Koinonia: The Secular Franciscan Order and the Signs of the Times Today

The socio-political world seems overwhelmed by the flow of immigration statistics with the consequence of generating conflicting debates that do not lead to beneficial and lasting solutions. We are living in a time when, for some, God is not part of their life: a time in which the spheres of religion and politics are totally divergent, unable to formulate a dialogue of encounter and sharing of ideas that can help to seek and find, together, courageous and adequate solutions. The political, social and economic tensions of the world are intensifying every day and they become a real challenge for the members of OFS who are called to live their ‘secularity’ in a deeper sense of witnessing by fixing their gaze on God and by being in solidarity with the needs of the world. This is a duty that must be faced with ‘Franciscan sensitivity and creativity’, always seeking new models, in accordance with the teachings of the Church and in coherence with the Franciscan charism.

With regard to the pastoral care of the migrants, Church has always offered, and continues to offer, specific guidance. Beginning from the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, by Pope Pius XII, published on 1 August 1952, to the many other documents produced by the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II, the Church has, “…worked out important directives for this particular pastoral work. It called on Christians in particular to be aware of the phenomenon of migration and to realise the influence that emigration has on life”[1]. The Church has always tried to face the phenomenon of migration with an evangelical gaze, based on the testimony of the “good Samaritan” who cares for the brother in need with love and availability of resources, inviting the faithful to approach every man as a brother among brothers!

In the pontificate of Pope Francis we are constantly reminded of the importance of taking care of migrants, a continuous challenge for all, both of the church and of the politicians. We should all be aware of the fact that “When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because it is not well regarded nowadays”[2].The Pope urges us to be close to the migrants, entrusting them to the protection of Our Lady and with this bond of affection, he introduced «Solacium migrantium» – (Help of Migrants) into the Litany of Loreto[3]. With this insertion the Supreme Pontiff once again awakens the attention to the believing world on the mission of our times in which all the baptized must re-evaluate their testimony with a Christian perspective of inclusion. In this specific intercession to the Virgin Mary for all migrants and refugees, we are invited not only to prayer but also to concrete facts, that is, to help and to be close to all our brothers and sisters.

Secular Franciscans, who are called to participate in the mission of the Church in the world, must be inspired by the evangelical form they have promised to live, activating the most appropriate and concrete ways to implement and adapt the teachings of the Church to the reality they live. A careful look at the signs of the times can be of great help for the brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order in order to recognize the need to renew their vocation in the world, in the church and in the Order. It is really urgent to ask sincerely what it means to be a member of a fraternity: ‘who belongs to this fraternity of God?’, reflecting on Jesus’ provocative question ‘who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ (Mk 3: 33). Taking into consideration “…the present-day phenomenon of migration a significant «sign of the times», a challenge to be discovered and utilised in our work to renew humanity and proclaim the gospel of peace”[4] we realize that migration also forces to a diversified and complex religious restructuring.

The Church, through the Gospel, reveals us the identity of man as image of God, without any distinction of religion or race. In this perspective secular Franciscans can become protagonists in defending human dignity of all those who are forced to abandon one’s homeland. Thus they will put into practice the charism “…seeking to deepen their values and choices for Gospel living…”[5] by witnessing an evangelical life that manages to break down every frontier, knowing that “charity will necessarily become service to culture, politics, the economy and the family, so that the fundamental principles upon which depend the destiny of human beings and the future of civilization will be everywhere respected.”[6]

 

This is an extract from an article written by Br. Pedro Zitha OFM. Download and read the full text:

Koinonia 2020-2“The Secular Franciscan and the Immigrant”

N. 106

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[1] Ergas migrantes caritas Christi, no. 21
[2] Pope Francis, Message for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2019, 29 September 2019. www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/papa-francesco_20190527_world-migrants-day-2019.
[3] Robertus Cardinal Sarah, Lettera del Prefetto della Congregazione per il Culto Divino e la Disciplina dei Sacramenti ai Presidenti delle Conferenze dei Vescovi circa le invocazioni “Mater misericordiae”, “Mater spei”, e “Solacium migrantium” da inserire nelle Litanie Lauretne, 20.06.2020; press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bolletino/pubblico/2020/06/20/035.
[4] Ergas migrantes caritas Christi, no. 14.
[5] OFS GGCC art. 8.2
[6] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Rome 2001, 51.