Obedience — Ministers and Guardians

Obedience — Ministers and Guardians

The prevalence (in regard to the vow of obedience) of individualistic values of personal autonomy (36%), associated with modernity, is freely recognised. There is, in fact, a clear awareness of the difficulties in living this vow today. It is no longer seen as discernment of God’s will (45%), but only in terms of self-sufficiency, of not having ties that constrain or threaten one’s freedom. There is a perceived lack of deep interpersonal communication with superiors (31% = 436), highly correlated to the belief of their inability to manage authority (the superiors are either too weak or too authoritarian) (32%). This is a gap that perhaps is being remedied today within Religious Life through more adequate preparation of those in charge. Here again, the discourse of interpersonal relations returns; no longer among friars of equal rank, but rather in the vertical relations of authority, which today require a lot of prudent competence in the management of leadership within communities of Consecrated Life.” [Mion, p. 115]

We have noted that the theme of fraternal relations and the difficulties related to them cuts right across this study, not just in the more specific topic of the management of authority, where the complaint, especially from the younger group, is of a climate in which “everything is allowed”. This can be seen as a significant plea for the promotion of a better aptitude for true “government” of the fraternity, which must be attentive to people and in dialogue with them. But above all, it seems that the most significant complaint is the absence of this kind of government, rather than bad practice in government.  (F&P Document, p. 35)

The data and interpretation that have been presented show that friars in a vocational crisis very often need not only personal accompaniment from a spiritual director or a professional, but also a real rapport with the Order’s institutional representatives, because it is in relationship with them that the friar’s sense of belonging can “heal” and re-establish itself. Given the sensitivity of the Minister or Guardian’s task in this situation, in which there is a combination of more personal aspects and issues that are more institutional, this service cannot be simply left to the intuition or improvisation of the individual Minister or Guardian — a more specific preparation is needed…..

The area of the animation of fraternity: training in the collaborative preparation of a common life project; management of local Chapters or other meetings; conflict management and ordinary relationships, etc.

The area of personalized accompaniment: training in empathic listening; the discernment of the motivations and ideals of the friars with whom he is engaged; skills and a breadth of vision in the accompaniment of those in crisis and in the process of a “second decision”; clarity as regards the essential aspects of Franciscan identity, etc.  (F&P Document, pp. 54, 55)

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Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil

Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil

An excerpt from “Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil” by Br. Michael D. Calabria, OFM

 

Like many Muslim rulers of his day, the Sultan was a cultured and learned man. Muslim historian al-Maqrizi wrote that: “Al-Kamil much loved men of learning, preferring their society…He loved discussions with Muslim divines, and had a good number of curious problems on jurisprudence and grammar with which he would examine scholars, and those who answered rightly he advanced and gave them his favor. He gave lodging with him in the Citadel to several men of learning…Beds were set up for them beside his so that they might lie on them and converse through the night. Learning and literature flourished under him, and men of distinction resorted to his court.”

The Sultan’s apparent interest in Francis could very well have been due to his resemblance to the fuqarā – “the poor ones,” the mystics of Islam called Sufis – literally the ones who wore patched woollen garments. In his appearance, manner and speech Francis’ Order of poor, itinerant “lesser brothers” would have seemed to him more like a Sufi brotherhood (ţarīqah). Not unlike medieval Christendom, the Islamic world of the 12th – and 13th centuries had given rise to numerous mystics – male and female – who spoke of the oneness of existence, who expressed a burning desire for a God experienced as Beautiful, Merciful and Gentle, and who emphasized a life of itinerancy, contemplation, and spiritual and material poverty.

