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Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil

An excerpt from “Introducing the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil” by Br. Michael D. Calabria, OFM

 

Like many Muslim rulers of his day, the Sultan was a cultured and learned man. Muslim historian al-Maqrizi wrote that: “Al-Kamil much loved men of learning, preferring their society…He loved discussions with Muslim divines, and had a good number of curious problems on jurisprudence and grammar with which he would examine scholars, and those who answered rightly he advanced and gave them his favor. He gave lodging with him in the Citadel to several men of learning…Beds were set up for them beside his so that they might lie on them and converse through the night. Learning and literature flourished under him, and men of distinction resorted to his court.”

The Sultan’s apparent interest in Francis could very well have been due to his resemblance to the fuqarā – “the poor ones,” the mystics of Islam called Sufis – literally the ones who wore patched woollen garments. In his appearance, manner and speech Francis’ Order of poor, itinerant “lesser brothers” would have seemed to him more like a Sufi brotherhood (ţarīqah). Not unlike medieval Christendom, the Islamic world of the 12th – and 13th centuries had given rise to numerous mystics – male and female – who spoke of the oneness of existence, who expressed a burning desire for a God experienced as Beautiful, Merciful and Gentle, and who emphasized a life of itinerancy, contemplation, and spiritual and material poverty.

We know that al-Kamil was particularly drawn to a Sufi poet of his day, ‘Umar ibn al-Farid, called “the Prince of Lovers” on account of his sensual pining for the presence of God.  Stories related about al-Farid speak of his habit of stripping off his clothing, his ability to communicate with animals, and his tearful fits of desire for the divine, topi also found in Franciscan hagiography.  Al-Kamil would also have been familiar with a sufi master called al-shaykh al-akbar, “the Greatest Shaykh,” Ibn al-‘Arabi, who passed through Egypt at least twice during al-Kamil’s lifetime. Ibn al-‘Arabi is the sufi most associated with the concept of al-wahdat al-wajud, “the oneness of being.” Sucinctly put, the term signifies that there is only one existence, one wajud that is God. Thus, although humans perceive multiplicity in the phenomenal world – different peoples, races, classes, religions, etc. – true existence belongs to God alone. Every person and thing only reflects the existence of the One, and thus all is one in the One. Given his attraction to Sufi spirituality exemplified by Ibn al-‘Arabi and al-Farid, it is no wonder that the Sultan took interest in Francis.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

 

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Taddeo Gaddi, St Francis and the Trial by Fire before the Sultan of Egypt

 

 

 

Letter from the Minister General about his Bicycle Accident

My dear Brothers, 

May the Lord give you peace!

I am writing from the University of Chicago medical center. On Thursday, August 15, I was riding my bike along the lakefront, something I have done each day since beginning my holiday in the United States. Unfortunately, I did not see a place in the road where there was a hole. I entered the hole but then ran into another slab of concrete, which prevented me from moving forward. As a result, I fell from the bike onto my left side. The impact of the fall onto hard cement resulted in the breakage of part of the pelvic bone that holds in place the femur and controls leg movement. As a consequence, I will undergo surgery to reconstruct of the affected areas. I thank God that no other parts of my body were injured.

According to the doctors, it is a complex injury that will require extensive post-operation physical therapy and rehabilitation. I will be absent from the General Curia for an extended period of time. According to Art. 200 §1 of our General Constitutions, during my absence as I am impeded, all issues and matters must be referred to the Vicar-General, Bro. Julio César Bunader.

Thanks to the Friars, to the Conventuals, the Capuchins, the Poor Clares, the Sisters, the Secular Franciscans and all those who have sent messages or have called to demonstrate their concern and support for me. 

I will ask one of the friars of my Province to provide updates to the General Curia as things develop. Please keep me in your prayers! Even as you pray for me, I will keep you in prayer. May God bless each of you.

 

Chicago, Illinois, USAAugust 17, 2019

Fraternally yours,

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

 

 

Prot. SG 19/19

Identity of YouFra in Today’s World

There is no better way or recipe to find one’s true identity than to commit oneself to understand what the Scriptures say about man and woman, creatures made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1: 26-27). The Word of God offers, to those who listen to it, not only the opportunity to know their own identity, but also numerous perspectives to carry out the mission of witnessing to an evangelical life lived after the model of St. Francis. It is imperative that we should try to imitate the young man of the Gospel: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). In other words, even today, young people must have the courage to ask Jesus what the path they must follow to find their true identity and their mission in this world is, in the place and in the reality in which the Lord has placed them.

When young people let themselves be guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, they understand that they are «called to share their experience of Christian life in fraternity, and, in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi, seek to deepen their own vocation under the auspices of the Secular Franciscan Order».

