Obedience — Ministers and Guardians

The prevalence (in regard to the vow of obedience) of individualistic values of personal autonomy (36%), associated with modernity, is freely recognised. There is, in fact, a clear awareness of the difficulties in living this vow today. It is no longer seen as discernment of God’s will (45%), but only in terms of self-sufficiency, of not having ties that constrain or threaten one’s freedom. There is a perceived lack of deep interpersonal communication with superiors (31% = 436), highly correlated to the belief of their inability to manage authority (the superiors are either too weak or too authoritarian) (32%). This is a gap that perhaps is being remedied today within Religious Life through more adequate preparation of those in charge. Here again, the discourse of interpersonal relations returns; no longer among friars of equal rank, but rather in the vertical relations of authority, which today require a lot of prudent competence in the management of leadership within communities of Consecrated Life.” [Mion, p. 115]

We have noted that the theme of fraternal relations and the difficulties related to them cuts right across this study, not just in the more specific topic of the management of authority, where the complaint, especially from the younger group, is of a climate in which “everything is allowed”. This can be seen as a significant plea for the promotion of a better aptitude for true “government” of the fraternity, which must be attentive to people and in dialogue with them. But above all, it seems that the most significant complaint is the absence of this kind of government, rather than bad practice in government.  (F&P Document, p. 35)

The data and interpretation that have been presented show that friars in a vocational crisis very often need not only personal accompaniment from a spiritual director or a professional, but also a real rapport with the Order’s institutional representatives, because it is in relationship with them that the friar’s sense of belonging can “heal” and re-establish itself. Given the sensitivity of the Minister or Guardian’s task in this situation, in which there is a combination of more personal aspects and issues that are more institutional, this service cannot be simply left to the intuition or improvisation of the individual Minister or Guardian — a more specific preparation is needed…..

The area of the animation of fraternity: training in the collaborative preparation of a common life project; management of local Chapters or other meetings; conflict management and ordinary relationships, etc.

The area of personalized accompaniment: training in empathic listening; the discernment of the motivations and ideals of the friars with whom he is engaged; skills and a breadth of vision in the accompaniment of those in crisis and in the process of a “second decision”; clarity as regards the essential aspects of Franciscan identity, etc.  (F&P Document, pp. 54, 55)

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