Minister General: The poor and crucified Lord calls us to live the Gospel today

Br Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General, went to La Verna with the Vicar General, Br Ignacio Ceja Jiménez, the Definitors General, Br Joaquin Echeverry and Br César Külkamp, the Secretary General, Br Antonio Iacona and the Vice Procurator General, Br Chryzostom Fryc, to celebrate the Feast of the Stigmata of St Francis. Welcoming the Minister was the Provincial of the Tuscan Province of St Francis Stigmatised, Br Livio Crisci, and the brothers of the La Verna friary.

here is the message of the Minister General 

Arriving on the evening of 16 September, Br Massimo presided at Solemn First Vespers. At 10 p.m., the Prayer Vigil began with the celebration of the Office of Readings. Many young people, led by the friars of the Tuscan Province, walked up from Chiusi della Verna to the Holy Mountain, praying and reflecting. Upon their arrival, the solemn Eucharistic Celebration began at 11 p.m.

In his homily, the Minister began by saying that: “the stigmata are and remain a mystery” and “that is why – referring to the young people who walked in the dark by torchlight–we need to ascend, cross the darkness, seek the light and listen to the silence in order not only to remember the Stigmata of Francis but to enter into their mystery”. To this we must “listen to a voice and dialogue with the voices that resonate within us”.

From this premise, he developed his address, taking as his starting point the motto chosen this year for the Time of Creation 2022. This takes its cue from the biblical icon of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-12, where the heartfelt words of Yahweh are heard: “I have heard their cry… I know your sufferings”. “Francis certainly went up to La Verna to listen more deeply to the voice of his Lord”, and for this reason “, he reminds us that listening is never to be taken for granted, that it must always be chosen and placed at the centre. Francis chose a place as beautiful as this, immersed precisely in Creation to listen to the voice of the Lord”. In this listening to Creation that “is not just a preventive and defensive custody of it, nor even a deification of it…Francis recognised in Creation the presence of a marvellous sun that is the risen Christ and listened to its voice with all its tones”.

From this listening “in the woods of La Verna,” more “cries” resounded: “The cry of Francis who asked his Lord to feel his own pain and love…the cry of Francis who no longer knew where his fraternity was going”. Hence the invitation for each person of faith: “The believer is not afraid to cry out; he is not afraid of his doubts and questions. Indeed he learns to stay and dwell in them. But he knows this cry does not fall on deaf ears because he addresses it to the God of life, as Francis did”.

At the end of his homily, the Minister urged everyone to “listen this evening to the voice of creation and through it the voice of the Lord” and to “return to God the cry that rises up to Him from us, from creation from humankind, and dispose ourselves to listen to His cry to us, so that we may convert our living hearts to Him, so that we may recognise Him present in our lives, in the world and in the good creation itself”.

After Mass, the vigil lasted all night in prayer, with the opportunity for recollection, standing before the Eucharist in the little Church of St Mary of the Angels and adoration of the Cross in the Chapel of the Stigmata. The following morning, Br Massimo presided over the solemn Eucharistic celebration at 11.00 a.m. in the presence of the civil and military authorities of the area and the Municipality of Florence, which is linked to La Verna by ancient tradition.

“What do we boast about?” began the minister in his homily. In the liturgy’s first reading from the Epistle to the Galatians, St Paul states with deep conviction that he boasts only of the Cross of Christ. St Francis is of the same belief. “He did not place the criterion of everything in himself and did not believe he was someone because he had received such great gifts, but recognised in the crucified Christ his truest face, and in the embrace, he received from him and returned to him, he found the heart of his faith”. The “scars of Jesus” that Paul recalls to the Galatians” and that “Francis bore in his body”, become for St. Francis the criterion “to no longer trouble him with questions of the rule, observance of it, having or not having houses etc.”. Francis fully understands in the dazzling light of the Stigmata “that – as he says in the Testament – decisive “canon” is the Lord who has called us to live the Gospel and not just one rule or one ecclesiastical status in the Church or even one type or another of mission. The Lord”, the Minister continues, “has called us to live the Gospel by walking in His footsteps, poor and crucified. If we lose sight of this glowing heart of our vocation, all we are left with is arguing about rules, houses, property, and influence in the Church and the world. Unfortunately, we do this well: perhaps because we lose sight of the centre of our vocation? The embrace that Christ gives to Francis with his stigmata, and which Francis returns in full, with all his love, brings us back to this heart of our vocation, which we urgently need to rediscover, to live, to love, and much more”.

The words of the Holy Gospel of the liturgy of the Stigmata record Jesus’ strong affirmation of his destiny as Messiah as the Suffering Servant who goes to Jerusalem to give his life after he asks the disciples, at Caesarea Philippi, the question about his identity. This teaching and this destiny are for those who want to follow him. Br Massimo again stressed: “It is the scandal, the foolishness of the Cross of which St Paul boasts. These words of Jesus, which mark the call to radical faith in following, acquire a profound meaning in this celebration of the Stigmata of St Francis”. So “denying” as “refusing to defend oneself in court and accepting not to save one’s life at all costs” and “taking up one’s cross, that is, one’s condemnation” are the two ways of the Sequela Christi. “The Stigmata of Francis remind us that the Poverello walked precisely this path”. Clear and to the point is the reference to the episode narrated by the Fioretti, the account of true and perfect joy. “Francis seems to have dictated precisely in the context of the Stigmata, probably immediately afterwards”.

Francis sends a clear message to his friars in this undoubtedly autobiographical page. “I have nothing more to say to you. By “the wounds of Jesus”, I confirm to you that living the Gospel as brothers “with nothing of their own” and following in the footsteps of Jesus free of things and affections to proclaim the Gospel to the world with life and word, is not my project but is what the Lord has revealed to me”.

At the end of his homily, Br Massimo reiterated, “Ascending to La Verna to commemorate the stigmata… means not forgetting this glowing heart of our vocation. We will not be judged on how many houses we have maintained, on how many works we have developed, on how much influence in the Church and the world we have been able to exercise. No! We will be judged on love, received from the arms of the crucified Christ, and returned to him”.

In the afternoon, the Vicar General, Br Ignacio, presided over the Ninth Hour with the procession to the Chapel of the Stigmata. As always, he carried the relic of the Seraphic Father’s blood and blessed the Casentino valley and the whole world on his return.

Source: www. ofmtoscana.org