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PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER


MARCH 2013 – YEAR 4 – No.39

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY
by Blessed Pope John Paul II

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Lucy Almiranez, OFS
Mike and Jenny Harrington, OFS


The human heart – TOB 24 – 63

 

 

CHRIST APPEALS TO THE HUMAN HEART

We have looked at our original state, created by God, which was innocent, pure, happy, untouched by sin and its consequences. Adam and Eve were joined in a blissful union with selfless reciprocal love, experiencing the fullness that every married couple longs for. They were created with the capacity to be united with God in love forever and this capacity could only be fulfilled with free choice. But our first parents did not accept this loving invitation and by their disobedience humanity is now subjected to sin and death.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you: Whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28)

 

This passage also has a significance for the theology of the body.  It brings about a fundamental revision of the way of understanding and carrying out the moral law of the Old Covenant. We thus find ourselves at the heart of the ethos, or the inner form, the soul, as it were of  human morality. Christ appeals to the inner man.

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

 

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

 

MONTHLY DOSSIER

MARCH 2013 – YEAR 4 – No.38

 

 

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY

 

by Blessed Pope John Paul II

 

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team

Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator

Lucy Almiranez, OFS

Mike and Jenny Harrington, OFS

 

Back to the Beginning - Our Creation (TOB 1-23)

 

 

CHRIST APPEALS TO THE BEGINNING

By pointing us back to" the beginning", Christ not only re establishes God's original plan for man and woman as the norm, he also provides the power for us to live it. The good news of the Gospel is that "Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins." (CCC 2336)

John Paul II takes us back before Original Sin existed as Jesus has taken us back to the "Beginning". In this way we see the real meaning of human life and human sexuality, God's original intention for humanity.

Besides Jesus pointing us back to Genesis (God's original intention) He indicates that something has changed. Jesus solemnly declares that marriage is indissoluble. He indicates the significance of marriage as a lifelong union is something inscribed in our very nature as God created it.

'Some Pharisees came to him to test him and asked him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?" And he answered them, have you not read that from the beginning the Creator created them male and female and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and the two will be one flesh? So it is that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined let man not separate." They objected, "Why then did Moses order to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus answered, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Mt 19:3-8

'God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created him.' (Gen 1:27)

Original Solitude

"It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him". (Gen 2:18)
Man is alone without woman, as well as he is "alone" in the visible world as a person. Unlike any other creature, human beings have a special relationship to God. A human being is not something but someone, somebody, a PERSON who can freely determine his own actions, and with the capacity to love God and another. In the beginning man could sense God and His presence. God and man were friends, they were familiar  with each other. Man realised that he is different from the other creatures and has been given a responsibility.

"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good" (Gen 1:31).

As a person we have reason and free will (self awareness / self consciousness and self determination) and the capacity to love God and one another. John Paul II points out that God created us in His image as MALE and FEMALE, our complimentary  sexuality reveals something significant about us and about God.

Our body is the visible expression of the person, John Paul says, the body is the sacrament of the person, "a visible sign of an invisible reality". The body is the outward sign that reveals the inner person, (body and soul.)

Original Unity

This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh? She is to be called Woman, because she was taken from Man. (Gen 2:23)

Man and woman are called to live in a relationship that mirrors the inner life of the Trinity, imaging God not only as individuals, but also through the holy communion of man and woman and the blessing of fertility.

A Man finds his perfection, his fulfilment not in a solitary life, but in a unified life with a woman. Adam found that he was not only alone with God but now he is alone with another human being.

God created us to be in relationship with Him and with other human beings.

Man "cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (GS 24)

The human body reveals profound truths. The male body has a marvellous and unique capacity for union with the female body, and the female with the male. It is evident that they were made to go together. There is also built in desire for such a union, a fascination and attraction with the opposite sex. This body with its sexual complementarity reveals that we are created for relationship and interpersonal union.

