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
Simple living in littleness and openness further takes shape by identifying with Christ and following his example in such a way that we reduce material needs, curb a thirst for possessions and the domineering power that comes from ownership, and use all God’s gifts in a spirit of generosity, justice, and moderation. Gospel poverty for Secular Franciscans, then, consists in acquiring possessions justly, keeping needs to a minimum, and using what we have as custodians for the generous benefit of others. In this way we achieve the wealth of the kingdom and do not get enslaved by the wealth of the world according to the charter for happiness given in the beatitudes.
In 1969 the Assisi Congress gathered to focus on the revision of the Secular Franciscan Rule. The work of the committees was presented as motions. Motion 9 essentially guided the process for Chapter II of the Rule of 1978. Motion 9 lists seventeen essential elements of Secular Franciscan Spirituality.
- To live the gospel according to the spirit of St. Francis
- To be converted continually (metanoia)
- To live as sisters and brothers of all people and of all creation
- To live in communion with Christ
- To follow the poor and crucified Christ
- To share in the life and mission of the Church
- To share in the love of the Father
- To be instruments of peace
- To have a life of prayer that is personal, communal and liturgical
- To live in joy
- To have a spirituality of a secular nature
- To be pilgrims on the way toward the Father
- To participate in the apostolate of the laity
- To be at the service of the less fortunate
- To be loyal to the church in an attitude of dialogue and collaboration with her ministers
- To be open to the action of the Holy Spirit
- To live in simplicity, humility and minority*
It would take a lifetime to understand all the implications and layers of meaning contained in these essential elements and another lifetime to incorporate them into the core of our being. We must be content to continue in the process of ongoing conversion until the day when we see the Lord face to face.
* De Illis Qui Faciunt Penitentiam, The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order: Origins, Development, Interpretation, Robert M. Stewart, OFM, p. 250
Living the spirit spelled out in the Rule and Constitutions is the criterion that proves the legitimacy of our calling. Our vocation expects us to give flesh, in daily life, to the words of our Franciscan profession. Love of people, conversion, reconciliation, forgiveness, contemplation, love for all of creation, prayerfulness, etc. become normal for us.
It is necessary therefore, not to remain in the restricted areas of our Franciscans environments but reaching out to the “world”, while assuming the risk that comes with proclaiming the Good News across the board, with intelligence, simplicity, conviction, the same evangelical parresia, the courage and the frankness of the proclamation of St. Francis and the apostles. We, the Secular Franciscans, are acutely aware that this responsibility falls on us in a very special way because we are the “specialists” of the world in the Franciscan family; we, the Seculars, are those who live immersed in the ordinary conditions of everyday life. If we fail in this task, the action of the entire Franciscan family cannot be fully successful. It is time to understand in its full extent, the magnitude of the task and the responsibility of that task to which we, the Secular Franciscans, are called, not only individually but also as an Order and especially as a family.
As National Minister, I cannot mandate love or joy, so I will defer to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. After washing the feet of his disciples, our Lord said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
This love should be seen in our joy and our caring, regardless of disagreements or contentious discussions. Without others seeing our love and our joy, how can we ever keep the people we now have or receive from the Lord new membership and life?
The rule asks Secular Franciscans to express ardent love for Mary by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently. Self-giving is a real characteristic of Christ, and Mary learned it well. It is a difficult task for anyone of us to achieve, but is something we must daily strive to acquire. This article