was. Our great and only specificity can be summed up in two words: as Francis. That “as” however, makes a world of difference because, if it is true that Christ has asked everyone to do what Francis did, it is also true that Francis did it to the ultimate degree. The difference does not lie only in doing specific things but in the intensity with which these things are done. This intensity characterised Francis and is the paradigm and norm of all of us Franciscans in whatever walk of life.

“The first fact about Francis’ vocational development ... is his personal experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship marked by RADICALITY, TOTALITY AND PERMANENCE.”5

This is our vocation: “to conform ourselves to Christ”, the perfect man. And our specific character consists in living this conformation with the same intensity as Francis lived, the same totality with which he gave himself to an imitation of the total Christ, the same radicalness which marked his transformation-conformity to the depths of his being, and the same permanence with which he lived these out.

Francis, “truly the most Christian of men, who strove by perfect imitation to be conformed while living to Christ living, dying to Christ dying and dead to Christ dead, and deserved to be adorned with an expressed likeness”! (LM XIV, 4). As Bonaventure has underlined, Francis is the most Christian man. This is his specificity, his specific character: to be completely and totally Christ’s, to be a most Christian man, with nothing held back and without limits.6

Francis, acclaimed as another Christ, rose up humble and high, as one who sought to identify with his Lord in all things. Welcoming unreservedly the grace and help of the Spirit, he was able to become, to an exemplary degree, a paradigm for the whole Church in all times and throughout the whole world.

“His highest aim, foremost desire and greatest intention, was to pay heed to the Holy Gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to retrace His footsteps completely with all vigilance and all zeal, all the desire of his soul and all the fervour of his heart. Francis used to meditate constantly on the words of Christ and recollect His deeds with most attentive perception. Indeed so thoroughly did the humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion occupy his memory that he scarcely wanted to think of anything else.7

However . . . , must it not be this way for every saint? Yes, without a doubt. All the same, it does seem that the Most High wanted Francis to incarnate this total identification with Christ, to a degree which was more all-embracing, more visible and more of a paradigm, for ever.8 He has become the Christian man par excellence. So God has entrusted to him the most special mission of being an imperishable sign for the whole Church, for all Christians, for the entire world. And Francis, although he died some 800 years ago, still continues to carry out his mission to an outstanding degree!

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY:

1. What was "specific" about the vocation of Francis of Assisi?

2. Why was (is) Francis acclaimed as "another Christ" or "the most Christian of men"?

3. What is “specific” about our vocation as secular Franciscans?

 

NOTES

1 I do not need more, son; I know Christ, poor and crucified. (2Cel LXXI, 105) “The essence of the Franciscan spirituality is … Christ. Christ is the focal point of this spirituality. We can say: only Christ. … All your Franciscan literature clearly shows that Saint Francis strived to fully imitate Jesus. … “In full awareness, continuously he (Francis) wanted to live like his Master, with his Master, of his Master. His Rule, as he had conceived it, is nothing but the Gospel in action”. (Paul VI to the OFM Gen. Chapter, 22 June, 1967)

2 “Yet he [Innocent III] hesitated to do what Christ’s little poor man asked because it seemed to some of the cardinals to be something novel and difficult beyond human powers. John of Saint Paul, bishop of Sabina, then said: «If we refuse the request of this poor man as novel or too difficult, when all he asks is to be allowed to lead the Gospel life, we must be on our guard lest we commit an offense against Christ’s Gospel. For if anyone says that there is something novel or irrational or impossible to observe in this man’s desire to live according to the perfection of the Gospel, he would be guilty of blasphemy against Christ, the author of the Gospel». (LM 3, 9)”

3 I refer to both versions, the Earlier one, shorter and Prologue to the OFS Rule, and the Later one, which is an amplification and an enrichment of the first.

4 Title of the Letter to the Faithful (Earlier Redaction): “H[a]ec sunt verba vit[a]e et salutis que si quis legerit et fecerit inveniet vitam et [h]auriet salutem a domino de illis qui faciunt penitentiam. -  These are the words of life and salvation concerning those who do penance. Whoever reads and follows them will find life and draw from the Lord salvation. This “whoever” is not restrictive but extensive. It is directed to all.