We know that al-Kamil was particularly drawn to a Sufi poet of his day, ‘Umar ibn al-Farid, called “the Prince of Lovers” on account of his sensual pining for the presence of God.  Stories related about al-Farid speak of his habit of stripping off his clothing, his ability to communicate with animals, and his tearful fits of desire for the divine, topi also found in Franciscan hagiography.  Al-Kamil would also have been familiar with a sufi master called al-shaykh al-akbar, “the Greatest Shaykh,” Ibn al-‘Arabi, who passed through Egypt at least twice during al-Kamil’s lifetime. Ibn al-‘Arabi is the sufi most associated with the concept of al-wahdat al-wajud, “the oneness of being.” Sucinctly put, the term signifies that there is only one existence, one wajud that is God. Thus, although humans perceive multiplicity in the phenomenal world – different peoples, races, classes, religions, etc. – true existence belongs to God alone. Every person and thing only reflects the existence of the One, and thus all is one in the One. Given his attraction to Sufi spirituality exemplified by Ibn al-‘Arabi and al-Farid, it is no wonder that the Sultan took interest in Francis.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

 

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Taddeo Gaddi, St Francis and the Trial by Fire before the Sultan of Egypt

 

 

 

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Letter from the Minister General about his Bicycle Accident

Letter from the Minister General about his Bicycle Accident

My dear Brothers, 

May the Lord give you peace!

I am writing from the University of Chicago medical center. On Thursday, August 15, I was riding my bike along the lakefront, something I have done each day since beginning my holiday in the United States. Unfortunately, I did not see a place in the road where there was a hole. I entered the hole but then ran into another slab of concrete, which prevented me from moving forward. As a result, I fell from the bike onto my left side. The impact of the fall onto hard cement resulted in the breakage of part of the pelvic bone that holds in place the femur and controls leg movement. As a consequence, I will undergo surgery to reconstruct of the affected areas. I thank God that no other parts of my body were injured.

According to the doctors, it is a complex injury that will require extensive post-operation physical therapy and rehabilitation. I will be absent from the General Curia for an extended period of time. According to Art. 200 §1 of our General Constitutions, during my absence as I am impeded, all issues and matters must be referred to the Vicar-General, Bro. Julio César Bunader.

Thanks to the Friars, to the Conventuals, the Capuchins, the Poor Clares, the Sisters, the Secular Franciscans and all those who have sent messages or have called to demonstrate their concern and support for me. 

I will ask one of the friars of my Province to provide updates to the General Curia as things develop. Please keep me in your prayers! Even as you pray for me, I will keep you in prayer. May God bless each of you.

 

Chicago, Illinois, USAAugust 17, 2019

Fraternally yours,

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

 

 

Prot. SG 19/19

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Identity of YouFra in Today’s World

Identity of YouFra in Today’s World

There is no better way or recipe to find one’s true identity than to commit oneself to understand what the Scriptures say about man and woman, creatures made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1: 26-27). The Word of God offers, to those who listen to it, not only the opportunity to know their own identity, but also numerous perspectives to carry out the mission of witnessing to an evangelical life lived after the model of St. Francis. It is imperative that we should try to imitate the young man of the Gospel: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). In other words, even today, young people must have the courage to ask Jesus what the path they must follow to find their true identity and their mission in this world is, in the place and in the reality in which the Lord has placed them.

When young people let themselves be guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, they understand that they are «called to share their experience of Christian life in fraternity, and, in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi, seek to deepen their own vocation under the auspices of the Secular Franciscan Order».

Those who understand this and are thus able to deepen their vocation will be pleased to discover that their being a Christian is somehow intertwined with that of the OFS, whose Rule can become an inspirational document for the growth and maturation of their own Christian and Franciscan identity (cf. GGCC OFS art.96, 3). For this reason, the most important thing is to identify oneself as children of God who need to love others and to be loved, to listen and to be heard, to respect others as one wants to be respected (Cf. Mt. -40; Mk 12.29-30.33; Lk 10.27).

However, this awareness is not attained automatically: everyone must listen to the Word of God, be able to love it and preserve it in his heart. It is important to have the courage to find one’s specific and true identity as children of God, worthy of the freedom to witness the faith, the happiness of living and proclaiming the truth, not only with words, but also with works. Thus the Holy Father reminded young people: “My dear young friends, love the word God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness…It is not easy to recognise and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are “free”, but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies”. Therefore, the great secret whose discovery allows us to find our identity is hidden in the Sacred Scripture and in the Rule of the OFS (cf. GGCC art. 96.3): if it is sought with a spirit of discernment it is discovered and thus we become children loved by God and called by Him to follow Him along the path prepared for us, for the benefit of the fraternity and the world to which we belong. As believers we must always identify ourselves with Jesus: in service, in sacrifice, in listening, in forgiveness, in accepting, in mercy and in brotherhood. It is essential that today’s young people, despite their fragility, feel that they are his disciples, joyful to carry on the hope of a better future, without ever falling into conformism and allowing themselves to be guided by the true light – Christ himself! – at the same time walking in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi!

