The Custody of the Holy Land is hosting the 4thInternational Conference for the Commissioners of the Holy Land from November 26 to December 2, 2018 at St. Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem. The conference is entitled “Pastoral Care for the Pilgrimage: welcome, memory, evangelization.”
For the feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order, the Minister General, Br. Michael A. Perry, shared the following words at Mass.
It is written in the Book of Sirach:
“Yet these also were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten; their wealth remains in their families, their heritage with their descendants…” (44:10-11)
My dear Brothers of the Order, dear friends of St. Francis, the Lord give you peace!
The words from the Book of Sirach speak about two closely related things. First, it presents a wonderful story of God’s desire that all human beings walk in trust and fidelity to the Covenant God has established with Israel. The second element is linked to the response of human beings, those who have publicly professed to be members of God’s Covenant people, who have pledged to place God above the pursuit of all other things, and to live out the radical ethical demands of the Covenant, to live in peace and harmony with all other human beings and with the created universe. The wise person is the one who welcomes the action of God’s grace in his or her life, who seeks always the will of God above all other things, and who never abandons the offer of God’s hope and mercy to all, over and over again, as if God never tires of forgiving those who have temporarily lost their way.
What is amazing in the presentation of Sirach is the place he accords to human beings in God’s plan of salvation. God has created human beings and instilled within each person the capacity to enter into relationship with God and with one another. At the same time, the writer also recognizes that all too often we human beings run away from God for one of several reasons. In the context of the times during which the Book of Sirach was written, sometime around the Maccabean revolt (180 BC), the lure of a materialistic culture promoted by the Greeks was making serious inroads into the minds and hearts of Jewish believers. People begin to place more trust in their own abilities to think, generate income, and accumulate goods and power, leading them to abandon, or at least to neglect, traditional forms of worship and sacrifice prescribed by the laws of the Covenant that were meant to help the people keep their eyes fixed only on God.
When we take our eyes off of God, off the transcendent reality that has the potential of opening our limited historical reality, and the reality of sin, to something much greater, we then begin to think and act like gods, believing that we have power to decide in all things, including the taking of innocent life, the promotion of violence and injustice, thinking only about ourselves. A recent book entitled “Homo Deus” (Yuval Harari, 2015) promotes this same idea of the supposed unlimited capacities of the human intellect devoid of any reference to any transcendental reality, to the existence of God and God’s involvement in daily human life. In the end, Ben Sirach seeks to remind us that we are not self-generated, or are we capable of generating all of the conditions necessary in order to live the mission and identity that God has entrusted to us.
This brings us to the focus of our liturgical celebration today. We are invited to make present through our prayers, and even more importantly by the way we embrace and live our vocation as missionary disciples of the risen Lord Jesus, all of the friars of the Seraphic Order – Conventuals, Capuchins, OFM, TOR, Poor Clares, Conceptionists, Third Order Congregations of religious men and women, Secular Franciscans, indeed, all who have sought to live the evangelical life, who ‘fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith’ (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7). We recognize that they were like us: simple, sinful, limited human beings, called to place their lives in the hands of God; called also to open their eyes, hearts, and hands to recognize the presence of the mystery of God everywhere in the world, and to respond by performing the deeds of God. In the end, those who are considered saints of God, the deceased members of the Seraphic Order who have sought to live their Gospel vocation with sincerity, integrity, and openness, and to live the double love command – love of God and love of neighbor – these are the ones who are most remembered and whose virtues will never be forgotten (cfr. Sir. 44:10).
As we call to mind the saints and holy men of our Seraphic Order, let us recommit to walking in holiness of life and to living fully the Rule and Life we have received from St. Francis, approve by Honorius III on November 29, 1223. Let us allow the grace of our baptism to bear fruit, to lead us to openness to life and to the presence and work of God everywhere (cfr. Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate 15), so that Christ might “accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power (of the Spirit) at work within us” (cfr. Eph. 3:20).
Message from UCLAF (Union of Conferences of the Provinces of Latin America and the Caribbean) on its first 50 years. To all the friars of the Order
We Ministers Provincial and Custodes from the four Conferences of UCLAF, met from October 28th to November 2nd in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, together with the Minister General, the Vicar General, the two Definitors for Latin America, the general animator of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation as well as with other brothers invited by UCLAF.
This year, in communion with the 50thanniversary of Medellin, we also celebrate the jubilee of the birth of this animation space within the Order reflecting on the theme: “50 years of UCLAF, Memory and Prophecy”.
Memory, because we are grateful for the gifts and the seeds sown by so many brothers who were part of these 50 years. We are grateful too for the important influence of the proposals from the Second Vatican Council and from the Latin American Episcopal Conferences, in the animation of our charism and movement.
