The 2018 Meeting between the General Definitory and the Visitators General

The 2018 Meeting between the Minister General and General Definitory and the Visitators General is being held from the 12th to the 16th of November at the OFM General Curia.

The Canonical Visitation is regulated by the Code of Canon Law, by our Constitutions and General Statutes, by the Statutes for the Canonical Visitation and Presidency of the Provincial Chapter, as well as by other documents of the Church. It pertains to the Minister to carry out the Canonical Visitation either personally or through Delegates (cf. SSCV 1). During the Canonical Visitation, the Visitator “represents the Minister and acts in his name (SSCV 8 §1). Even though it may have special legal connotations, the Canonical Visitation must, however, be carried out in the spirit which Francis indicated for visits to the Friars.

At the Opening Mass, the Vicar General, Br. Julio Bunader, shared these words:

Homily

We begin the meeting of the General Definitory and General Visitators by celebrating the Eucharist. You are friars of the Order chosen to make a canonical visitation of the Entities and, according to our Rule (LR 10), to admonish, encourage, and charitably correct the brothers. This is a service that will give you an opportunity to get to know the friars, evaluate initiatives, promote activities and, above all, foster a spirit of fraternity and the observance of our Rule and General Constitutions (GGCC 213).

Having briefly alluded to the task of the Visitator, I would like to reflect on today’s Gospel message from Lk 17:1-6, which hands on to us the teaching that Jesus addressed to his disciples, in which he highlights three key aspects: Obstacles (Scandals), Forgiveness, and Faith. These three issues arise from the actual circumstances of the Christian community.

The Gospel begins with a warning from Jesus: “OBSTACLES are sure to come” (v. 1). He is speaking of something “sure to come”, but then he gives the warning: “Alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones.”(v. 2) The Lord warns his own: “Watch yourselves” (v. 3): that is, be careful not to lead anyone astray. Pope Francis explains that “Scandal is ugly because it wounds the people of God in their vulnerability, it wounds the frailty of the People of God, and often these wounds are lifelong. Moreover, scandal not only wounds, but also can kill: killing hopes, killing dreams, killing families, killing many hearts” (Homily13.11.17). In the circumstances in which we live, it is probable that we will come across situations of “scandals and falls”, within or outside the Church and Religious communities — in those situations, one must act decisively.

Secondly, the Gospel refers to the duty to FORGIVE: “If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.
“(Lk 17:3-4). Here we see the community dynamic in regard to “fraternal correction”, and how to approach our brother as Matthew’s Gospel invites us: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matt 18:15). Jesus asks us to approach the sinner, to correct with love, and to forgive because each of us has been forgiven ourselves. This discourse on forgiveness, closely linked to the Gospel of reconciliation and mercy, cannot be understood by using a human way of thinking. That way of thinking sometimes is repelled by the idea of forgiveness, and instead produces revenge, hatred, and division — but we are always invited to offer and to receive forgiveness.

At the end of the Gospel, the disciples ask the Lord: “Increase our FAITH”. It is a request that makes sense, because this is the only way in which it is possible to live without putting obstacles in people’s way and always being ready to forgive. We need to ask the Father for the light of faith in Jesus Christ, who gives us the Spirit. Faith is not given through hearing lectures, because it is a gift in response to a request from a disciple — it is the only gift capable of guaranteeing hope in our hearts. A little bit of faith, no bigger than a mustard seed (cf. verse 6) is sufficient, because it has within it the power to grow and the ability to face every obstacle. “Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world” (Lumen Fidei 57), on the contrary, it allows us to approach reality according to the dynamic proposed by Jesus in the Gospel.

Brothers, during this coming week dedicated to learning about the service of General Visitation, it is also important for you to find personal time to prepare your heart and dispose your spirit for the visitation. I believe that, through the Word of Jesus, we can meditate on the advice of St. Paul to Titus: “the candidate must be irreproachable; hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled”(see Titus 1:6-8). We entrust these days to the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, of Mary the Mother of God, and of her husband St. Joseph.