Those who understand this and are thus able to deepen their vocation will be pleased to discover that their being a Christian is somehow intertwined with that of the OFS, whose Rule can become an inspirational document for the growth and maturation of their own Christian and Franciscan identity (cf. GGCC OFS art.96, 3). For this reason, the most important thing is to identify oneself as children of God who need to love others and to be loved, to listen and to be heard, to respect others as one wants to be respected (Cf. Mt. -40; Mk 12.29-30.33; Lk 10.27).

However, this awareness is not attained automatically: everyone must listen to the Word of God, be able to love it and preserve it in his heart. It is important to have the courage to find one’s specific and true identity as children of God, worthy of the freedom to witness the faith, the happiness of living and proclaiming the truth, not only with words, but also with works. Thus the Holy Father reminded young people: “My dear young friends, love the word God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness…It is not easy to recognise and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are “free”, but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies”. Therefore, the great secret whose discovery allows us to find our identity is hidden in the Sacred Scripture and in the Rule of the OFS (cf. GGCC art. 96.3): if it is sought with a spirit of discernment it is discovered and thus we become children loved by God and called by Him to follow Him along the path prepared for us, for the benefit of the fraternity and the world to which we belong. As believers we must always identify ourselves with Jesus: in service, in sacrifice, in listening, in forgiveness, in accepting, in mercy and in brotherhood. It is essential that today’s young people, despite their fragility, feel that they are his disciples, joyful to carry on the hope of a better future, without ever falling into conformism and allowing themselves to be guided by the true light – Christ himself! – at the same time walking in the light of the message of St. Francis of Assisi!

To find one’s identity depends totally on continuous discernment, on the ability and courage to let oneself be guided by the Spirit of God. «If we live by the Spirit, we also walk according to the Spirit» (Gal 5:25). Of course, it is not enough to read or listen to the Word of God if one does not have faith transmitted by parents. To find their identity, young people need the accompaniment of adults, who are exemplary teachers who help them, accept them as such and offer them the opportunity to find in their example the lived Gospel in which they can find comfort, acceptance, light for their steps even in a world where egocentrism dominates the hearts of so many young people! For this reason the Holy Father continues to remind them: «To you young people I say: Do not be afraid to go against the current, when they want to rob us of hope, when they propose rotten values, values like food gone bad – and when food has gone bad, it harms us; these values harm us. We must go against the current! And you young people, are the first: Go against the tide and have the daring to move precisely against the current. Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so».

As Jesus asked his disciples to tell him what men thought of him (cf. Mt 16:13), so should be the attitude of parents, elders, religious leaders and political leaders: «to search together to look for the possible self-awareness of the world of youth», so that young people can recover the desire to feel like people of faith, able to learn from adults and admit that they need their help. This is the secret for appropriating one’s identity and mission which, for the members of YouFra, is that of being Christian and Franciscan. Therefore, always try to be witnesses and instruments of the mission of Christ among men, announcing Christ with life and with the word (cf. Rule OFS 6 CCGG 17.1). This is the heart of true and authentic Franciscan identity.

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Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World

An excerpt from “Healing the Violence of the Contemporary World: A Franciscan Paradigm for Dialogue with Islam” by Br. Michael F. Cusato, OFM

 

We would do well to repeat the message: the one we think is our enemy is actually our friend. To understand the true import of Francis’s words and to avoid the pitfall of equating the meaning of “friend” with “friendship,” it is better to associate the Latin word amicus (friend) with a word that is a little more familiar to us and more central in the Franciscan lexicon: frater. Seen in this light, the one we have been taught to see as our enemy – taught by society, taught by the Church – is actually our fratres et sorores, our brothers and sisters!

In this powerful, if brief, message, Francis is telling the brothers that he is going to the Holy Land in order to show by the actions of his own life that the one whom the Church calls the infidel and the enemy par excellence is, in fact, a brother: part of the human family, a member of the human fraternity. Francis is going, in other words, to preach by his words but especially by his own deeds the message of penance: namely, that no one, not even the one most despised by the Church and considered to be the enemy of Christ, not even those who may have perpetrated heinous deeds against another, surrenders their creaturehood or exists outside of the human fraternity. But such creaturehood also entails responsibility: the responsibility of each member of that sacred fraternity – Christian and Muslim – to live in a manner that preserves and honors the bonds that indissolubly bind us all together. To do this is to do penance. Francis is going to the East to show this – and to live this – even if it might cost him his own life. And if it does – if, in the process of being utterly faithful to the life he has promised since his encounter with the lepers, treating every human person as a sacred creature of the human fraternity – then, having been faithful to his vow, he and all who follow him in this will gain eternal life. It is what every religious is promised on the day of his or her profession.

This is a profound message, utterly consistent with what Francis learned in the seminal experience of his conversion. Thus: Francis did not go to the Holy Land to provoke his own death. Rather, he went in order to bring the message of penance and to live out, to its ultimate conclusion, his radical vision of the universal fraternity of all creatures.