"Therefore a man leaves  his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:24)

 

Becoming "one flesh" refers not only to the joining of two bodies but is a 'sacramental expression which corresponds to the communion of persons' (TOB 31:2)

This was not meant to be a platonic relationship, as God says: "be fruitful and multiply" .(Gen 1:28)

Going back to the beginning to what is inscribed in every person, that each is made for and capable of a communion of persons. We freely give self to another in love and receive love in return. We are a gift and we give the gift of self to another in this intimate union of love.  This relates to our being in the image of God "let us make man.." (Gen 1:26.)

God himself is a communion of persons, a Trinity in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit pour themselves out in an eternal exchange of self-giving love. The human body is capable of revealing God. God is neither male nor female, he is pure Spirit. The invisible mystery of Trinitarian love is imaged, or made visible in our bodies when we form a communion of persons in truth and love.

We "can deduce that man became the image of God not only through his own humanity but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning." In other words man "becomes an image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. ... On all this right from the beginning, the blessing of fruitfulness descended" (TOB 9:3). God could not have bestowed a greater purpose and dignity on sexual love. The marital union is meant to be an icon of the inner life of the Trinity.

The fact that we are persons made in the image of God gives us an inestimable dignity.

The Spousal / Nuptial meaning of the Body is our call to self giving love, which is written into our very embodiment as male and female. By becoming a gift to one another in a communion of persons we learn to love and be loved as God loves, and so fulfil our highest destiny. We become a reflection of the very life and love of the Trinity and prepare to share in that life forever. This is true for every human person, whether married, single, or a consecrated celibate, though it is lived in different ways.

"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule'" (Gen 1:28).

Their unity in "one flesh" is worlds apart from the copulation of animals. Unlike the animals, man and woman have the capacity to love (freedom)

Original Nakedness

"now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame before each other". (Gen 2:25)

The first couple,  before the fall saw each other as God sees, they expressed divine love. Their bodies were transparent windows to the inner person, they were not separated from the person and seen as an object. There was a depth of intimacy, communication and natural understanding between the man and woman. There was a wholeness within the human persons. They were totally free.

 

"Nakedness reveals the spousal meaning of the body which is the body's power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and -  through this gift - fulfils the very meaning of his being and existence" (TOB 15:1)

Original nakedness demonstrates that "holiness has entered the visible world." Holiness is what permits man to express himself deeply with his own body... precisely through the 'sincere gift of self.' It is in his body as man or woman (that) man feels he is a subject of holiness." (TOB 19:5)

Original innocence and original sin - When Christ appeals to the "beginning" he asks them to go beyond the boundary between the state of original innocence and the state of sinfulness that began with the original fall. This boundary is linked with the tree of good and evil. These situations have their own dimension in man in his innermost being, knowledge, consciousness, conscience, choice and decision and all of this in a relationship with God, the Creator, who is God of the Covenant of the most ancient Covenant of the Creator with his creature, that is, with man.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil, as an expression and symbol of the Covenant with God broken in man's heart, marks out two diametrically opposed situations and sets them against each other; that of original innocence and that of original sin.

Yet, Christ's words, which appeal to the "beginning," allow us to find an essential continuity in man and a link between these two different states or dimensions of the human being.

First promise of redemption - From the words that Christ speaks, " beginning", we have the right to attribute at the same time the  whole eloquence of the mystery of redemption. Gen 3:15 (Messianic text) . We witness the moment in which   man, male and female, after having broken the original covenant with his Creator, receives the first promise of redemption in the words of the so-called Proto-evangelium in Genesis 3:15. (First announcement of Gospel)

Man participates not only in the history of human sinfulness, he participates in the history of salvation. He is thus not merely shut out from original innocence due to his sinfulness, but also at the same time open to the mystery of the  redemption realized in Christ and through Christ.

Paul in Letter to the Romans expresses this perspective of redemption, when he  writes, "We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for the redemption of  our bodies" (Rom 8:23)

Knowledge and Procreation - The purpose of life is to love as God loves, and this is what our body as a man or a woman are meant for. Through masculinity and femininity, the unmistakable plan of God is revealed, that man and woman are meant to be a potentially fruitful "gift" to one another, not only that, but their mutual gift leads to a third. As John Paul II expresses it "knowledge" leads to generation.

