Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World

An excerpt from “Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World: A Franciscan Paradigm for Dialogue with Islam” by Br. Michael F. Cusato, OFM

 

We would do well to repeat the message: the one we think is our enemy is actually our friend. To understand the true import of Francis’s words and to avoid the pitfall of equating the meaning of “friend” with “friendship,” it is better to associate the Latin word amicus (friend) with a word that is a little more familiar to us and more central in the Franciscan lexicon: frater. Seen in this light, the one we have been taught to see as our enemy – taught by society, taught by the Church – is actually our fratres et sorores, our brothers and sisters!

In this powerful, if brief, message, Francis is telling the brothers that he is going to the Holy Land in order to show by the actions of his own life that the one whom the Church calls the infidel and the enemy par excellence is, in fact, a brother: part of the human family, a member of the human fraternity. Francis is going, in other words, to preach by his words but especially by his own deeds the message of penance: namely, that no one, not even the one most despised by the Church and considered to be the enemy of Christ, not even those who may have perpetrated heinous deeds against another, surrenders their creaturehood or exists outside of the human fraternity. But such creaturehood also entails responsibility: the responsibility of each member of that sacred fraternity – Christian and Muslim – to live in a manner that preserves and honors the bonds that indissolubly bind us all together. To do this is to do penance. Francis is going to the East to show this – and to live this – even if it might cost him his own life. And if it does – if, in the process of being utterly faithful to the life he has promised since his encounter with the lepers, treating every human person as a sacred creature of the human fraternity – then, having been faithful to his vow, he and all who follow him in this will gain eternal life. It is what every religious is promised on the day of his or her profession.

This is a profound message, utterly consistent with what Francis learned in the seminal experience of his conversion. Thus: Francis did not go to the Holy Land to provoke his own death. Rather, he went in order to bring the message of penance and to live out, to its ultimate conclusion, his radical vision of the universal fraternity of all creatures.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Francis before the Sultan, Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart, Church of the Gesù, Rome