The February 2020 edition of ‘Fraternitas’ is now online and can be downloaded in several languages.
Homily of the Minister General at the Conclusion of the 2020 Meeting with Provincial Ministers and Custodes
The meeting with Provincial Ministers and Custodes concluded on 30 January 2020. During the meeting, different topics were tackled, such as the service of authority, formation for the missions, accompanying brothers going through difficult times, defections from the Order, the Minister Provincial and Definitory, the 2018 PCO in light of the General Chapter, and Finance. All the participants were able to meet with the Minister General personally and were able to visit the offices of the Curia.
In his concluding homily, the Minister General shared these words:
These days we have been following the story of David’s consolidation of power and the reorganizing of the kingdom of Israel. Of paramount concern is his desire to build a house worthy to host the Ark of the Alliance, symbol par excellence of God’s presence among the chosen people. While David is first encouraged by the Prophet Nathan to proceed with the construction of a physical structure, a temple, to commemorate the countless interventions of God on behalf of the people, later he is told not to proceed with this grandiose plan.
Some scholars perceive in the text a theological critique of David’s plan to use the temple project in order to consolidate his royal power. To bring the Ark to Jerusalem would, following the logic of monarchy, signal a divine ‘stamp of approval’ on his larger ambitions to build a strong, united, kingdom. Other scholars suggest that the intersecting interpretations of the word ‘house’, indicating a kingdom (political entity), or a physical structure (temple), or the promise of a long-lasting dynasty – represent the divergent interests of those who contributed to the successive redactions to the original text. Despite these different manners of interpreting the original meaning, what remains constant is the not so subtle contradiction between the will of God, on the one hand, and that of human beings on the other. As the Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). The message of both Samuel and Isaiah is something that is meant not only for the people of the early Covenant; it is meant for all of us who are disciples of the Lord Jesus, and most especially for those called to serve as Ministers.
Like David, one of the greatest challenges we face is that of keeping our eyes and ears, our mind and heart open to the voice that comes from above, from God. Clearly, there will be times when we become so convinced that we understand completely a particular situation, and, therefore, have no need to listen any further to the voice of others or even of God. This can happen to any one of us, especially when, over the course of our service, we become tired of hearing contrasting voices, or when we experience brothers giving a counter-witness to the Gospel. We can become so convinced of our self-sufficiency and infallibility that we no longer are open to seeking new possibilities but only to repeat old inevitabilities. When this happens, nothing new can emerge within the lives of friars, within the life of the Entity, or within our own minds and hearts. Rather than allow for the emergence of something new, we simply revert to repeating the old. This is precisely the point of the biblical text from First and Second Books of Samuel. God does not want us to come to the same conclusions and repeat the same practices that seemingly worked in the past. The fact that God appears ‘willing’ to entertain the construction of a temple is proof that God is also part of this process of change. God recognizes that to change, in the words of Saint John Neumann, is to become perfect, to choose life over death.
One of the most important insights of the 2018 Plenary Council of the Order was the recognition that life continues only to the degree that it changes. In the reports of the Conferences, we detect a growing awareness that change not only is inevitable, it is desirable. The only way for us to embrace change is to engage in a process of sincere, open dialogue, discernment, bringing together all of the various tools at our disposal –our spiritual lives; the strength of fraternal life; the embrace of a world in need of love, acceptance, hope. As II Samuel and Pope Francis (Evangelii gaudium, 45) remind us, the goal of our faith journey is not self-promotion, nor is it survival. This is the temptation of David, to build something to celebrate personal achievements. But there is no future, no life, when we go down this path. In the end, even King David relents and submits his will, his desires, his empire-building aspirations to the will of God, as attested in his prayer:
“And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth; you have made this generous promise to your servant. Do, then, bless the house of your servant that it may be before you forever; for you, Lord GOD, have promised, and by your blessing the house of your servant shall be blessed forever” (II Sam. 7:25-26).
Brothers, may David’s prayer become our prayer. May we renounce with courage those projects that are of human making, and not from God. May God give us the wisdom to know the difference, seeking only God’s will for our lives and the lives of those brothers entrusted into our hands.