A grateful memory that led us to celebrate in a festive atmosphere the historical richness of UCLAF, which allows us and commits us to continue making progress. We thank our brothers Javier Mac-Mahón, Salvador Gurrieri; Tarcisio Schmidt, Edgar Santos, Guido Zegarra, who began this story, as well as others living among us and encouraging us to hope.
Prophecy because the Friars Minor are sons and heirs of a prophetic, missionary and martyred Church. The testimonies of Bishop Romero, recently canonised, of our brothers Br. Tulio Maruzzo OFM and Luis Obdulio Navarro OFS, Martyrs of Guatemala, among many others, demand of us a renewed dedication to our charismatic way of looking, understanding and transforming reality. We want to live the Gospel, the source of our life and mission, to give witness to greater dignity and humanity for the impoverished of our Continent.
Prophecy because gathered to know, understand and share what the Lord is telling us in our Entities today, we have become aware of the shadows and challenges that our continent is showing us: violence felt in various forms; human mobility of thousands of our brothers and sisters who migrate to other lands. The socio-political and economic situation in several of our countries pains us, among them, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, the recent situation in Brazil; and the misery of our Church in its scandals wounds us.
Prophecy because we feel challenged by the journey of our peoples in hope and solidarity; by the charismatic call of the care of our Common Home, our sister and mother earth; by the yearning of our young people; by Pope Francis’s search for renewal; and by what the Spirit is saying to the Friars Minor in the recent PCO document.
Memory and Prophecy, because as disciples and missionaries we renew our charismatic identity as brothers and minors to continue announcing the Kingdom of a God who lives in our midst, who encourages us to openness and discernment, imagination and creativity in the face of contemporary challenges.
Memory and Prophecy because we believe in new ways of incarnating our charism. With the eyes and the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth and of our brother Francis, we renew our identity as brothers and minors among the poor, which must characterise our life, and as taught by the Plenary Council of Bahia, “the poor are our teachers, the poor evangelise us.”
This is what we agreed:
Encouraged by the faith of our peoples, by their prayers and commitments; and in the maternal embrace of Our Lady of Guadalupe we greet them by thanking them for their faithfulness, wishing them the Peace that comes from God.
Brothers Ministers Provincial and Custodes of Latin America and the Caribbean
The Tempo Forte of the General Definitory began on Monday 5thNovember 2018. The Minister General, Vicar General, and each of the General Definitors spoke about the activities in which they had been engaged since the conclusion of the previous Tempo Forte (September 10thto 21st, 2018).
Subsequently, the General Definitory elected Br. Francisco Javier VERGARA GAINZA as Visitator General for the Custody of the Franciscan Martyrs, in Morocco.
In the afternoon session, several dossiers were studied and discussed, including the approval of amendments to the particular Statutes presented by the Provinces of Saint James of the Marches, in Italy, of the Twelve Apostles, in Peru, of Saint Francis Solanus, in Argentina, and of Saint Michael the Archangel, in Ukraine, as well as from the Custody of the Annunciation of the BVM, in Albania, dependent on the Minister General.
Extra-Capitular elections in a few Entities of the Order were ratified and some scholarships were granted.
On Tuesday, November 6th, the General Definitory decided the dates for the next meeting with the Conference Presidents, which will be held in the General Curia from May 21stto 24th, 2019 (the official communication of the agenda will be sent to those concerned). They also addressed some issues related to missionary projects directly dependent on the Minister General and the necessary personnel.
On Wednesday November 7th, the General Definitory dedicated the entire working session to listening to updates provided by the General Bursar, Br. John PUODZIUNAS, by the Secretary and the Vice Secretary General for Formation and Studies, Br. Cesare VAIANI and Br. Siniša BALJIC, and the General Animator of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Br. Jaime Andrés CAMPOS FONSECA.
On Thursday November 8th, in the morning, the Minister and some General Definitors took part in the Blessed John Duns Scotus Conference at the Pontifical Antonianum University. The Definitory met in the afternoon and dealt with the following requests: financial support, the return of some friars under the obedience of their provincial minister, transfer to our Order, as well as some cases under the jurisdiction of the General Procurator to be discussed with the Vatican Congregations. After some updates about upcoming events that will involve the Minister and the Definitory General, the Definitory addressed the complex question of the possibility of improving the General Curia Database.
On Friday November 9th, a draft programme was presented for the Chapter of Mats of the friars living in the Houses of Rome dependent on the Minister General, to be held on November 15thto 16th, 2019 (the Guardians, members of the Preparatory Commission, will duly inform their own Fraternities). At 10.00 am, Br. Witosƚaw Styk, Rector of the Blessed Gabriele M. Allegra Fraternity at the CISA in Rome, and Coordinator of the Commission organizing the Chapter of Mats for the Friars Under 10 to be held in Taizé from July 7thto 14th, 2019 was welcomed. Br. Witosƚaw presented the progress of the work already carried out by the Preparatory Commission and plans for what still remains to be done in anticipation of the event.