 

Read the complete article from St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet:

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Francis before the Sultan, Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart, Church of the Gesù, Rome

 

 

 

Lay friars and clericalism

The percentage of lay friars who leave the Order is on average higher than that of the friar priests who leave.

This figure requires interpretation. We might speculate that it indicates an unease linked to a crisis of identity, which can be greater in the case of lay friars because it is not supported by priestly ministry which seems to be a fundamental aspect for many friars.  We can add to this the fact that in the sociological survey [Prof. Mion, 2013] the issue of clericalism in formation emerges; “1 friar in 4 highlights an accentuated clericalism in his formation and mission (25.4%).”

By clericalism we mean a perspective that sees the priest friar as the norm (or default) of the Franciscan identity and that, consequently, thinks of Initial Formation in terms of preparation for the priesthood on a par with (and perhaps more important than) preparation for perpetual Profession. Within this perspective, it is normal to ask a young friar to justify his choice of asking not to become a priest — the path to the priesthood seems to be “taken for granted” or “normal”. A sign of this clericalism lies in the fact that Initial Formation programmes expressly designed for lay friars are rarely to be seen, while the route of philosophical and theological studies, based on that of diocesan seminaries, seems to be the “normal” model. Perhaps then we should not be too surprised that, some years later, many leave the Order to become diocesan priests. In some cases (without generalising) perhaps it is ultimately the right choice, which might not have been possible at the beginning, but that in a clerical Formation was insufficiently challenged.

The slow but persistent decrease in lay vocations should also be noted. From 2003 to 2017, the percentage of Solemnly Professed lay friars dropped from 16.9 % to 16%. This decrease might also be interpreted as a sign that these friars are not always easily inserted into the Province — a kind of specific identity crisis of the lay friar within our fraternities, due to an “imbalance” towards a somewhat clerical identity. The slow and steady decline of lay friars in the Order is perhaps reflected in the fact that some of the countries that have strong growth in vocation numbers have very few candidates to be lay friars, because almost all of them aspire to the priesthood. This option may also reflect a desire for social advancement and poses the question of how clear the Franciscan identity is to young candidates. (F&P Document, pp.  29, 30)

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What sums up St. Francis’ spirituality? The Canticle of the Creatures

Br. Murray Bodo explains the meaning of St. Francis’ prayer of praise to God through Mother Earth. The universe that God created is the primary revelation to humankind. It’s the primary Scripture, and Francis helps us connect again to all creatures and to the Earth itself.

The Canticle of the Creatures for Francis summed up his whole spirituality and his whole life, because he praises God by being a part of all of the created world.

He singles out the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. And he calls them his brother and sisters:

Brother Fire

Sister Water

Brother Wind

Sister Mother Earth

They became his brother and sister, and he praised God with them and by means of them.

The universe that God created is the primary revelation to us. It’s the primary Scripture, and I see in Francis someone who will help us connect again to the animals, to the birds, to the oceans, to the Earth itself.

Feast of St. Clare 2019: Letter of the Minister General

Dialogue: A Characteristic of God, A Virtue for every human being

 

Dear Sisters,

May the Lord give you peace!

As the years follow on from each other, the Solemnity of St. Clare of Assisi, our sister and mother, brings with it an opportunity to continue a dialogue that can become ever deeper and more wide-ranging. I would like this letter to be an expression of a fraternal dialogue in which I see you as active participants. I welcome any reflections, proposals, or initiatives that you can share; they are precious to me and to all of you dear sisters, because they help us to be centred and to focus on the essentials of God’s call within the Church.

Given that this is the year in which the Franciscan Order commemorates the meeting between St. Francis and al-Malik al Kamil, I would like to speak to you about dialogue. All over the world, initiatives are springing up that promote dialogue among those who believe in God — and in particular with Muslims. The kingdom of God is manifest wherever a welcoming space is created for those who are different to us.

 

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You are dialogue

Dialogue has to do with who God is, because God is communion. In the Profession of Faith, we profess “I believe in God the Father.”God is Father who has generated a Son; therefore, there is a relationship between them. This relationship is absolute and complete, and is itself a Person — I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.

At the beginning of 2019, I addressed a letter to the Franciscan Family and to our Muslim brothers and sisters, in which I wrote about the Praises of God that Francis composed at La Verna after receiving the stigmata. In particular, I reflected on two of the praises; ‘You are humility’ and ‘You are patience’— now I would also add ‘You are dialogue’. Yes, because from the beginning of eternity the three divine Persons constitute life that is constantly communicated from the Self to the Other, a life that both generates and welcomes life. Loveis the name for a way of being that is fertile and generates fruitfulness, because those who love seek the other, and give themselves so that the other can fully live.