"Adam knew his wife and she conceived." (Gen 4.1)

Fatherhood and motherhood "crown" and completely reveal the mystery of sexuality. "Be fruitful and multiply" is a call to love in God's image and thus "fulfil the very meaning of our being and existence. "

Whatever our particular vocation, we are all called to participate in God's love and to share it with others.

The main principle of Theology of the Body is that the body is a "sign" of God's eternal mystery. It is the mystery of Trinitarian life and Love - of God's eternal Communion as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange" (CCC 221)

"The Church cannot therefore be understood... unless we keep in mind the 'great mystery'... expressed in the 'one flesh' [union] of marriage and the family" (LF 19)

 

Questions for reflection:

1. What is your image of God, and are we able to see ourselves as made in the image of God?

2. What do you think our society believes and teaches us about the meaning of our bodies?

3. What are some ways that your body can be an expression of your gift of self to God and to others?

4. What is meant by sacramentality of the body?

References,  'Man and Woman He Created them' - John Paul II,  'Letter to the Families - John Paul II, Guadium et Spes

 

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

 

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

 

MONTHLY DOSSIER

FEBRUARY 2013 – YEAR 4 – No.37

DOC)

 

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY

 

by Blessed Pope John Paul II

 

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team

Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator

Lucy Almiranez, OFS

Mike and Jenny Harrington, OFS

 

One of the General Conclusions of the General Chapter in Sao Paulo, Brasil in November 2011, states:

"Young people who are concerned, and rightly so, about the important issue of sexuality, need help from Secular Franciscans. In response, Secular Franciscans must begin by offering a concrete witness to these young people by their way of life. The Chapter suggests that Blessed John Paul II’s writings on The Theology of the Body be included in the formation programs of the OFS and YouFra in order to enable its members to rediscover the beauty of sexuality, marriage, and family, and the living of these gifts according to God's plan."

 

What is the Theology of the Body?

 

The 'Theology of the Body' is Pope John Paul II's integrated vision of the human person - body, soul, and spirit. As he explains, the physical human body has a specific meaning and is capable of revealing answers regarding fundamental questions about us and our lives:

  • Is there a real purpose to life and if so, what is it?
  • Why were we created male and female? Does it really matter if we are one sex or another?
  • Why were man and woman called to communion from the beginning? What does the marital union of a man and woman say to us about God and his plan for our lives?
  • What is the purpose of the married and celibate vocations?
  • What exactly is "Love"?
  • Is it truly possible to be pure of heart?

All of these questions and many more are answered in Pope John Paul II's 129 Wednesday audiences, which were given between the years 1979 and 1984. His reflections are based on Scripture (especially the Gospels, St. Paul and the Book of Genesis), and contain a vision of the human person truly worthy of man. John Paul II discusses who man was in the beginning, who he is now (after original sin), and who he will be in the age to come. He then applies this message to the vocations of marriage and celibacy, in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Pope's revolutionary and life-transforming message of hope counteracts societal trends which urge us to view the body as an object of pleasure or as a machine for manipulation. John Paul II portrays a beautiful vision of sexuality in his Theology of the Body and other earlier works including Love and Responsibility. He encourages a true reverence for the gift of our sexuality and challenges us to live it in a way worthy of our great dignity as human persons. His theology is not only for young adults or married couples, but for all ages and vocations since it sums up the true meaning of the human person.

"Brace yourself! If we take in what the Holy Father is saying in his Theology of the Body, we will never view ourselves, view others, view the Church, the Sacraments, grace, God, heaven, marriage, the celibate vocation...we will never view the world the same way again." (Christopher West)

Here we present you the themes of our formation dossiers in this year 2013 (prepared with kind collaboration of Jenny and Mike Harrington, OFS South Africa). We invite you to use these dossiers for your formation work in your frater-nities at all levels. And we will be very pleased if you let us know your experiences with working with our formation dossiers.

