At this time of year, we hear of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt for asylum following King Herod’s decision to murder the Holy Innocents. We also remember a year filled with political rhetoric directed against refugees and migrants.
At the Christmas Mass which I attended this year, the celebrant presented a poem in his homily — a poem which presents a very different message when read top to bottom, as opposed to bottom to top. Here is that poem, in both versions, first top to bottom and then bottom to top:
They have no need of our help So do not tell me These haggard faces could belong to you or me Should life have dealt a different hand We need to see them for who they really are Chancers and scroungers Layabouts and loungers With bombs up their sleeves Cut-throats and thieves They are not Welcome here We should make them Go back to where they came from They cannot Share our food Share our homes Share our countries Instead let us Build a wall to keep them out It is not okay to say These are people just like us A place should only belong to those who are born there Do not be so stupid to think that The world can be looked at another way
The world can be looked at another way Do not be so stupid to think that A place should only belong to those who are born there These are people just like us It is not okay to say Build a wall to keep them out Instead let us Share our countries Share our homes Share our food They cannot Go back to where they came from We should make them Welcome here They are not Cut-throats and thieves With bombs up their sleeves Layabouts and loungers Chancers and scroungers We need to see them for who they really are Should life have dealt a different hand These haggard faces could belong to you or me So do not tell me They have no need of our help
It happened, three years prior to his death, that St. Francis of Assisi decided to celebrate at the town of Greccio the memory of the birth of the Child Jesus with the greatest possible solemnity, in order to arouse devotion. So that this would not be considered a type of novelty, he petitioned for and obtained permission from the Supreme Pontiff.
He had a manger prepared, hay carried in and an ox and an ass led to the spot. The brethren are summoned, the people arrive, the forest amplifies with their cries, and that venerable night is rendered brilliant and solemn by a multitude of bright lights and by resonant and harmonious hymns of praise. The man of God stands before the manger, filled with piety, bathed in tears, and overcome with joy. A solemn Mass is celebrated over the manger, with Francis, a levite of Christ, chanting the holy Gospel. Then he preaches to the people standing around him about the birth of the poor King, whom, whenever he means to call him, he called in his tender love, the Babe from Bethlehem. A certain virtuous and truthful knight, Sir John of Greccio, who had abandoned worldly military activity out of love of Christ and had become an intimate friend of the man of God, claimed that he saw a beautiful little child asleep in that manger whom the blessed father Francis embraced in both of his arms and seemed to wake it from sleep. Not only does the holiness of the witness make credible the vision of the devout knight, but also the truth it expresses proves its validity and the subsequent miracles confirm it. For Francis’s example, when considered by the world, is capable of arousing the hearts of those who are sluggish in the faith of Christ. The hay from the crib was kept by the people and miraculously cured sick animals and drove away different kinds of pestilence. Thus God glorified his servant in every way and demonstrated the efficacy of his holy prayer by the evident signs of wonderful miracles.
In 1217, Pope Leo X issued the bull “Ite vos,” also known as the “Bulla unionis,” which divided the Franciscan order into two separate families: the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance and the Friars Minor Conventual.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, over 100 OFM, OFM Conventual and OFM Capuchin friars are expected to gather at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago for a symposium commemorating the 500th anniversary of Ite Vos. The morning session will be available via live video stream. Speakers will include:
Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap. — “Common Franciscan Values”
Dominic Monti, OFM — “The History and Context of Ite Vos”
Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. — “Common Franciscan Projects Around the World”
You may have seen the news release earlier last week saying that the US Franciscan provinces in the US had taken a step towards restructuring and wondered what this means for the Franciscan ministries, your favorite friar, or the friars in your parish. This week, we present what’s going on. If your question isn’t addressed, please feel free to add it in the comments section.
What is a “province”?
St. Francis of Assisi established our order to be a decentralized one. While we do have a minister general in Rome who is the successor to St. Francis, in fact most of the day-to-day decisions in the order are handled in the various provinces throughout the world.
St. Francis also took Jesus’s mandate that the “first shall be last and the last shall be first” to heart. Unlike some religious congregations which call their leaders superiors, in the Franciscans the leaders are called ministers and guardians. In the rule which all friars vow to live, Francis wrote that when dealing with their leaders ¨the brothers can speak and act as lords do with their servants. For that is the way it ought to be. The ministers should be servants of all the brothers.”
How many provinces are there?
There are over 100 OFM provinces throughout the world. In the US, there are seven provinces. You can read about them on our History page. Their headquarters are located across the US, in cities such as New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Oakland.
What is R+R, Revitalization and Restructuring?
While the number of religious is growing in Asia and Africa, it is dropping in Europe and the US. Structures which were established for a larger number of friars are now found to be not as efficiency with less men. The provincial ministers in the US are taking this opportunity to both create new excitement and energy in Franciscan life in the US, as well as modify the governing structures of the order here. This process of Revitalization and Restructuring is referred to by the shortcut “R+R.”
What was the recent announcement about?
The power to create provinces is reserved to the minister general and his councilors in Rome. The US provincials decided at their last meeting to ask the friars in their various provinces if they are interested in forming one US province. If the friars are in agreement, then the provincials will petition the minister general to restructure the US provinces. The minister general will appoint a delegate to meet with the US friars individually, as well as look at many of the friar ministries, and to then make a recommendation to the general council.
One US province, the Immaculate Conception Province, based in New York City, has already decided to not participate in the R+R process.
How long is this going to take?
Frankly, because of the various issues involved, it will take some years to effect the restructuring, if it happens. The best guess is that it may be completed by 2022 or 2023.
What’s going to happen to my parish/ministry/favorite friar?
Really, from most people’s perspective on the outside, not much will change. The same parishes will be staffed by the same friars. There will be some efficiencies internally in our organization, but also greater costs incurred by the greater distances to be traveled, for example, when the provincial minister visits the friars across the US.
For the friars themselves, there will be much richer variety of possible ministry opportunities available. A young man may want to serve in a California mission, or with migrants on the southern border, or in one of our colleges and universities, or in different parish settings, or with different language groups, or in direct service to the poor, or some mixture of these ministries during his life. No longer will he be restricted to those ministries available only in area the country served by his current province.
Is this a positive step?
Friars have been living in one of the existing provinces for many years. They were received and formed by their province. Their closest friar friends are usually within their province. We have shared stories — some true and some mythical. In leaving this behind, there will, of course, be some sadness and grieving. Friars worry if the traditions, struggles, and histories of their provinces will be respected and maintained in the new province.
At the same time, the richness of new ministry opportunities, as well as the large number of new collaborators and potential new friends brings an excitement. An integral part of the process is the revitalization of Franciscan life, and this also adds a feeling of excitement and hope.
Our founder, St. Francis of Assisi, realized that there is enthusiasm and energy when beginning a new project. St. Bonaventure tells us that St. Francis would tell the other friars: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.” One of Francis’s other biographers, Friar Thomas of Celano, tells us that Francis “did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of holy newness, he constantly hoped to begin again.”
We hope and prayer that “beginning again” through the R+R process will bring us new enthusiasm, energy and faithfulness to our mission.
WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. – The OFM provincial ministers of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Most Holy Name of Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, Saint Barbara and Saint John the Baptist provinces gathered with their provincial councils at Mount Alvernia Retreat Center here from Aug. 21-25, 2017, to further the discernment of renewal and revitalization of the life and ministry of their friars.
On Aug. 23, 2017, they voted unanimously to place before their provinces for a vote at extraordinary chapters in May 2018 a resolution that the General Minister and General Council of the Order of Friars Minor approve a formal process to reconfigure their six existing provinces into one new province.