The Friars as Modern-Day Mendicants

History tells us that the Franciscan Order, along with other medieval Orders, began as a mendicant Order — or, more simply, a band of beggars! These Orders represented a counterculture, challenging the prevailing culture that gave priority to an individual’s financial and social status. St. Francis of Assisi is particularly associated with this religiously-inspired poverty, and he is a timeless model of living “sine proprio” (without anything of one’s own).

Eight hundred years later, the Franciscan Order, like many other Religious Orders, needs healthy finances in order to sustain itself and its engagement with those who live in poverty. Many people might wonder how the friars can manage to do this while not going against their vow of poverty? In one of the final days of the PCO, the OFM General Bursar, Br. John Puodziunas, addressed this and other questions during his presentation to the Council Members.

Br. John explained that to live “without anything of one’s own” is not about being destitute, but about being aware of “what you possess, and what possesses you”. Thus, it involves attitudes that define one’s relationships — with God, with one’s sisters and brothers, and with oneself.
“For Francis, to give to the poor is about restitution (ADM 6, 7, 21). The most important thing is not that I have something to give: solidarity is chiefly expressed by being with the other, being with the poor,” he said.

Br. John outlined 8 principles, not only for the friars, but for everyone whom God has gifted with resources to be shared:

  1. The LOGIC OF GIFT, a life grounded in stewardship, recognizing that all we have and are is gift from God, and we are merely stewards, temporary users
  2. TRANSPARENCY, the commitment to be appropriately open and honest about who we are, what we have, how much we have.
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY, the commitment to accurate and truthful reporting of how we use the resources entrusted to us as stewards.
  4. JUSTICE, a value fed by transparency and accountability. Justice is not about equality, where everyone is the same, but justice is about giving and receiving according to one’s individual gifts and needs.
  5. SIMPLICITY, the ability to live according to our needs, knowing what is enough, avoiding the human tendency to hoard – whether it be things, buildings, property, money, funds, investments.
  6. RELATIONSHIP, the core of who we are, and therefore central to all of these values. The realization that we are not alone, that we are in this project of life together.
  7. WORK, we work for what we have. We do not shy away from manual labor, working with our hands.
  8. SACRIFICE, to be willing to give up all we have and all we are for the sake of the other.