Minister General’s meeting with new Provincials and Custodes concluded

With the celebration of Mass by Br Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General, the meeting of the new Ministers Provincial and Custodes with the Minister General and his Definitory, which took place in Rome, concluded.

Starting from the Gospel of the day, the Minister General spoke of the characteristic feature of Franciscan mission: “We find the words of the missionary discourse of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew that we have just heard in Chapter XVI of the Earlier Rule when Francis sends his brothers among the nonbelievers. We know that the brothers are not sent ad gentes but inter gentes: this is the absolutely characteristic and new feature of mission as Francis understood it”. He added: “As brothers and minors, then, we are called to adhere to a land, a people, a culture, languages and other worldviews loving them and humbly seeking there the traces of the presence of the God of life”.

Br Massimo concluded his homily by inviting the ministers to ask the Lord for support in going towards the other, in living among others. “May he forgive our distances and heal us of our fears and lack of trust. May he open us up to meeting and listening, give us the gift of touching his wounds in ourselves and in our brothers, and make us a sign of his mercy that always saves and renews”.

The meeting – which began on 29 June and ended today, 8 July – was attended by 27 Minister Provincials and Custodes from five continents.

 

Full text of the Minister General’s homily:

Rome, 8 July 2022

“The Lord says: Behold I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be prudent as serpents and simple as doves. Let any brother, then, who desires by divine inspiration to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers, go with the permission of his minister and servant”. (Rnb XVI, 1-3)

We find the words of the missionary discourse of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew that we have just heard in Chapter XVI of the Earlier Rule when Francis sends his brothers among the nonbelievers. We know that the brothers are not sent ad gentes but inter gentes: this is the absolutely characteristic and new feature of mission as Francis understood it. If we think about it, it is absolutely topical, especially in times of secularisation and post-Christianity in large parts of the world and of encounters with different religions and cultures in other parts of the planet. Everywhere today for us, the mission is to go among people, to live with them; here grows the word of the Earlier Rule that I have just read, where a nucleus of our charism is at play: to be with and to be among as an expression of the logic of the Incarnation and the Passion, of the goodness that dwells in every creature, of the primacy of He who is the Good, the Supreme Good and All Good, Almighty and Merciful.

As brothers and minors, then, we are called to adhere to a land, a people, a culture, languages and other worldviews loving them and humbly seeking there the traces of the presence of the God of life. Our Constitutions state: “As followers of Saint Francis and of the first missionaries of the Order, the friars are to be especially concerned to go humbly and devoutly among the nations of Islam, for whom also no one is all-powerful except God.” (GC 95, 3)

The Holy Spirit, with his discreet and powerful breath, directs our freedom to this movement towards the world loved by God and towards the people who inhabit it, to “make known to all that there is no one all-powerful except Him” (Letter to the Entire Order I, 9).

In this light, we can look, discern and learn to witness and proclaim.

If this is true in the witness that evangelises with life and word, it is also true in our service as ministers and custodes, servants of the vocation in communion.

Are we not also called to go towards our brothers and sisters to continue to live among them and not before or above them? Someone wisely pointed out to me that if it was always just the vassal who went to his lord in the Middle Ages, Francis tells ministers to go to their brothers, in other words, to take the first step. They do not wield power like the lords of this world at whose feet to bow, but servants who go to seek out their brothers learn to be among and with them in a new way. They do not fear the wounds they may suffer from this encounter but recognise an opportunity for life in it.

This movement toward the other and being among others defenceless and vulnerable to everything is not easy: doesn’t the story of Perfect Joy remind us of this? Francis felt this drama in his own flesh. I have already spoken of the fears and challenges of our service, which often leaves us vulnerable and leaves us pilgrims and strangers, seekers of meaning with and among our brothers, all of them, including those we call “difficult”.

In this Eucharist, the Lord comes into our midst in his word and humbles himself for our salvation and “he hides himself under the little form of bread” (cf. Letter to the Entire Order II, 27). Therefore, while we welcome him as a community gathered in love and bless him for the gift of our vocation and the lives of our brothers, let us also ask him to sustain us in going towards them and living among them. May he forgive our distances and heal us of our fears and lack of trust. May he open us up to meeting and listening, give us the gift of touching his wounds in our own and in our brothers, and make us a sign of his mercy that always saves and renews.