Conversion has two elements for its completion. First, we need to rid ourselves of the things that hinder gospel living. That includes not only “stuff” but also habits, attitudes, mindsets, lifestyles etc. that hinder hearing and living the Gospel. Secondly, conversion calls us to commit our lives to Jesus and his gospel call. It calls for practicing charity, having hope, learning how to love all people. If we only clean out our lives, we create a vacuum into which all sorts of things can enter (cf. Luke 11:24-26). Our inner housecleaning ordinarily should open a path for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
Without diminishing our beliefs, we approach others with love rather than domination. We approach others with a desire to share what is important to us rather than make them feel insignificant or stupid. We approach others with a readiness to understand them rather than presuming that they should think like us. We approach others with respect, even reverence, creating an atmosphere of friendship rather than jumping into an argument we must win. We approach others, if need be, with a forgiving spirit rather than imposing feelings of guilt. We approach them with joy and hope rather than fear and suspicion.
Perhaps, you will not be required to pour out your blood as a martyr, but you will certainly be asked to give a coherent and steadfast witness in fulfilling the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation, which you renewed and confirmed with your profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. By virtue of this profession, the Rule and the General Constitutions must represent for each of you the point of reference for daily living, based on your explicit vocation and special identity (cf. Promulgation of the General Constitutions of the SFO). If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity” (Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 31). You must be sincerely dedicated to that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” (ibid.), to which I invited all the faithful at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
We realize the importance of giving glory to God, of striving for holiness and of working for the spiritual and temporal welfare of others. We see the great value of the Secular Franciscan Way of Life to achieve these all important goals in life. Therefore, we resolve to observe the teaching and footsteps of Jesus Christ according to the spirit and rule of St. Francis.
With God’s grace, we will participate as fully and as often as possible in the Mass, the Sacraments (especially Reconciliation), and the official prayer of the Church. We will spend a portion of time each day in personal prayer. And we will be involved in the monthly meeting as an act of worship and a building of community.
We will contribute according to our means and time and talent and possessions for the charities of our Franciscan Family. And we will uphold the dignity of every person and the worth of all creation.
We will always be loyal to the Commandments of God and to the Church. We will continually try to turn closer to the Lord. And we will use what we have in a spirit of justice, moderation, and generosity.
We will be proud to display the emblem of our membership in the Secular Franciscan Order. By our actions and our speech, we will set a good example and will strive to be peacemakers in our society, especially within our families and toward those who are poor, sick or disadvantaged.
This we resolve through the help of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen
As we proclaim the good news, remember that it is “good” news and not a set of condemnations and prohibitions. The gospel message is a call to intimacy, to love, to forgive, to embrace, to include, to bring joy, to offer hope, to develop relationships, to offer a path to a meaningful life, to challenge practices that may demean people.
If we loved our poverty more, we would take it a lot better. I want to strive with intellectual and spiritual possessions, but that is not the way to union with God, nor the way to sanctity and perfection of love. Blessed are the poor in spirit is to be without talents, or to lose them, or have them frustrated; to be without distinctions, without colors or decorations, without special abilities, or to have them ignored and denied. That can be one way to sanctity, if you accept your emptiness with burning love and gratitude and wait for God to fill you. And when He does, you will get all the rest thrown in with His wisdom.
FOREWORD TO VOCATION, CHARISM AND MISSION OF SECULAR FRANCISCANS (Section 10 of the NAFRA FUN Manual)
Too often, especially in the past, candidates were admitted into the Order simply “because they were good and pious people” or because they held in great esteem some holy friar or simply because they liked Saint Francis.
Often, until today, people ask to enter the Order because they feel lonely or because they need to feel part of a group or simply out of devotion.
Obviously this is not enough. Quite the opposite …
Entering into a “form of life” such as the Franciscan form of life is not just one of the many “optional” decisions we make in our lives. It is the result of a very precise call of God to become Franciscan with a very precise purpose.
Becoming Secular Franciscan is, must be, the result of an authentic vocation.
Along with it comes a precise mission, in communion with the entire Franciscan Family, sustained by the very charism of Saint Francis, which enables us to accomplish the mission in our secular state.
It is absolutely necessary to rediscover and to live to its full extent the vocational dimension of our being members of the Secular Franciscan Order.
It is no longer acceptable to become Secular Franciscan out of devotion or without a true and authentic vocation. In the absence of a real vocation there are many ways to share in Saint Francis’ spirituality and in our own secular Franciscan spirituality, without entering the Order.
The only thing people take notice of is living witness … and what makes us living witnesses is the Beatitudes. … When we live the Beatitudes, we make Jesus present and we become signs of contradiction … in the way of the Suffering Servant …
If technology remained in the service of what is higher than itself — reason, man, God — it might indeed fulfill some of the functions that are now mythically attributed to it. But becoming autonomous, existing only for itself, it imposes upon man its own irrational demands, and threatens to destroy him. Let us hope it is not too late for man to regain control.
The Rule requires Secular Franciscans to approach people with gentleness, care, and compassion – recognizing in them the image of God. We recognize our personal need for radical conversion and seek it with a willing spirit. By our lives we show how it looks to live a kingdom/gospel life. It must be attractive rather than boring; inviting rather than separating; welcoming instead of excluding; forgiving rather than vengeful; prayerful rather than domineering; with a passion for justice rather than allowing injustice to grow; seeking ways of peace rather than planning for war and violence; developing a spirit of community rather than individualism; recognizing a need for God rather than arrogant independence; finding hope and guidance in the Bible rather than dependence merely on human knowledge.