By choosing us as adopted children to the praise of His glory (cf. Eph 1:3-14), God wanted to involve us too in his mystery of love, of life, and of communion. What a grace this is! As from the beginning the Son is turned towards the Father, so the Father through the Son addresses the Word to the whole of creation (cf. Jn1:1-3): “He spoke, and they were created” (Ps 148:5). In the dialogue between God and humanity, the initiative always comes from God; the divine Word comes to meet us (cf. Jer 15:16).

Because of the image in which they have been formed, and the likeness with which they are called to cooperate with God (cf. Adm V,1),  human beings — created male and female — are also turned towards the other; the Other who is Creator, and the other who is woman and man respectively (cf. Gen 1:27). The story of Genesis 2 well expresses this truth — the man recognizes the meaning of his existence only when he communicates with the ‘thou’ that is similar to him, that stands before him, that constitutes the human person in the completeness of the image of God. Therefore, the man and the woman are not isolated monads, closed in on themselves; they are persons-in-dialogue.

 

The Word becomes flesh

We know well — which of us hasn’t engaged in it, and who doesn’t experience it? — that it is here that sin is situated. Sin blocks the flow of vital communication and locks everyone into a false and suffocating world. By narrating the reactions of Adam and Eve after the act of disobedience, the Biblical author makes this clear: there is no longer any fruitful dialogue, only the mutual recriminations of mortals. Communion between human persons, which is an image of the communion between the Divine Persons, now exists side by side with the potential to also be enemies!

In the fullness of time, God’s own Word becomes flesh in this wounded and divided world (cf. Jn1:14) and remains there as a love that never ceases to give itself in the sacrament of His Body. We nourish ourselves with this Word in order to once more learn to speak the language of God, which is communion.

Today, we are global people who experience the tragedy of conflict and isolation, of contacts that multiply along with the difficulty of truly communicating. Can we say that we really know the alphabet that spells authentic dialogue?

This is precisely the favourable time to give strength to our ‘dialogical’ vocation, just as the author of John’s first letter writes: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life —  the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”(1 Jn 1:1-3).

I would like to dwell on some of the substance of this text.

 

Communion with the Word of life

The first movement towards dialogue is to welcome it as a gift, because I do not go to meet the other simply bringing myself but bringing what I in turn have received (cf. 1 Cor 11:23). What I have received comes from that gaze that revealed to me the vision of true life, that word that gave direction to my journey (cf. Ps 118,105). Francis won Clare for that same Lord for whom he himself was first won. Clare urges her sisters to love “in the love of Christ” through which they recognize themselves to be loved.

Therefore, both the attribute and the ability to dialogue are to be sought in the truth of our relationship with the Lord. In Clare’s writings there is a very striking scene, “Contemplate, in the depth of this same mirror, the ineffable charity that He chose to suffer on the tree of the Cross and to die there the most shameful kind of death. Therefore, that Mirror, suspended on the wood of the Cross, warned those passing by that here are things to be considered, saying: “All you who pass by the way, look and see if there is any suffering like my suffering!” “Let us respond to Him”, It says, “crying out and lamenting, in one voice, in one spirit:” ‘Remembering this over and over leaves my soul sinking within me!’”(IV letter 23-26).

When dialogue is founded on the rock of the living relationship with the Lord Jesus, contemplated in the moment of his total self-giving, then it can resist the winds of misunderstanding, disappointment, and even the feeling that ‘it is not worth it’ — because being open to dialogue can be crucifying.

I am struck by the fact that Clare, while writing to Agnes in person, responds to the invitation of the Crucifix with the plural form “let us respond”, and exhorts that this should be done “in one voice, in one spirit.” I like to see this as an expression of the communitarian-communion character of your life as Poor Sisters — the paschal dynamic of daily life in which diversity becomes harmony, and the range of feelings, will, and activity can reach an accord.

When your gaze is fixed on the Crucifix, contemplating the love that reaches each one of you individually, then your inner ear becomes more attentive to the sound of his voice calling you — and you discover yourselves being collectively called to grow in compassion. I see this as one of the fruits of the Spirit, as a mature expression of dialogue, both with the Lord and amongst youselves, which needs to be faithfully pursued through and beyond any temptations, beyond the inclination to be closed to the other or to be intrusive in regard to the other. In dialogue we come face to face.

 

“We proclaim this also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us.”

Those who dialogue seek out the other so as to together participate in the beauty and richness of life, aiming to reduce distance in order to celebrate an ever-changing encounter. When we dialogue, we do not stay the same; places within us come to light, areas that had until then remained in the shadows, ignored by ourselves. Even before getting to know the other, those who dialogue first grow in self-knowledge, welcoming their own uniqueness and then offering it without pretension. Nothing could be more contrary to dialogue than a spirit of domination or revenge. Nothing could be more favourable to it than the littleness that is non-threatening, the straightforwardness that does not deceive, the transparency that is free from any suspicion of ambiguity or subterfuge. In dialogue the other is not exploited.