5 Andrés Stanovnik OFM Cap. Archbishop of Corrientes, Argentina.

6 The comparison between Saint Paul and Saint Francis, the two great converted ones, is enlightening. Both of them have lived in fullness a life in Christ, as Paul tells us and as Francis has also intensely lived: to me life is Christ; yet I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me (Phil 1, 21; Gal 2, 20).

7 1 Cel XXX, 84.

8 “Even if others, daringly, compare among themselves the heavenly heroes of holiness, who have been destined by the Holy Spirit to fulfill various missions in the midst of men — and such comparisons, which originate from partisan passions, are to the advantage of no one and are injurious before God, the Author of Holiness – nevertheless we can affirm that there has been no one in whom the image of Christ and the evangelical form of life shone as lively and resembling as in Francis. Therefore, he who called himself the «Herald of the Great King », was rightly acclaimed as « another Jesus Christ », having presented himself to the people of his time and to the centuries to come almost as Christ returned from the dead; and this is the reason why he lives now and will continue to live as such for all generations to come.” Pious XI, Encyclical Letter Rite Expiatis, 30 April 1926.

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER
JULY 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 31

 

DOC)

A SPECIFIC VOCATION FOR A PARTICULAR MISSION

by Benedetto Lino, OFS
Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS

INTRODUCTION

During the first six months of 2012, the monthly dossiers have focused on the main address of the 2011 General Chapter, "Evangelized to evangelize", presented by Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFM Cap in Sao Paulo, Brazil. During the second part of 2012, from July to December, the focus of the monthly dossiers will be on the sub-theme of the General Chapter, “A specific vocation for a particular mission", presented by Benedetto Lino, OFS.

PRESENTER

Benedetto Lino, OFS is the International Presidency Councilor of the Secular Franciscan Order for the Italian language area. He lives in Rome and is the Coordinator of the Project responsible for the initial formation course for formators and the formation manual that accompanies this course. It is important to note that the last two General Chapters decided that “Formation” was to be the first priority of our Order. Benedetto Lino travels around the world to give formation seminars and workshops.

CONTENTS

The following is a short overview of the contents of the following six monthly dossiers. The contents of these dossiers do not correspond to the calendar months in which they are published. Each local fraternity is free to work with the specific themes in whatever timeframe they choose.

1. Vocation and Mission - from "being" to "doing" (July Dossier)

“Evangelised to evangelise” and “Vocation and Mission” are two closely linked themes, and in a certain sense, they are simply two ways of saying the same thing.

2. The specificity of our vocation (August Dossier)

Our specific vocation is to be Franciscan and secular and, as such, it is directly dependent on Francis of Assisi and his vocation. So we must turn to and start from Francis if we are to understand our own specific vocation.

3. Heirs of his mission (September Dossier)

We, like Francis, are called to fulfil his very own task of being a sign, of being a sure point of reference for a Christianity which is lived in its fullness, to 100%, without containing ourselves within the restraints of our respective Order, or Family or Church. We are called to be total Christians, like Francis.

4. Our mission: the mission of the church (October Dossier)

“Francis: go, repair my house” means to repair the whole house, not just a part of it. Our Rule begins by describing the nature of this mission: “to make present the charism of our seraphic Father St Francis in the life and in the mission of the Church.” And the mission of the Church is to evangelise.

5. The Secular Franciscan Order - a true Order (November Dossier)

“… you are also an “Order”, as the Pope (Pius XII) said: “A LAY ORDER, BUT A TRUE ORDER”; also Benedict XV had already spoken of “Ordo veri nominis” (a true Order). This ancient term - a medieval one – “Order” expresses our intimate belonging to the great Franciscan Family.

6. Summary (December Dossier)

VOCATION AND MISSION - FROM "BEING" TO "DOING"


VOCATION: CALLED TO BE EVANGELISED

MISSION: CALLED TO EVANGELISE

“Evangelised to evangelise” and “Vocation and Mission” are two closely linked themes, and in a certain sense, they are simply two ways of saying the same thing. Let us look at the reasons for this.

Vocation is the call from God “to be that which He has prepared for us..

God has created us in His own image and in the likeness of His Son, the Lord Jesus.

God has called us “to beconformed to Jesus, “the perfect man”.

