International Meeting of OFM Franciscan Hermitages

St. Mary of the Angels, Assisi, 7-12 October

16 October 2023

The International Meeting of OFM Franciscan Hermitages, promoted by the Commission for Prayer and Devotion of the Order, was held at Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi, from 7 to 12 October. 
There were 27 friars present, representing 21 fraternities (11 from Europe, 6 from Latin America, 1 from the USA, 1 from Korea, 1 from Togo and 1 from the Holy Land); not only hermitages, but also some houses of prayer.

The first day of work was introduced by Mother Cristiana Mondonico OSC, who meditated on the Lord's invitation to Francis to repair his "house" and not his church: the life of the friars, the various discernments, must have as its goal the creation of "recollection", according to Mother Cristiana; a life in which the Kingdom of God and his justice are sought "first of all" by "repairing the house of the heart". Contemplation means entering the house of the heart, where there is a struggle: there is someone who destroys it and someone who repairs it. 

Paolo Zampollini (President of the OFM Commission for Spirituality and Prayer) then invited the brothers to pray on the Gospel passage of Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-42), helping them to understand the meaning of the quotation of this passage in the Rule for hermits. Darko Tepert, OFM, General Secretary for Formation and Studies, Fr. Francisco Gómez Vargas, OFM, General Secretary for Missions and Evangelisation, Fr. Daniel Nicolas R. Blanco, OFM, Director of the General Office for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, who presented the activities of their offices, emphasising how the friars living in hermitages can contribute to them.

In the days that followed, the activities continued between moments of mutual listening and times of individual or communal prayer in the places dear to St. Francis. Before the arrival of the Minister General, Fr. Massimo Fusarelli, the friars, divided into working groups, reflected on some questions put to them by the Commission: What is the call of the Lord to live in a hermitage within the call to be a Brother? How can the experience of the contemplative life be put at the service of all the friars of the Order?

The summary of the answers given to Fr. Massimo showed that life in a hermitage is first and foremost a response to God's call. The richness, vitality, creativity and variety of life in hermitages and houses of prayer were also evident. In conclusion, some proposals were made to the Minister: to repeat the meeting of the Friars living in hermitages throughout the world every three years; to organise annual meetings of two or three days in the respective Conferences or geographical areas; to promote, through various initiatives, a real knowledge of the Franciscan hermitages among all the Friars of the Order.

Beginning with the liturgy of the day, the reading of RB X, the Testament of Siena and the Rer itself, the Minister General gave important reflections on how to continue the journey in the individual hermitages, but also on how to continue the journey of knowledge and communion begun at this Conference and put it at the service of the Order. In particular, he emphasised that having the "Spirit of the Lord" is at the heart of the Franciscan charism, so that places and spaces, such as hermitages, are needed for this necessary "care of the heart" to grow. Only in this way, said Fr. Massimo, will it be possible to reach the heart of Franciscan life, which is "to make our life a praise to God, to be able to give thanks to God because he is the Most High".

The Conference ended on 12 October with the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, presided over by the Minister General, with the whole community of the Porziuncola. 

Some of the friars present at the meeting testified to the joy and the moment of grace they had experienced during these days.
For Fr. Antonello of the Speco di Narni, "life in the hermitages and houses of prayer is a small and genuine prophetic seed. Because it is something precious, rooted in the charism, which in time will bear fruit and give impetus and hope to all the friars.  I truly believe that only from the life of the hermitages, from the relationship with God, can the reawakening of the Order begin in a humble, hidden and authentic way".
According to Brother Francesco of the Verna Hermitage, "it was not a simple description of these places of grace, but a sharing of life, a fraternal sharing of those intuitions of the Spirit that open the heart to something new and beautiful". 
Fr. Diego, of the Hermitage of Gethsemane, who was at the airport in Tel Aviv during the attacks on Israel and was therefore unable to arrive in Italy, was unable to attend the meeting. However, he followed the meeting online and, as he commented, he was edified and thanked the Lord for the meeting, because he felt the charm of belonging to the Lord in this "big family". 
Brother José Juan commented: "These days have made me grow and give thanks to the Lord, both for what I have experienced in the meeting and for what we have shared in the dialogue. I have experienced the richness of a repaired, restored, grateful heart, which gives me new strength to continue on this path of constantly seeking the 'Spirit of the Lord and his holy action', and thus to continue to encourage one another with renewed enthusiasm for the gift of our vocation. Without a doubt, it was a meeting full of hope".

With the contribution of: Fr. Paolo Zampollini

OFM in the World
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