Clare and the sisters navigate the logjams of discord and division, envy and murmuring in their daily lives; they open up spaces of welcome and communion through forgiveness, reconciliation, and intercession (cf. Regola Santa Clare X, 6; IX, 7-11).

The letters written to Agnes of Prague witness to the extent that Clare was willing and ready to enter into dialogue with the other, and how convinced she was that in the interchange between sisters, one can better understand what pleases God and adhere to it. Clare listens to Agnese’s questions and answers her (cf. III letter 29-41). She invites her distant sister in her turn to seek out dialogue with those who will be able to  enlighten her regarding the truth of the vocation she has received (cf. II letter 15-18), in order to walk more securely in the way of the commands of the Lord (cf. II letter 15).

Clare also knows how to translate her ‘abiding’ in the communion of the Trinity into the language of gestures that express dialogue: giving an egg to the sister who was tempted to suffocate herself; kissing the foot which had struck her in the face; putting covers on the sleeping sisters in the cold of night and tracing the sign of the cross on their aching bodies. The way of dialogue leads to the embrace of the other.

 

Dialogue and our history

Two memorable dialogues mark the beginnings of the history of our Franciscan Family and its charism. That which took place one night at Spoleto between the Lord and Francis (cf. 1Celano 6) and then continued in a cave near Assisi (cf. 1Celano 6), and the dialogue in the church of San Damiano between Francis and the Crucifix (cf. 2Celano 10). The recurring dialogues between Francis and the young Clare (Legend of St. Clare 3) undoubtedly are also decisive turning points in this story.

And how could we not recall that all of us are ‘born again’ at the Portiuncula, at St. Mary of the Angels? On the Feast of the Pardon, we once again listen to the dialogue between Mary and the Angel, the dialogue that initiated the time when the Lord “gave himself to save us” (Assisi Compilation, 14).

All of this leads me, together with the friars, to renew our desire and our commitment to make our lives into placesof encounter with the Word of God and also with the words spoken by human beings.

And, my Ladies, I pray that you continue to be women of dialogue, in the Lord’s name.

 

Rome, July 25th, 2019
Feast of St. James

Fr. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

 

Cover: Saint Clare. Attributed to the school of Parmigianino, Monastero Sant’Agnese, Florence.

Prot. 109202

St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet

In recognition of the continuing relevance of the encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamal in 1219, the Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam is happy to present to you, the Brothers of the Order and our many friends, St. Francis and the Sultan, 1219-2019: A Commemorative Booklet.

This booklet provides you with a collection of informative articles that explicate the historical encounter through the lives and faiths of St. Francis and the Sultan, explore their meeting through the eyes of an artist and film director, and provide a Muslim perspective on interreligious dialogue. Catholic and Franciscan foundations for interreligious dialogue are represented by excerpts from papal encyclicals, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and the Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor. Suggestions for additional reading are also included.

 

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The Order is deeply grateful to the editors and staff of Franciscan Media (USA), which prepared the booklet for us. For your convenience, the Special Commission is also serializing the booklet, so that you may have a better sense of its contents.

 

Image: Baccio Maria Bacci, St. Francis and the Trial by Fire before the Sultan of Egypt, La Verna Franciscan Sanctuary

 

 

 

Youth, future hope of the World and of the Church

A world without youth is a world without a Future, and if the Church does not take care of youth it is like a house founded on sand. So what should be the attitude of civil society, politicians and the Church towards young people? For centuries the political world, with its worldly ideologies (see for example the laws in favour of abortion, of marriages between individuals of the same sex that flourish in all parts of the world, political propaganda against the moral teachings of the church, etc…) has increasingly forgotten its responsibility to promote a youth which will be the society of tomorrow, healthy and with profound human and religious values. Unfortunately, some young people have been deceived by these proposals and as a result youth see themselves deprived of the «flourishing of virtues and life».

However, the Church has never forgotten its responsibility to form young people, to seek the most appropriate ways to «listen to the world of youth and ask how to accompany the new generations to recognize and welcome the call to love and to life in fullness». There are many apostolic and mission initiatives – I remember in particular those organized by the Youth Ministry and the Apostolic Penitentiary – but, in particular, it is important to underline that, in 1948, the Church approved the official birth of Franciscan Youth, side by side with many other Catholic movements: all this shows how the Church is always available to help young people both to find a space of discernment and to rekindle the flame of faith that the world of today with its false and worldly propaganda seeks to extinguish.

Today the world of youth is polarized by ideas and proposals that are contrary to true moral, ethical and political freedoms; the Church, for its mission, must always ensure young people its closeness and its support so that they should never feel alone. The Church must serve as a mirror of truth, a mirror that reflects to the young the teachings of Christ – the way, the truth and the life. Today, more than ever, the Church is called to show young people the true path to follow, that is, to show Christ, because Christ is the way that every Christian is called to follow if he wants to find peace, happiness and unconditional love. This is confirmed by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, when he says: «only the Catholic Church remains, in its weak fortress or strong weakness, to hold back the cataracts of evil, to act as a holding device which prevents man from destroying and annihilating himself, therefore we are called to respond to the needs of the young, building the Christian and at the same time the man: the man because Christian and the Christian because man».