Now, the Gospel is the epiphany of Christ, his complete manifestation. It follows that anyone who has responded fully to the call from God (Vocation) and has embarked on the path of conformity with Christ Jesus, is someone committed to being “evangelised”. This is the deepest meaning of “to be evangelised”.

FROM "BEING" TO "DOING"

From our “being” flows the “doing”, the Mission. The fundamental mission of anyone who has embarked on the road of conformity with Christ, can only be to proclaim Christ, to pass on the urgency of God’s love which we ourselves have discovered and which has changed our lives. This is the deep meaning of “to evangelise”: to communicate Christ, to bear witness to Him, to make Him present through our lives and our proclamation.1

Let us come, now, to the theme we must develop: A SPECIFIC VOCATION FOR A PARTICULAR MISSION.

IS OUR VOCATION SPECIFIC?

When I was given this theme, I thought for a long time about these two adjectives: specific and particular.

First of all, I did some research in our source documents: the Rule, the General Constitutions and the Ritual.

The word Vocation accompanied by the adjective specific only occurs once, in Article 2.1 of the General Constitutions, while the word Mission accompanied by the adjective particular is nowhere to be found. So let us examine this single passage:

The vocation to the OFS is a specific vocation that gives form to the life and apostolic activity of its members. Therefore, those who are bound by a perpetual commitment to another religious family or institute of consecrated life cannot belong to the OFS.

The statements contained in this article are extremely meaningful. They say, in fact, that this specific vocation gives form (the typical edition in Italian uses the word in-forms: gives shape from within) to the life (the being) and to the apostolic action (the doing, the mission) of the members. The article then affirms that the transformation brought about by this vocation, when it is welcomed and lived, is such that one can be part of no other religious commitment in life. If therefore our vocation is authentically Franciscan, all our life must take this single shape: the Franciscan and secular one.

I think it is important to highlight that the acting subject is vocation and not us. Indeed, it is not we who give this form (in-form) to ourselves; it is the vocation which acts upon us. It is God Himself (as always) who takes the initiative and transforms us.

While this is the only reference to the specific character, it seems to me to be a decisive reference even though it does not clearly explain the nature of this specificity. It is essential, therefore, for us to have a clear understanding of the nature of this specific character.

Nevertheless, before considering this aspect, which is decisive for us, we need to reflect on Vocation in its fullest and most inclusive meaning. Very often, in fact, the concept of Vocation and its consequences are not well understood and even neglected or trivialised.

THE FUNDAMENTAL VOCATION

Over and above any specific vocation there is a fundamental vocation which is at the root of our very being and which extends to every creature. This is the call of God to holiness, a call to welcome Him in Christ, to allow ourselves to be “modelled” by the Spirit in order to be re-united with the Father and to share in the very life of God Himself.

From this fundamental vocation derive and depend all other specific vocations.

Our response to this call and its fullest realisation enable us to achieve the conditions of Christian perfection: this is the call of all ordinary Christians. Where, ordinary in this context is certainly not a reductive term, because the ordinary of God is holiness. Therefore, if we manage to accomplish in full our fundamental vocation we would not need to seek any further specification to fulfil God’s project for us.

Each vocation is a call both to be and to do, as inseparable aspects which determine one another. The being is wholly contained in the fundamental vocation. The doing (the mission) springs from this being and in a certain sense determines is specific character.2

The fundamental vocation, taking Christ as its model, corresponds to the expropriation of a private existence to serve universal salvation. It means becoming the property of God. It means being assigned by Him to the redemption of the world, and being used and consumed in the process of that redemption. Every vocation is primarily personal (to be) in order that (springing from a personal “yes” to God) the person can be used for a certain purpose (to do in favour of).3

It is clear, therefore, that we cannot talk about, still less live, a specific vocation without having understood, accepted and realised the fundamental vocation.

To be a Christian is the basis of being Franciscan, and not the other way round.

IS IT ESSENTIAL THAT OUR VOCATION BE SPECIFIC? A NECESSARY CLARIFICATION

Without any doubt, our vocation is specific. Indeed, we are not Jesuits, Dominicans, Carmelites or members of the Focolare Movement or of any other.

Nevertheless... are we confident that we positively need to be something different from simply being Christian? Does simply being Christian not give us enough spirituality to be saints, to realise our potential fully? Certainly it does!