In the session of Saturday, November 10th, the General Definitory dealt with some questions concerning the Entities of the Order and the personnel of some of the offices of the General Curia. In addition, it defined and approved legislation for the management of sensitive personal data, in conformity with the relevant provisions issued at European level.
From Monday 13th to Friday 17th November, the Minister and General Definitory met 21 General Visitators, sharing with them a time of formation for the service they generously accepted to carry out in the name of the Minister General. It also included times of fraternity, of prayer, and of sharing the fruits of the Plenary Council of the Order 2018, as well as the perspectives and challenges that all of us Friars Minor are called to face.
The Definitory elected as General Animator for the Missions Br. Alonso MORALES DUQUE, of the Province of St. Paul the Apostle, in Colombia in place of Br. Luis Arcesio GALLARDO LOJA, who presented his resignation from his service at the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization. Sincere gratitude was expressed to Br. Luis for the dedication he showed during his time of service and warmest good wishes to Br. Alonso for the important task that awaits him.
On Thursday 16th November, the General Definitory met again to discuss some cases concerning both individual friars and some of the Entities of the Order.
With the sense of sadness that always characterizes such cases, the following were examined during the Tempo Forte:
information about delicta graviora(3);
dismissal from the Order (2);
dispensation from celibacy and from the obligations of the clerical state (5);
secularisation pure et simpliciter(2);
secularisation ad experimentum(1);
dispensation from solemn vows (2);
exclaustration for a year (2);
dispensation from temporary vows (2).
The General Definitory also ratified the Capitular elections of the Definitory of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, in Brazil, and of the Council of the Custody of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Brazil.
The General Definitory decided that the next Tempo Forte, to be held in December, will be dedicated primarily to a review of the activities carried out during 2018, which is drawing to a close. In addition, a one-day meeting will be held with the Definitors of the Friars Minor Conventuals and the Friars Minor Capuchin. In the same week, there will be an opportunity for sharing good wishes for Christmas with confreres, Poor Clares and collaborators in the General Curia.
We therefore inform you that the next Tempo Forte for submitting requests and documentation from the Entities of the Order to the General Definitory will take place from 7thto 18thJanuary 2019.
To the praise of Christ and of the Poverello of Assisi. Amen!
The 2018 Meeting between the Minister General and General Definitory and the Visitators General was held from the 12th to the 16th of November at the OFM General Curia.
At the Concluding Mass, the Minister General, Br. Michael A. Perry, shared these words:
Yesterday we heard a Gospel passage that discouraged speculation on what will happen at the ‘end times.’ I believe today’s Gospel goes even further. Earlier in the Gospel we see the signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God — for example, the parable of the Merciful Father; Lazarus and the rich man; and the healing of the ten lepers. These all help to understand better the meaning of the words: “The Kingdom of God is [already] in your midst” (Luke 17:21). This affirmation reflects an extremely positive anthropological vision of humanity. For too long, Christianity has focused on God’s judgment, on sin and the breaking of covenant faith with God by the community of Israel, and later by the followers of Jesus. It is incontestable that humanity has broken faith with God, with other human beings, and with itself in idolatrous pursuit of a self-interest that does little to promote God’s Kingdom of justice, forgiveness and peace foreshadowed in Mary’s Magnificat. Nevertheless, God’s overwhelming and uncontrollable love for humanity goes beyond sin and seeks restoration of each and every human being, and of all of the created universe.
I sincerely hope that, as your stay here comes to an end, the words of today’s reading from the letter of St. John will resonate with you: “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth.” May you have found friars who desire to live according to the Kingdom in their entities, in spite of the vicissitudes and adversities they may encounter.
As you go out from here, be instruments of hope and effective signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God in our midst. Let us continue this celebration by praying that each one of us might walk by faith, placing all of our trust in God, and allowing the values of God’s Kingdom to take root in our hearts. “The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit! Come Lord, and open in us the gates of your Kingdom!”
Pretoria was the chosen place for the Continental meeting of the JPIC Animators of Africa. The Province of “Our Lady Queen of Peace”, based in Johannesburg, welcomed brothers from Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Morocco, South Sudan, Angola, Zimbabwe, the Holy Land and the host country, South Africa. Our meeting started on Monday 12th and will continue until Saturday, November 17th.
We met to talk about the work of the JPIC animators in the various settings of the African continent. Different realities, which in one way or another influence men and women and all of creation: problems of pollution, access to water, forced migration, trafficking, the people’s poor relationship with the environment, armed conflicts, and mining. Topics that were addressed in the reports that each friar prepared for this meeting.