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In memory of Br Finian McGinn, OFM

The Franciscan family mourns the death of Br. Finian McGinn who died 25 July 2019 in Vista California. Br. Finian was 84 years old, 66 years Professed, and 59 years Ordained. He served as Provincial Minister for the Province of Santa Barbara (California, USA) and Definitor General of the Order.

The Mass of the Resurrection will be on 5 August 2019 at 10:30 AM in Old Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara, CA 93105.

We express our deepest condolences to the brothers of the Province of Santa Barbara as well as to the members of the McGinn family.

May eternal rest be granted unto him, O Lord, and may he rest in peace.

 

Photo: PeterJordanPhoto.com

Living one’s own vocation in a context of uncertainty

The cultural changes and technological progress made in recent decades have indeed opened up new perspectives and possibilities, but they have also reinforced a widespread feeling of uncertainty regarding the future of our societies. While many of the friars grew up in a world that was still fundamentally predictable (or at least where risks could be estimated), those who joined in the last two decades have always had to deal with an overabundance of options within societies with few fixed points of reference. Living out their vocation in a context that is characterized by uncertainty brings them face to face with new challenges: “In some parts of the world, we are living in a “culture of indecision”, which considers lifelong choices impossible, if not meaningless. In a world where opportunities and options increase exponentially, reacting with choices that are always reversible becomes spontaneous, even if this implies a constant mortification of our wishes.”The tendency towards “decisional paralysis”, therefore, not only affects young people but also affects adults who no longer know how to communicate the beauty of life-long fidelity. (F&P Document, p. 7)

 

Reflecting and sharing on CRISIS as an opportunity for making a second vocational choice.

A friar who is dealing with a crisis of vocation, and who lives an environment where there is poor communication, will hardly be able to find the courage to open himself to the friars of his fraternity and entrust himself and his difficult situation to them.

One way of overcoming these shortcomings could be for Ongoing Formation programmes to include sessions on communication and sharing on themes closer to the real-life situations of the friars. The friars could be invited to share on themes such as: how can I respond to the difficulties in my current fraternity, while also acknowledging the riches that I can see there too? How could we improve the quality of communication and deepen relationships in the community? What are the reasons for some friars being on the margins of the community? What kind of dialogue do we try to maintain with them?

Presentation[s] could be made on the theme of vocational crisis and the inevitability of a “second decision” as part of the vocational journey of each of the friars.

The aim would be, on the one hand, to normalize the fact of spiritual and vocational crisis, while on the other hand, communicating a more positive image of staying (rather than escaping) during the time of crisis… A crisis should make us not just vigilant, but above all attentive to the signs of new life within us and around us. Obviously, in this context it should also be remembered that a crisis is usually not overcome on one’s own. Very often, emerging from anguish and loneliness and opening up to another is already the first step in breaking out of the crisis. It would therefore seem necessary to raise awareness among the friars about the importance of seeking help in good time — from a confrere, a spiritual director, or someone with professional qualifications (psychological and/or medical) as necessary.  (F&P Document, pp. 51 & 52)

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Visit to the Foundations of Thailand and Myanmar

The OFM General Secretary for Missions and Evangelization, Br. Alonso Morales, visited the Foundation of Our Lady of the Angels in Thailand from July 1st to 5th, and was received very warmly by the friars. 4 missionary friars (from Indonesia, Thailand, India and Switzerland-Italy) were present and there were opportunities to converse with each of them.

The Order is already beginning to spread in this region of the world, with one local Solemnly Professed friar-priest, and two local friars in Temporary Profession.

The friars have established a HIV Hospice which gives excellent care to about 20 patients, providing friendship, medical attention, and palliative care. This is a solidarity-based project and is the kind of engagement that we should encourage in Thailand and in other countries where the friars have a presence.

The friars also have another important project that is beginning to take off — a retreat house that welcomes people from Thailand or from neighbouring countries who are looking for spiritual accompaniment, a retreat, or a place for reflection. The retreat house makes a significant contribution in a region where people are in need of places to contemplate, meditate, or withdraw for a while

Our hope is that this project will continue to flourish and that, in the future, it might also become a place where interreligious dialogue can be promoted, since this one of the purposes for which the friars arrived in Thailand.

The visit to the mission in Myanmar took place from July 5th to 11th.

The Franciscans arrived in Myanmar in 2005, having been invited by the Archbishop to provide spiritual accompaniment to clergy, religious, and laity.