This is a difficult point to deal with for those of us who are used to live in the context of innumerable religious “labels” of which we ourselves are a part. In a certain sense, we are used to thinking that unless we belong to something, we are nothing!

It is almost as if belonging only to Christ and to the Church were not enough!

Certainly, all ecclesial movements have been born from the inspiration of God. He draws them forth through a providential response to a certain need in the Church and the world.

Often indeed, after the initial phase, movements settle down, crystallise and may lose contact with their original inspiration. They may eventually end up living in a self-referring isolation, creating boundaries and often minute distinctions, boasting, at times, unfounded superiorities and self-sufficiency etc. Then, that freedom of the Spirit, which urges us to be open towards everyone and everything, is replaced instead by a self-centred focus, by an ever more marked search for real or presumed specificities which, in reality, isolate the movements within ever more narrow confines. They become separated from the rest with the risk of being transformed into the Pharisees (the separated ones) of today. For many institutes and movements this is a real risk or a present reality. Nor are we and our brothers and sisters in the Franciscan Family immune from this.

To want to be different at all costs is not a good thing for the Church or for us.

It is necessary and urgent, instead, to rediscover the beauty of being “Christian” – simply Christian.

“Why is it so hard to follow the Gospel?” someone asked in a recent Italian television serial about Saint Philip Neri. The reply of the saint is disarming in its absolute truth: “Because it is simple!”

We are conditioned to complexity and this often stands in the way of our grasping and welcoming the beauty of the simplicity of God, as Francis did.

I often feel a certain uneasiness when reading certain books or listening to certain conferences that grasp at straws to explain our profound differences from others, to define our “specific character”, which, on closer inspection turns out to be simply and solely that which Jesus has asked without distinction from everyone.

When I ask my brothers and sisters: How are we different from other Christians? What is it that characterises us as Franciscans? There is at first bewilderment. Then the usual responses come: humility (which we often lack though we talk about it enough); poverty (in fact many of us are poor, though not always by choice); minority (a concept often relegated to mere theory and in which I sometimes think very few Franciscans still believe anymore); and so on. Then, when I ask: But shouldn’t every Christian do these very things?, the silence is deafening.

Francis’ vocation was that of being simply Christian. He never sought any further description than that of being wholly and completely Christian. We, too, need to understand that to be his disciples means to be simply and solely Christian, as he was.

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY:

1. Discuss how you live your “fundamental vocation”, individually and as a fraternity.

2. How would you describe the specific vocation of the OFS and of each single Secular Franciscan? (GGCC art. 2 and art. 3)

3. Are we Secular Franciscans different from other Christians? If yes, in which way? If not, why not?

FOOTNOTES

1 “… they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words”. (Rule, 6)
Let the proclamation of Jesus, which is the Gospel of hope, be your boast and your whole life”. (B. John Paul II - Ecclesia in Europa, 45)
“All are called to “proclaim” Jesus and their faith in Him in every situation; to “draw” others to the faith through models of personal, family, professional and community life which reflect the Gospel; to “radiate” joy, love and hope, so that many people, seeing our good works, will give glory to our Father in heaven (Mt 5, 16), and be “won over”; to become a “leaven” transforming and enlivening from within every expression of culture”. (Ecclesia in Europa, 48)

2 cfr. Gen. Const. 100.3

3 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Vocazione, Ed. Rogate, pag. 23, 2002

OFS_logoPRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER
JUNE 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 30

 

 

DOC)

EVANGELIZED TO EVANGELIZE

by Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFMCap
Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS


 

THE BEATITUDES:
THE MOST DANGEROUS AND REVOLUTIONARY TEXT IN HUMAN HISTORY (Part II)

In this edition of the dossier, we continue Fr. Fernando’s reflection on the Beatitudes, the "Constitutional Charter" of Christianity. This important text is really the secret code of the Bible and of life. The Bible was born from life, and, if we want to and allow it, life can be born in the Bible.  However, it will not be an ”easy life" but, then, nobody ever said it would be easy.

"Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted."

We are only able to cry for two reasons: we cry because we are joyful, or we cry because we are sorrowful.  Isn’t this true?  But I will dare go further. There is really only one reason that is able to make us cry... we cry because we love. They who do not love do not cry. This is the only real reason that makes someone cry.

