29 Sep Feast of St. Francis 2016 Letter
Saint Francis: an attentive, welcoming, and accepting brother.
May the Lord give you peace!
As we celebrate the feast of Francis, our holy founder, father, and brother, we continue to feel drawn to him as a person, attracted by his message and how he lived it. Through his radical gospel life, his personal authenticity, and his courteous, fraternal connection with every being that surrounded him, St. Francis is an inspiration to humanity, evoking a deep bond of love and respect with the Church, with society and the whole of creation.
Brothers, in this letter of celebration and greeting to all of you, we wanted to spend a little time looking at the brief, simple message contained in the Rule (Chapter 3:10-11) “I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle, and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming.”
This passage of the Rule reminds us that we, Friars Minor, need to actually “go about in the world” – that is, in the world of today, which we must love and accept with its lights and shadows, aware of the great challenges that it presents to our lives and mission. At a global level humanity has attained an unprecedented level of development in culture, science and technology. While this has led to the achievement of extraordinary advances for humanity and for the planet, at the same time we are also witnesses to how this same power can be used solely from a selfish perspective, creating new forms of poverty, violence, fear and human conflict, as well as deeply wounding the natural world.
The above extract from the Rule also reminds us that the Friars Minor, through the way we live, must testify to the good that the human person is capable of. In our relationships within our fraternity and with society, we ought to avoid quarrels and disputes. On the contrary, we must cultivate gentleness, modesty, meekness, humility, honesty, and peace amongst ourselves, and towards all.
Francis, by means of simple but deep words, and through gestures that are concrete and meaningful, presents us with a religious and human ideal that can give our lives an appealing and authentic meaning – something we ourselves can first receive and then pass on to others. Francis was a man who well knew how to discern what was happening inside him and around him; he was man who listened, always attentive to the voices of God and of other people; he was open to an encounter with all those who surrounded him; he welcomed everyone, especially the poor and needy; he was totally committed to the reality in which he found himself, in circumstances torn apart by violence and exclusion.
We Friars Minor, reflecting both on Francis and on today’s world, can enhance the culture of our time in a spiritual way by means of our lifestyle and the values expressed in our spirituality. We can offer brotherhood, kindness and courtesy to a society fragmented by so much injustice and violence. In this way we will live out our vocation to be tireless heralds of Jesus Christ, evangelizers who call on every baptized person to be a peacemaker and a credible witness to a reconciled life (cf. EG 239). Dialogue in all its aspects (Ecumenical, Interreligious and Inter-Cultural) is a powerful God-given instrument in our mission. St. Francis exemplifies dialogue that allows relationships to develop into encounters that bring about peace, with the hope of building a society that is just, fraternal and inclusive.
Part of the inspiration and attraction of our father St. Francis is his ability to communicate the Word of God not just in theological terms, but also in a manner that connects with human and social realities. For him the Gospel must continuously be lived out in a pattern of interconnected relationships; with God, with humanity and with all created things. Thus the Word will be made flesh and will send us the Holy Spirit, who can transform and enlighten different aspects of our lives, such as the religious, social, political, cultural, scientific, and economic spheres.
So today how can we take the treasures of the Gospel, as well as the experience of God in our fraternities, and translate these into activities and projects that can be of help to our brothers and sisters? From the point of view of the good of the Church and of service to humanity, what can we do at a personal level, and at the level of our fraternities and entities, in order to further dialogue, the inclusion of the poor, and care for creation?
The celebration of the feast of St. Francis cannot be reduced to just singing his praises, but must also mean allowing ourselves to be engaged by the calls of the Gospel and of today’s world; only this will lead to a renewal of our Franciscan vocation.
By living a life in fraternity, we too wish to be men of hope, just as Francis was. Hope is another facet of love, because those who sincerely love someone are always ready to accept the unexpected. We want to be men who have the capacity to look out for the great goodness that God puts into the heart of every person. This is a quality that can possibly change the course of history, accomplishing God’s plans for humanity and for the world. We want to be people who hope, and consequently can envision and realize the unhoped-for. We want to be men of prayer, continually drawing light from God, the source of all hope. This light shines in every individual, bringing peace to hearts which have been opened up to gracious mutual sharing.
In Franciscanism, hope implies a distinctive attitude to life. This involves courage, a spirit of creativity, a willingness to risk, optimism of spirit, and a genuine social commitment. The ability to be audacious, enlivened and sustained by Christian hope, is a great witness to God’s active presence in the Church and in the world.
By his example and intercession, may Francis, our seraphic father and brother, help us to work with all those who believe in creativity and solidarity, building with them a more humane, fraternal, kindly and joyful society. May the Lord grant that we be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle and humble, honest among ourselves and towards all, so that Christ’s beauty and merciful love may shine forth in our world.
Happy Feast Day!
Rome, 29 September 2016
Feast of the Archangels
Your brothers on the General Definitory:
Br. Michael Anthony Perry, ofm (Min. Gen.)
Br. Julio César Bunader, ofm (Vic. Gen.)
Br. Caoimhín Ó Laoide, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Ignacio Ceja Jiménez, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Nicodème Kibuzehose, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Lino Gregorio Redoblado, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Ivan Sesar, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Lóránt Orosz, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Valmir Ramos, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Antonio Scabio, ofm (Def. Gen.)
Br. Aidan McGrath, ofm (Seg. Gen.)
Cover Art: “Francesco”
Artist: Paolo Grimaldi (www.paologrimaldi.it)