My dear Brothers,
May the Lord give you peace!
I wish to confirm reports about my return to the General Curia. It is good to be back “home” and to once again resume the duties entrusted to me by the Lord and by you my brothers.
Throughout the period of my rehabilitation, I felt strongly the presence of you my brothers who were praying for me constantly. Thanks to those brothers in the General Curia, and all who reached out through emails, letters, and fraternal visits. I fear I have not responded to all those who wrote to me. Please accept this note as a sign of my gratitude for your loving care for me.
I also wish to thank the Poor Ladies (Poor Clares), the Conceptionists, and members of the Franciscan family for your prayerful support. May God bless each of you as you follow the evangelical vocation to which you have been called.
A special word of thanks goes to Br. Julio Bunader, the Vicar General of the Order, who together with the General Definitory provided guidance to the Order during my absence. May God bless each of you and strengthen always our collaboration and communion as we serve the Order.
The doctors in Chicago did an excellent job putting the pieces of my bones back together. I am now walking with a cane, which is only temporary. I have been able to walk for up to three hours at one time, exercising and stretching the muscles in the left leg, which bore the brunt of the impact of the bicycle accident. It is my hope that soon I will be able to walk without any assistance, and, eventually, to get back to riding a bicycle.
Yes, I am still a bit ‘crazy’.
The time of rehabilitation provided me an occasion to reflect on my own life and vocation, on the life of the brothers of the Order, the Church, and world, and to ask questions about where we are heading as a band of Lesser Brothers in radically changing times. I was able to meet with several friars, a biblical scholar and a theologian, to begin to lay out a plan for preparing what is entitled the “Report of the Minister General to the Brothers of the Order.” It is my hope that this report, which I plan to forward to the Order by the end of November 2020, will provoke serious reflection, analysis, discussion, the emergence of ideas and concrete proposals to help prepare us to embrace the future with intelligence, courage, hope, and joy, in the spirit of Laudato si’. Clearly this involves reflecting on an integral, ecological vision grounded in relationship with God, the brothers, with all of humanity, and with the created universe. To this end, I urge all brothers of the Order to continue to study and dialogue about the materials contained in the various documents that have been produced during these past nearly five years, most especially on the Final Document of the 2018 Plenary Council that took place in Nairobi, Kenya.
May God bless each of you, my brothers, as you strive each day to live in deep friendship with God; as you express in simple, concrete ways your commitment to the values of fraternity and mission; and as you – as we – dream together the dream God has for the future of the Order of Friars Minor.
Rome, 27 January 2020
Fraternally yours in Christ and St. Francis,
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant
Friar Alessandro has launched his 4th album, Il Paese del Sole, with Encore Music in conjunction with the Franciscan Foreign Missions to which the Artist’s royalties go in their entirety. It is an album which pays homage to the Italian genius in producing melodic and poignant songs and while it marks a departure from his previous recorded repertoire of exclusively sacred music it still sends out the Franciscan message of beauty, joy and peace.
In 1220 the Friars Minor Berardo da Calvi, Accursio and Adiuto da Narni, Ottone da Stroncone and Pietro da San Gemini were killed in Morocco. At the sight of their torn bodies, the Augustinian Canon Fernando da Lisbon decided to put on the Franciscan habit taking the name Anthony, with which he is venerated today as a saint not only in Padua but all over the world.
Eight hundred years later, the diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia and the Franciscan order intend to celebrate this anniversary: it offers many aspects that address issues and challenges of today. For example, it recalls the importance of combining love and sacrifice if the first is not to remain elusive and the second unproductive. Similarly, the life of the martyrs recalls the Christian’s way of life and that of every person who is called to live in gratitude; gratitude which is then expressed in spontaneous self-giving to one’s brothers and sisters.
This centenary is an opportunity to rediscover and appreciate the historical, artistic, social and landscape heritage of southern Umbria with a view to a much needed spiritual, cultural and humanitarian rebirth.
The various initiatives of this year will be announced on Facebook at facebook.com/Centenario-Protomartiri-francescani