Every day, we are confronted with the news of tens, hundreds, and even thousands of dead casualties.  But, even with these large numbers, we may not cry. However, if one person that we love dies, then we will surely cry.  In numerical terms, the reality is unparalleled. Tens, hundreds or thousands of deaths on the one side and "only" one dying on the other. The only thing that is different is the relationship; that which led to the tears of sadness was love.

That’s it... blessed are you who weep because you are blessed to be able to love. Blessed are you who love - who are able to have and build a relationship with someone, who refuse to live proudly as “singles," who are able to love others and life, who do not live to do transcendental meditation looking at your own belly button, who are not content with lonely pious and mystical ruminations. This is at the heart of love and of life. As a Portuguese proverb says: "Those who are subject to love shall be bound to suffer ". Well, nobody ever said it would be easy; yet, none of those who dared to live like this said it was not worthwhile.

"Blessed  are the meek for they will inherit the earth"

In this beatitude, we have another statement in defiance of the norm and another possible misunderstanding of what it means to be "meek." Here, we must define what it means to be “meek” in the light of what has been said before. Once again, this beatitude challenges us to a new attitude of being, of being different, of being in a new way, and in a way unlike that of those who make violence the driving force of their existence. The meek are the experts of “non-violent violence”.  The violent cannot have the last word; never will they have it, if we want to put them in opposition to the meek. But perhaps, we must go a step further. In the depths of his or her being, the "meek" is, ultimately, someone in balance with oneself, with others, and with God. This meekness is to be urgently cultivated. We are not talking about apathy towards life or an attitude of “anything goes” or problems of self-esteem... the challenge is much more profound. It is the challenge of Mahatma Gandhi, Teresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther King – it is the "war of the non-violent."

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they shall be satisfied"

Anawim and dalim, the poor who depend on the Lord for deliverance and the miserably poor, united in the same struggle and determination to regain their lost dignity, their right to be treated as persons, so often denied by the great ones of this earth, by the lords of hatred, of opium, of power, and of death. This beatitude is not about a commitment to change history only for the sake of confrontation, but rather it expresses a willingness to go further; it is close to the experience of hunger and thirst since it touches our innermost being and will only reach its goal when it is satiated.

It is not enough to be "nice"... our society already has enough friendly people.  It is not enough to cultivate the smile of political correctness... Confucius said that “behind the smile are teeth.” Did you ever feel that people were smiling at you on the outside but, on the inside, they really wanted to bite? Did you ever smile at anyone willing to do the same?  Indeed, the challenge is much deeper.  The blatant invitation is to be empathetic. It is not enough to just to be "nice". Consider the word “sympathetic” made up of “sun” and “pathos”, meaning “to suffer with someone”. The urgent urgency of our revolutionary act definitely pushes toward empathy (em + pathos), meaning “to suffer with”, and making the struggle of the others my own... right now, today, at this moment, now and for eternity.

Thus, today is not the time to cross your arms, waiting around the corner of life for eternity to pass.  Rather, today is the time to roll up your sleeves, without fear, and with the courage of those who know in Whom they have put their trust.

“Blessed  are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”

In the Old Testament, two of the central “attributes” of God are mercy and truth (hesed and 'emet).  In this part of the Beatitudes, Matthew identifies the anawim as precisely the people who live this same sense of God. A God of hesed, a God of mercy is ultimately – based on the etymology of the term – a God with “guts” or, in a more poetic vein, a God with “a heart”, a God who challenges the anawim to this same attitude toward life.

Far from simply taking poetic liberty for speculative purposes, the invitation of this Beatitude to happiness and bliss is precisely an invitation to having a heart beating to the rhythm of the heart of God – a passionate heart, a heart that is not solitary, a heart that is married to life and to the world, just as God is married to the whole of creation... no exceptions. God is married to all… even to Catholics.

“Blessed  are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

Inserted in and committed to the story of humankind, the heart that seeks to adjust its pace to the rhythm of God’s heart will "inevitably" find its balance and will be able to recover its original purity. Whoever is able to make this intimate journey cannot fail to find their own balance of being and, in so doing, will have found the first stage that leads to happiness – that of achieving balance with oneself.