 

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY

 

1. Introduction (Pope John Paul 11, Dignity of Human Person, Relationship with Christ - in and through his

body on earth - Incarnation)

2. Back to the beginning – Our Creation (Original Solitude, Original Unity, Original Nakedness, Sincere Gift

of self / Spousal meaning of the Body, Knowledge)

3. The human heart (Original Sin, Concupiscence / lust / shame, Tension / Conflict – human relationships and

created universe, Sermon on the Mount)

4. The Redemption of the Body (Truth and freedom, Self mastery / Purity)

5. The Resurrection of the Body (Our destiny, The Beatific Vision, Communion of saints)

6. Celibacy and Religious life (Vocations)

7. The Sacrament of Marriage

8. Sacramental Sign (Language of the body, Song of Songs, Free, Total, Faithful, Fruitful)

9. Ethics (Humanae Vitae and NFP)

10. Conclusion(s) (Culture of Life, Evangelium Vitae)

 

 

BLESSED JOHN PAUL II

 

Long before he was Pope, Karol Wojtyla was friends with and counselled  hundreds of married couples. He dealt with almost every human struggle in the confessional. His personal experience during the Second World War and Nazism in his youth and early priesthood had a profound influence on his life. Much of his time was spent in thinking writing and reflecting philosophically on the meaning of the human person, the body, love and sexuality. In his book "Love and Responsibility", he says "Man must reconcile  himself to his natural greatness, he must not forget that he is a person". He also states that if love is to be beautiful, if it is to be whole and complete, it must be "fully integrated," meaning it must incorporate incorrect order of priority all the elements of a true love". . "love in the full sense of the word is a virtue, not just an emotion, and still less a mere excitement of the senses".

 

The writings of THEOLOGY OF THE BODY are a fresh and profoundly original approach to the Church’s teaching on love, sex and marriage. This message is countercultural. If we look at the world around us: The philosophy “I can do what I want with my body”,  has led to broken families, a loss of human dignity, lonely individuals and deep moral confusion. We are living in a world saturated with information about sex, it is difficult not to be affected by the barrage of sexual innuendos, messages and images, which are communicated through movies, magazines, TV, billboards and the Internet.

From September 1979 through to November 1984

Pope John Paul II gave a remarkable series of

129 Wednesday audiences devoted to the

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY”,

marriage, and human sexuality.

 

A study of how God reveals his mystery through the human body. A biblical reflection on the meaning of human embodiment as male and female, particularly as it concerns the call of the two to become “one flesh”.

The first targets of the culture of death are the human person, marriage and the family. John Paul II's teachings are a response  that affirm our dignity as a human person and the splendour of  marriage and family. In EVANGELIUM VITAE, he spells out the work of education and the formation of conscience which helps  individuals to be more human, leading them ever more fully to the  truth, with a respect for life and right interpersonal relationships. he says

It is an illusion to think we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and whole of life according to their true meaning and their close inter-connection. (Evangelium Vitae 97)

If we want to discover the real meaning of man and woman, and the reasons why we relate to one another as we do, we need to look,  not only at our psychological makeup or typical behaviour but, what God has revealed about our ultimate origin.

Blessed John Paul has  responded  to society’s chronic confusion about the identity and meaning of the human person, he has  emphasized that the identity and vocation of the human person are fulfilled in and through the total gift of self in love. Gods plan for life and love is so profound and beautiful that once it is revealed to us, we'll never look the same way at a relationship between a man and a woman.

 

 

Questions for reflection:

1. Why do you think Pope John Paul II devoted so much of his energy in writings and teaching on the person,

sexuality, marriage and the family?