There’s a good spirit among the friars and this was evident during the visit. Some are involved in the accompaniment of the young Myanmarese/Burmese men — whether for a brief experience (Come and See Experience), or to begin Franciscan Formation proper, which begins in Yangon and then continues in the Philippines. The friars who wish to continue their studies and prepare for ordination to the priesthood attend the major seminary in Yangon.

Some friars are engaged in the study of the local language, while the local friars study English. There are good relationships with other members of the Franciscan Family (FMM and SFO). A friar is also involved in rosary beads production, a project that gives work to about 4 families in Yangon.

Currently, the friars hope to bring two projects to completion:

  1. The existing Formation House is fully occupied with the result that no candidates can be received at this time; the friars wish to build a Formation House to remedy this.
  2. The friars aim to develop an inclusive project that could integrate the Formation House, the Spirituality Centre (used for meetings, retreats, and spiritual accompaniment), and some land for an ecological agriculture project. A site has been identified in one of the most northern dioceses (Mandalay) and if this land were to be used, then the friars would leave Yangon.

This seems to be a really interesting project, and in time the Spirituality Centre could also become a centre for the friars to engage in interreligious dialogue with Buddhism.

Koinonia 2019 – 2 (N.102)

Identity and Mission of YouFra

 

At times the world shows a negative and false image of youth, presenting it as lost in worldly things and without a future. It is sad to see that this is the idea that adults have of young people. Sometimes they forget their duty to empower young people to discover their true identity as living images of God and to live it in a dignified manner. Often young people are identified as generations that suffer a crisis of religious, cultural, political, social and economic identity. But this identity crisis often depends on the different realities in which they live, see and judge the world, a world in which the moral aspects in the political, social and religious spheres are almost non-existent. It is precisely in this kind of situation that the mission of Franciscan Youth is to show the world that young people still feel able to reactivate the flame of faith, so that they will never lose the hope of identifying themselves with those disciples of Jesus who have been called to be light of the world and salt of the earth. Their active participation in the recent Synod of Bishops centered on the theme «young people, faith and vocational discernment». Their engaging joy manifested not only in World Youth Days but also in the most humble and simple parish meetings and the presence in the various projects and proposals of the Church.  All this shows that young people still continue to turn their eyes to Jesus, in order to be totally «rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving» (Cf. Col 2,7). If this is the daily attitude of young people, there is still hope that they can live their identity and mission.

  • Koinonia 2019-2“Identity and Mission of YouFra”– Fr. Pedro Zitha, OFM

N. 102

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DOC : EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

 

 

St. Francis is invoked in the search for Peace in Syria

On Monday July 22nd, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, and by the Undersecretary of the said Dicastery, Fr. Nicola Riccardi, met with President Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Damascus. During the meeting, the Cardinal Prefect presented a letter from the Holy Father to the Head of State which expresses the profound concern of His Holiness Pope Francis regarding the humanitarian situation in Syria, with particular reference to the terrible conditions faced by the civil population in Idlib.

Franciscan friar Nicola Riccardi is a professor at the Pontifical University Antonianum where he is involved in a project that studies, researches, promotes and teaches integral ecology. His presence at the meeting is a reminder of the day-to-day presence of the Franciscans in Syria and in the Middle East, working for reconciliation and peace in often unnoticed ways.

Photo: Facebook page of Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic

 

Press Release from the General Definitory of the Order of Friars Minor

The General Definitory of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), during its session on the 19th day of July 2019 held at the OFM General Curia, Rome, decided to have

the 2021 General Chapter of the Order

in Manila, Philippines

from the 1st to the 29th of May.

The General Definitory arrived at this decision after undergoing prayerful discernment and taking into account significant factors, including the provisions of articles 190 and 194 § 5 of the General Constitutions of the Order, the consultative voice of the Plenary Council of the Order held in Nairobi, Kenya last June 2018, and the recommendation of the presidents of the Conferences during its meeting at the General Curia, in Rome, from the 21st to 24th of May 2019.

Furthermore, the choice of the venue for the 2021 General Chapter is inspired by the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines with the Franciscans being one of the pioneering religious orders who carried out the mission of propagating the faith in the archipelago.

V Under Ten Chapter: A final message to all friars – The Taizé declaration on dialogue

On these days of July 7-14, 2019, we Friars Minor, who are less than 10 years Solemnly professed (under 10), from all over the world on the occasion of V Chapter Under Ten OFM have gathered at Taizé, France to reflect on the theme ‘Friars in Dialogue’.

This celebration was enriched by the participation of 181 friars minor (representing 5 continents, 15 conferences of the Order, 86 entities, 52 Nationalities), together with General Minister Michael Perry, his vicar, definitors and the organizing committee. Adding color to this celebration, we were accompanied by the wider community of Taizé, who hosted both the Friars and almost 2000 people from all over the world.

The theme of the chapter was ‘Friars in Dialogue’ which was proposed in 3 phases of reflection: pre-Chapter, Chapter and post-Chapter.