Then, it will be possible to "see God". Then the taboo related to how we see life will fall to the ground. Then, it will be possible to understand that those who "see God" are really those who are able to see the other... because God is not in any distant heaven, but in the here and now, in the life and the time which is already our eternity.

Let us be clear. The God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, is not a God of some distant heaven. Our God is a God of the "earth," a “close” God, of the road, of dust and of wind, a God who is a companion, a God that we can call “You”, and, therefore, a God of relationship. That is why God allows us to “see” Him, allows us to “touch" Him, and does not preserve himself from entering into a relationship.

“Blessed  are the peacemakers , for they shall be called children of God”

As the text of the Beatitudes becomes more explicit in terms of describing what it means to be "blessed", it now points to a new category of people who bring together all of the attributes outlined above: the peacemakers. It is here that we reach the central concept of the challenge of conversion. Shalom is much more than a concept that speaks of the absence of war. It is, in itself, a concept of wholeness that encompasses all dimensions of life and the relationships of each one with himself, with others, and with God. It is indeed a utopian concept, a challenge to the construction of the future, a dream of eternity, educating to “long for the future”, and the construction of a paradise that never existed but that, by the will of God, all humanity is called to dream and build.

This dream of full equilibrium is present in all cultures, times, peoples, and civilizations. Whether you call it peace, shalom, salaam, morabeza, nirvana, pankasila, metempsychosis, or shanti, humanity will always have this desire written in the depths of its genetic code. It is there that God's plan is really inscribed. The problem resides in humanity’s inability to make a correct reading of its own code – divine and human – merged and intertwined in an upward spiral of complexity / consciousness, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin. Having so much difficulty in understanding the harmony of the movement of this dance, we therefore attempt, too quickly, to build a "personal peace", building instead the "collective war" in the name of God ... and in order to build peace!

And we confuse it all.  Sad is our plight.  We are far too ready to establish peace through war, along the time. The great "cultures" have always been able to find reasons to justify killing in the name of God.  Today, we wonder about recent fundamentalism...

Metanoia, conversion, jihad, are similar concepts with similar meanings. All of them, etymologically, or at least theologically, are associated to the concept of "war" or "holy war". Furthermore, it is – primarily and essentially – a war waged by each on oneself, a struggle to develop the abilities of the self in its subjective relation with others and with God. Achieving this degree of balance amounts to building peace through war; however, this is a war that sees on the battlefield the "warrior" who does not want to "kill the other" or the "god of the other," but simply to kill his own false gods that keep him from accepting the other and their way of understanding God, seeking a balance that will lead "fatally" to peace.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.”

Well, this actually seemed too good to be true. The text of the Beatitudes lands back into the real world. Having presented the ideal in the face of our possibility, the reader is left in this final portion of the text, to be confronted with the reality of "fate" which waits for anyone who expects to be able to base their life on this set of principles, taken to the last consequences. Persecution, insult, lies, slander, will be the traveling companions of anyone who dares to touch preconceived ideas. There are many other moments throughout history that reveal the fulfillment of this "prophecy". That is why this is the most dangerous and, at the same time, the most revolutionary text of all the history of human literature. So too is it a text whose ultimate meaning can never be hidden.

"To all of you brothers and sisters in Christ and Francis, agents of active solidarity, I leave a sign of my respect and affection for what you mean to me – hearts beating in history, hearts that beat to the rhythm of the heart of God."

Fr. Fernando Ventura OFM Cap

Literature:

VENTURA, FERNANDO, Roteiro de Leitura da Bíblia, Ed. Presença, 2009.
VENTURA, FERNANDO, Do Eu solitário do Nós solidário, Ed. Verso de Kapa, 2011.

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY:

In light of Fr. Fernando’s reflection on the Beatitudes, study and discuss in your fraternity the following texts  in the General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order:

1. "Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty." (GGCC Art. 15/1)

2. "Secular Franciscans are called to be bearers of peace in their families and in society: they should see to the proposal and spreading of peaceful ideas and attitudes; they should develop their own initiatives and should collaborate, individually and as a fraternity, with initiatives of the Pope, the local Churches, and the Franciscan Family; they should collaborate with those movements and institutions which promote peace while respecting its authentic foundations." (GGCC Art. 23/1)

3. "Secular Franciscans – called in earlier times "the brothers and sisters of penance" – propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion." (GGCC Art. 13/1)