2. How could you describe the view of our world today on sexuality and marriage?

3. Why do you think the human person, marriage, and the family are the first targets of the culture of death?

4. How open are you to discussing our sexuality and marital relations within our families?

5. Reflect on your relationship with Jesus Christ in your life and with others.

 

 

References :

'Love and Responsibility' - Fr Karol Wotjyla,  'Man and Woman He Created them' - John Paul II,  www.theologyofthebody.net

'Letter to the familie's - John Paul II, 'Evangelium Vitae' - John Paul II,  'Ubicumque et semper' - Pope Benedict,: -

 

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

MONTHLY DOSSIER

DECEMBER 2012 – YEAR 3 – No.36

 

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

 

With this dossier, we conclude the presentation of Benedetto Lino´s lecture on the subtheme of the last General Chapter in Sao Paolo (Brazil) in October 2011 entitled "A specific vocation for a particular mission".  The following is a summary of Benedetto’s presentation. We invite you to discuss the points in the summary with your fraternities and to share your own thoughts and experiences with your brothers and sisters.

Next year, we will present a new ongoing formation theme: "The Theology of the Body" by Blessed Pope John Paul II. With this presentation, we hope to share in the implementation of one of the Conclusions of the last General Chapter which states "that Blessed John Paul II’s writings on The Theology of the Body be included in the formation programs of the OFS and YouFra in order to enable its members to rediscover the beauty of sexuality, marriage, and family, and the living of these gifts according to God's plan."

SUMMARY

1. “Evangelised in order to evangelise”, “Vocation and mission”: two concepts which express the same fundamental reality of our being Christians.

► 2. The fundamental vocation, which is the same for everyone, precedes every specific vocation and is the basis for it. To live the fundamental vocation is essential before entering upon a “specific” vocation.

► 3. What is specific about our vocation as Franciscans and secular Franciscans: like Francis. Francis is our specificity. Francis’ vocation and its realisation is the model of ours.

► 4. Francis is “only” Christian: he conforms himself to Christ, in order to reach the Father, docile to the action of the Spirit. One is “Franciscan” only to the extent that one fully becomes totally Christian, like Francis.

► 5. Francis’ way of being Christian is characterised only by the intensity of his discipleship: radicalism, totality, permanence. In our own lives, we must trace this way of setting out to follow Christ: radically, totally and permanently.

► 6. Francis, “a Catholic and wholly apostolic man”. Our calling is to be totally Christian, without creating barriers, without boasting of any unfounded superiority, profoundly apostolic, always geared towards “going”, ready to emerge from our customary realities of fraternity, of the Order, the Family, docile to the Lord’s will. Ours is an apostolic vocation. We are the secular outreach of the apostolic religious vocation of Francis.

7. Francis is not “Franciscan”, nor did he wish to found an Order of “Franciscans”. What he wanted was to be only and totally Christian, Catholic, apostolic.  He wanted to have brothers and disciples who were totally in love with Christ, so as to live in communion with the Father, in the Spirit, in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity.

► 8. Mission is not particular: it is total. Its particular nature resides in that totality. As with vocation, mission is the general mission of every Christian, but it too has to be lived and accomplished in a radical, total and permanent manner, with all the intensity of which we are capable. Our mission is to bring the whole Christ.

► 9. The mission revealed by the Crucifix of San Damiano is the paradigm for all Franciscans, and therefore for us Secular Franciscans. The mission is addressed to the entire Church, to the whole body of Christ, in each of its aspects, and in every place.

► 10. The Church’s mission is our mission, and the Church’s mission is to proclaim the good news of God’s love and the redemption of humanity, to give them a share in the life and holiness of God : “…“to make present the charism of our seraphic Father St Francis in the life and in the mission of the Church”.

► 11. The mission, while it must be carried out by each individual, requires concerted action, collaboration and complementarity from all members of the OFS, from all the Franciscans in the entire Family. The time has come for us to realise that we cannot live separated from others with a false sense of self-sufficiency.   God’s plan for Francis and his Family is all-embracing, and we are each working for the other, in one single mission for the Church.

► 12. Mission at the service of the Universal Church and of the local Church, according to needs that arise, as indicated by the pope, bishops and parish priests.

