Sent out to the whole world

 

From the Conclusion of the document Ite, nuntiate:  Guidelines for New Forms of Life and Mission in the Order of Friars Minor.  

 

The Spirit calls on those in Consecrated Life to “develop and put into effect new evangelization initiatives for contemporary situations” (VC 73). This clearly means that new ways, new symbols, and new methods must be found that will allow the people of our time to come into relationship with the Gospel, something which is essential if we are not to be left out of the march of history and culture, both of which are in a continual process of change. Fraternities that are “short-term” and experimental are needed — ways of being present that are strongly theocentric, yet lovingly connected to the deep needs of the human person. The lifestyle of our fraternities must once again demonstrate the power of witness, and proclaim a clear message.

Many Friars within the Order are ready to risk entering into real dialogue with our society, ready to be itinerant in the cause of mission, driven by their passion for God and their compassion for the human person. They wish to do this without losing their connection with people of every kind. But how can we liberate these friars from the desperate worry of keeping existing structures going? How can we get beyond the struggle for survival, and overcome the fear that a certain kind of institution is about to end? How can new forms of presence be formed without affecting the unity of an Entity? How can the cozy lethargy that paralyses the many friars and Provinces be overcome? Pope Francis reminds us that: “The culture of prosperity deadens us” (EG 54).

Non-institutional fraternities have already been established which can also be termed ‘Itinerant’, ‘Inter-Provincial’, ‘International’, ‘Inter-Obediential’, and ‘Inter-Religious’. There are fraternities that work in collaboration with the laity, fraternities where listening, being evangelized, and being committed to mission are kept in balance. These initiatives have taken place on a sporadic basis, but are likely to become building blocks for the future – combining to make up a mosaic of new approaches.

According to Goethe, “Europe was born in pilgrimage, and its mother tongue is Christianity”. The Franciscan movement was also born in Gospel mobility, moving throughout Europe and the whole world. Why not recuperate this evangelical agility and boldness by promoting Inter-Provincial and International Fraternities? We are called to move from the rationale of conservation and survival to thinking in terms of free gift — from a strategy of being closed in and waiting, to being daring in our openness to encounter. In the life of every friar, within every Fraternity, Province and the Order, we are called to constantly reconcile the tension between being prophets and being in communion; between choosing newness and valuing continuity. Daring to establish new forms of life and evangelization does not mean devaluing what has already been done, or is currently being done, but simply means “developing new responses … new projects of evangelization for the situations of today” (VC 73). The criterion for the authenticity of every form of evangelization (whether new or already existing), is not survival or comfort, but rather whether our lifestyle is consistent with the Gospel and the Rule — “consistency between preaching and life” (VC 85).

Every region and culture needs to find signs of renewal, and a point of reference, in the Franciscan Friars who make up these courageous and prophetic small Fraternities. The message of Pope Francis is stirring and very real; it acts as a stimulus, and gives us hope. The whole world has been woken up by the witness of this Pope who really believes in the relevance of our charism when it is lived among people in fraternity and minority; but do we friars really believe this?

Fr. Giacomo Bini, OFM