PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
JULY 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 31
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
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.
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.
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 be” conformed 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?
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