► 13. We are not called to be mediocre Christians, only distinguished for their devotions and attendance at Franciscan events. We are called to commit ourselves with a passion, with every fibre of our being, always and everywhere, to BE HOLY AS OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, like Francis.

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY:

1. What does "Evangelisation", "Vocation" and "Mission" mean for you personally and for your OFS fraternity?

2. How does Francis of Assisi continue to inspire us as Secular Franciscans today?  In which specific ways?

3. What is our specific mission as the Secular Franciscan Order within the overall mission of the Church?

PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

MONTHLY DOSSIER

NOVEMBER 2012 – YEAR 3 – No.35

 

 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 SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER - A TRUE ORDER

What are we as Secular Franciscans? A spiritual movement? A religious group? A lay organisation? We should never forget how the Church sees us: "You are an Order... truly an Order", as all the Popes in the past have confirmed very clearly. But what does this mean to be an "Order"? And why do our General Constitutions define the Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis (OFS) as a “Public Association of the Faithful”? In this dossier, Benedetto Lino provides clear answers to these questions and reminds us of our history, nature and identity.

 

The Popes, too, throughout the last century, have expressed themselves in no uncertain terms about the absolute commitment to and need for holiness in secular Franciscans:

“He [Francis of Assisi] founded an Order, a true Order, that of Tertiaries, not bound by religious vows like the other two Orders, but likewise shaped by simplicity life of and the spirit of penance. Thus Francis first conceived and successfully implemented, with the divine help, the project which no founder of a regular Order had yet conceived: to make the substance of the religious life something that all could share.” (Benedict XV, Encyclical “Sacra Propediem”, January 6, 1921)

“The life-long profession of a good Franciscan Tertiary... does not lie in the rigour of the vows, nor in common life. It is not religious life according to the letter, but according to its spirit. It is the spirit of that life and that perfection brought into the family, in daily life, in ordinary secular life.”

If they are Christian faithful just like everyone else, there is no point in being Tertiaries... the Franciscan Tertiary is a special title... one cannot usurp – and it would be a usurpation – such a title without something special to go with it.” (Pius XI to the Franciscan Tertiaries of Italy, 5 September, 1936) (St. Anna Schäffer, OFS)

“You are an Order: a lay Order, but truly an Order, “an Order in the true sense of the word” as Our Predecessor Benedict XV of holy memory has called you; but you must be a school of Christian perfection. Without that resolute resolve it is impossible to be a suitable member of so chosen and so glorious an army.” (Pius XII, 1 July 1956, Address to the Tertiaries of Rome).

“… 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 your intimate belonging to the great Franciscan Family. The word “Order” means the participation in the discipline and austerity which is proper of this spirituality, while maintaining the autonomy of your lay and secular condition, which implies often sacrifices that are not less important than the ones associated with religious and priestly life.” (John Paul II, June 14, 1988, to the OFS General Chapter)

A constant and consistent Magisterial teaching: 1921, 1936, 1956, 1988!

This gives me the opportunity of underlining a few essential points concerning the nature of the OFS.

Our General Constitutions define the OFS as a “Public Association of the Faithful”. Because of this, some Franciscans complain: We are no longer a Third Order! We are no longer an Order!  We have been downgraded!

Such affirmations are illogical, wrong and misleading. However, even if it were true (and it isn’t), we would be in good company! The Order of Friars Minor, too, would no longer be an Order: they are, in fact, an Institute of Consecrated Life, just like many others.

Can you see? Always lurking under the surface, in fact at times quite visibly, is the desire to boast of our superiority, the disappointment or fear that we count for less!

There’s no need to be afraid! These new titles (Public Association of the Faithful and Institutes of Consecrated Life) derive from the new nomenclature of the Code of Canon Law (1983), and the new names do not change an iota of what we are, of the nature of our Order. Our nature is determined by the foundational inspiration which Francis received from God, by our evolution and by the fundamental documents given to us by the Church.