To find one’s identity depends totally on continuous discernment, on the ability and courage to let oneself be guided by the Spirit of God. «If we live by the Spirit, we also walk according to the Spirit» (Gal 5:25). Of course, it is not enough to read or listen to the Word of God if one does not have faith transmitted by parents. To find their identity, young people need the accompaniment of adults, who are exemplary teachers who help them, accept them as such and offer them the opportunity to find in their example the lived Gospel in which they can find comfort, acceptance, light for their steps even in a world where egocentrism dominates the hearts of so many young people! For this reason the Holy Father continues to remind them: «To you young people I say: Do not be afraid to go against the current, when they want to rob us of hope, when they propose rotten values, values like food gone bad – and when food has gone bad, it harms us; these values harm us. We must go against the current! And you young people, are the first: Go against the tide and have the daring to move precisely against the current. Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so».

As Jesus asked his disciples to tell him what men thought of him (cf. Mt 16:13), so should be the attitude of parents, elders, religious leaders and political leaders: «to search together to look for the possible self-awareness of the world of youth», so that young people can recover the desire to feel like people of faith, able to learn from adults and admit that they need their help. This is the secret for appropriating one’s identity and mission which, for the members of YouFra, is that of being Christian and Franciscan. Therefore, always try to be witnesses and instruments of the mission of Christ among men, announcing Christ with life and with the word (cf. Rule OFS 6 CCGG 17.1). This is the heart of true and authentic Franciscan identity.

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Koinonia 2019-2Identity and Mission of YouFra

N. 102

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Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World

Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World

An excerpt from “Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World: A Franciscan Paradigm for Dialogue with Islam” by Br. Michael F. Cusato, OFM

 

We would do well to repeat the message: the one we think is our enemy is actually our friend. To understand the true import of Francis’s words and to avoid the pitfall of equating the meaning of “friend” with “friendship,” it is better to associate the Latin word amicus (friend) with a word that is a little more familiar to us and more central in the Franciscan lexicon: frater. Seen in this light, the one we have been taught to see as our enemy – taught by society, taught by the Church – is actually our fratres et sorores, our brothers and sisters!

In this powerful, if brief, message, Francis is telling the brothers that he is going to the Holy Land in order to show by the actions of his own life that the one whom the Church calls the infidel and the enemy par excellence is, in fact, a brother: part of the human family, a member of the human fraternity. Francis is going, in other words, to preach by his words but especially by his own deeds the message of penance: namely, that no one, not even the one most despised by the Church and considered to be the enemy of Christ, not even those who may have perpetrated heinous deeds against another, surrenders their creaturehood or exists outside of the human fraternity. But such creaturehood also entails responsibility: the responsibility of each member of that sacred fraternity – Christian and Muslim – to live in a manner that preserves and honors the bonds that indissolubly bind us all together. To do this is to do penance. Francis is going to the East to show this – and to live this – even if it might cost him his own life. And if it does – if, in the process of being utterly faithful to the life he has promised since his encounter with the lepers, treating every human person as a sacred creature of the human fraternity – then, having been faithful to his vow, he and all who follow him in this will gain eternal life. It is what every religious is promised on the day of his or her profession.

This is a profound message, utterly consistent with what Francis learned in the seminal experience of his conversion. Thus: Francis did not go to the Holy Land to provoke his own death. Rather, he went in order to bring the message of penance and to live out, to its ultimate conclusion, his radical vision of the universal fraternity of all creatures.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

DOWNLOAD PDF

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Francis before the Sultan, Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart, Church of the Gesù, Rome

 

 

 

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