To bring us closer to reality and hear the voices of civil society on extraction problems, we joined as participants in the “Social Issues Forum on Mining and the Extractivist Economy” which is being held in Johannesburg from 12th to 15th November. This gathering was organized by the “People’s Dialogues” movement, which brings together the social movements of Latin America, Africa and Asia.
At the end of the “Social Issues Forum”, the JPIC animators of the African Continent will resume our reflection and discernment. We will try to find specific ways that allow us to collaborate in social transformation towards a more just and fraternal society. We take inspiration from the words and actions of Jesus in announcing the Kingdom. We hope to find paths of action and transformation for our Franciscan Entities, and for our brothers and sisters in the countries where we are present. We would like to find ways as Franciscans to collaborate with the Church and civil society.
The 2018 Meeting between the Minister General and General Definitory and the Visitators General is being held from the 12th to the 16th of November at the OFM General Curia.
The Canonical Visitation is regulated by the Code of Canon Law, by our Constitutions and General Statutes, by the Statutes for the Canonical Visitation and Presidency of the Provincial Chapter, as well as by other documents of the Church. It pertains to the Minister to carry out the Canonical Visitation either personally or through Delegates (cf. SSCV 1). During the Canonical Visitation, the Visitator “represents the Minister and acts in his name (SSCV 8 §1). Even though it may have special legal connotations, the Canonical Visitation must, however, be carried out in the spirit which Francis indicated for visits to the Friars.
At the Opening Mass, the Vicar General, Br. Julio Bunader, shared these words:
We begin the meeting of the General Definitory and General Visitators by celebrating the Eucharist. You are friars of the Order chosen to make a canonical visitation of the Entities and, according to our Rule (LR 10), to admonish, encourage, and charitably correct the brothers. This is a service that will give you an opportunity to get to know the friars, evaluate initiatives, promote activities and, above all, foster a spirit of fraternity and the observance of our Rule and General Constitutions (GGCC 213).
Having briefly alluded to the task of the Visitator, I would like to reflect on today’s Gospel message from Lk 17:1-6, which hands on to us the teaching that Jesus addressed to his disciples, in which he highlights three key aspects: Obstacles (Scandals), Forgiveness, and Faith. These three issues arise from the actual circumstances of the Christian community.
The Gospel begins with a warning from Jesus: “OBSTACLES are sure to come” (v. 1). He is speaking of something “sure to come”, but then he gives the warning: “Alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones.”(v. 2) The Lord warns his own: “Watch yourselves” (v. 3): that is, be careful not to lead anyone astray. Pope Francis explains that “Scandal is ugly because it wounds the people of God in their vulnerability, it wounds the frailty of the People of God, and often these wounds are lifelong. Moreover, scandal not only wounds, but also can kill: killing hopes, killing dreams, killing families, killing many hearts” (Homily13.11.17). In the circumstances in which we live, it is probable that we will come across situations of “scandals and falls”, within or outside the Church and Religious communities — in those situations, one must act decisively.
Secondly, the Gospel refers to the duty to FORGIVE: “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.“(Lk 17:3-4). Here we see the community dynamic in regard to “fraternal correction”, and how to approach our brother as Matthew’s Gospel invites us: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matt 18:15). Jesus asks us to approach the sinner, to correct with love, and to forgive because each of us has been forgiven ourselves. This discourse on forgiveness, closely linked to the Gospel of reconciliation and mercy, cannot be understood by using a human way of thinking. That way of thinking sometimes is repelled by the idea of forgiveness, and instead produces revenge, hatred, and division — but we are always invited to offer and to receive forgiveness.
At the end of the Gospel, the disciples ask the Lord: “Increase our FAITH”. It is a request that makes sense, because this is the only way in which it is possible to live without putting obstacles in people’s way and always being ready to forgive. We need to ask the Father for the light of faith in Jesus Christ, who gives us the Spirit. Faith is not given through hearing lectures, because it is a gift in response to a request from a disciple — it is the only gift capable of guaranteeing hope in our hearts. A little bit of faith, no bigger than a mustard seed (cf. verse 6) is sufficient, because it has within it the power to grow and the ability to face every obstacle. “Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world” (Lumen Fidei 57), on the contrary, it allows us to approach reality according to the dynamic proposed by Jesus in the Gospel.
Brothers, during this coming week dedicated to learning about the service of General Visitation, it is also important for you to find personal time to prepare your heart and dispose your spirit for the visitation. I believe that, through the Word of Jesus, we can meditate on the advice of St. Paul to Titus: “the candidate must be irreproachable; hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled”(see Titus 1:6-8). We entrust these days to the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, of Mary the Mother of God, and of her husband St. Joseph.