The more attentive and less superficial readers will not fail to notice that being considered now as a Public Association of Faithful, with all the specifications that this entails, confers on our Order a depth and a richness of attributions and perspectives which go far beyond the vague and fragile status of being considered a third Order as it was understood then. Moreover, the OFS hardly corresponds, now less than ever, to the definition of third Order given by the present Code of Canon Law and to the doctrine underlying it.

No matter what its name, the OFS is, and always remains, the original Order of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of Saint Francis, in an uninterrupted continuity with the one founded by Saint Francis of Assisi!

The name has not changed us in the least. We are the only ones who may change with our unfaithfulness to the vocation received by God!

Anyway, dear brothers and sisters, it is useless to linger any further on these secondary aspects of our life. We should rather concentrate on “becoming saints” and accomplishing our vocation, with humility, simplicity and radicality. And if someone considers us minors or worthless, let us thank the Lord and rejoice: it means that we are on the right track to achieving our vocation in perfect joy!

THE SECULAR TASK TO WHICH WE ARE COMMITTED

We must learn to de-ritualise, to a certain extent, our “being a Franciscan”. In fact, in our case there is an adjective that goes together with “Franciscan”: “secular”. This adjective means that we are immersed in the world, in the ordinary conditions of everyday life.

The good God has no need of more incense, endless psalm-singing, complex liturgical functions, distracted rosaries, or more time spent in church buildings.

What God needs – and I really mean “needs” even of God, is to reach, through us, every man and woman in the world, everything that exists.

God has touched us in Baptism, touches us in every Eucharist, touches us with His Spirit and longs to touch all humanity through us.

God desires that the spirit of fraternity, which Francis received as a primary gift from God, and which should characterise us as well, reaches each and every human being. The task he looks for from us is: “You give them something to eat” (Mt 14, 16) and again “he pronounced the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, and the disciples distributed it to the crowd” (Mt 14, 19).

WHERE GOD WANTS US TO REALIZE OUR BEING AND OUR DOING

If we “study, love and live” our Rule and General Constitutions (Bl. John Paul II, 1982 and 2002) we should be well aware that the family, work and social, political and environmental engagement are themselves the primary “theological” areas of our being and our work. These are the areas in which we must most specifically “serve”.

If the family, our work and social contexts were permeated by our active presence, by our example and commitment, then these realities would be animated by the spirit of love and by the presence of God. Without a doubt, ours would be a better society and the world would be a better world.

COMMITMENT TO BECOME HOLY AND TO CHANGE THE WORLD THROUGH THE GOSPEL, AS FRANCIS DID

How far have we come in realising the whole of our vocation?

How far have we come towards the perfection of love which the Rule demands?

Are we – yes, even you and I - on the high road to becoming other Christs?

Because, you see, this is exactly what we are about. We cannot be content with just getting by, with a bit of pious devotion thrown in, being present, usually distracted, in the local parish Church, always on condition that these things do not disturb our daily routine too much.

To fulfil our function as signs we must become SAINTS1.

This is compellingly urgent and admits of no delay.

 

"DEAREST BROTHERS AND SISTERES, JUST THINK OF THE DECISIVE INFLUENCE WE COULD HAVE FOR CHANGING THE WORLD IF ALL THE 500,000 SECULAR FRANCISCANS, SCATTERED AROUND THE WORLD IN SOME 111 COUNTRIES, LIVED THEIR VOCATION TO THE FULL."

(Benedetto Lino, OFS)

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY:

  1. What are the differences between a religious order, a so called "Third Order" and our Secular Franciscan Order?
  2. Why does the new name “Public Association of the Faithful” (according to the Canon Law) not change the nature of our Secular Franciscan Order?
  3. What does the adjective "secular" in the name of our Order mean and include?

 


1 See also art. 17.4 of our General Constitutions: Participation in the service of sanctification, which the Church exercises through he liturgy, prayer and works of penance and charity, is put into practice by the brothers and sisters above all in their own family, then in the Fraternity and finally, through their active presence in the local Church and in society.