As a conclusion of this time of special grace, the following observations can be stated unequivocally with regards to the theme ‘Friars in dialogue’ for future perspectives:

1. The question of dialogue is essential now for peaceful coexistence. The context where we are in, the community of Taizé, gives us the concrete context to cultivate trust and friendship. Examples such as these call us to periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions.

As based on the talks this week, the following points were noted. The General Minister emphasized that dialogue in the life of the friar minor means vocation in fraternity – love of God, love of neighbor, and love of all creation. Contemplating the Trinity, we enter into relationship and community that is in our very DNA. In his talk he emphasized that the quality of fraternal dialogue as the central theme which calls finding creative ways to deal with crisis. The Prior of Taizé stressed acknowledging one’s own personal limitations as a first step toward dialogue. Being rooted in our own faith as followers of Christ, we need not fear dialoguing with others, and we should be careful of reducing them to our own categories. The General Secretary of Formation and Studies, in his reflection about the model of dialogue offered by St. Francis of Assisi and the first Franciscan fraternity, pointed out the importance of accepting conflicts as an inevitable part of any dialogue. He encouraged the young friars gathered at Taizé to be enriched by the experiences of friars from the entities who are living the aspects of dialogue without any choices of their own.

Our Franciscan brothers lived on this hill of Taizé from 1964 to 1972, and we felt staying here that it’s a place of grace which provides dialogue with Christ in prayer and praise even as a dialogue with the world and especially with believers of other religions. Listening and accompanying the people of God, brothers from the community are witnessing the ecumenical journey and the search for unity.

2.  As Friars Minor, we have a rich tradition of dialogue and openness, beginning with St. Francis and his encounter with Sultan of Egypt ‘Al Malik al Kamal’ (1219). This tradition was testified and enlarged by UnderTen brothers gathered here from all over the world, by listening and sharing our thoughts and opinions in different language groups. Knowing that dialogue begins from the heart, first of all one need to listen and accept others without prejudices and fears in the fast-changing society with its technological developments. At the same time in this openness, the various challenges – like social and cultural differences, tensions between real and virtual world, generation gaps, individualism – are to be confronted in our fraternal living.

 

We, Friars Minor, declare the following:

Realizing the enormous difficulty in dialogue and openness in the world of ours with its temptations of hatred, division and violence and superiority, we are able to learn from our experience here at Taizé together with our own rich tradition as friars minor, to cultivate concrete moments of dialogue, openness, tolerance, and acceptance. We can see the other not as a threat to our existence but rather as a source of richness. We profess to carry and communicate this experience in living gospel values in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

We friars, who are gathered in the V Chapter Under Ten OFM, first of all thank the Almighty for the innumerable ways that He guides and directs us, through the powerful intercession of Mary Immaculate. We are grateful to our General Minister Michael Perry and the General Definitory who have convoked this chapter, the organizing committee, the friars from the province in France, and all the provinces who have made an extra effort to send delegates for this chapter. And finally, and not the least, we thank the community of Taizé, for their hospitality and friendship that they have extended to each one of us.

 

Peace and all good!

 

Your Under Ten Brothers together with the Minister General and his Definitory

Taizé, 13th July 2019

 

 

Chronicles of the V UnderTen Chapter: Last Day

13th of July 2019

We have come to the last day of our Chapter of Mats. The morning Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Br. Michael A. Perry, our Minister General, who invited us to accept the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid!”. A word that encouraged us to undertake the journey back to our homes tomorrow. Morning prayer added further support to trust without fear in the providence of the Father, entrusting him not only with our needs but expanding our intercession to the needs of the world.

We participated in the last biblical reflection of the week, offered to us and to many other people by Br. John, a member of the Community. We were given the gospel passage of the sending of the seventy-two disciples on a mission (Lk 10, 1-9), which speaks of hospitality offered (and required) to the disciples on a mission. After lunch, and the inevitable waiting that allowed us to have conversation with two thousand other people, we had the closing celebration of our Chapter of Mats.  Whereas, at the opening celebration we had gathered outside the church and then processed in, this time we first gather in the church to praise the Lord and listen to some reflections, and, then we processed out of the church, to receive the mandate to go for the world, as our Rule invites us to do. In church, we listened to Br. Alois who thanked us, recalling two similarities between us, friars, and the Taizé brothers: fraternity, which allows us to give witness not only as individuals but as a fraternity, and simplicity, which invites us to further simplify our lifestyle. The Minister Provincial of France, Br. Michel Laloux, invited us to thank the Lord.  He offered examples on how he himself has offered praise this week, finding both small and big reasons to do so. The Minister General Br. Michael reminded us that, in these days, we have not been alone in our Franciscan adventure, but that we have been accompanied by God and as well as our brothers. He reminded us of our faith in a Trinitarian God, which roots our spirituality of dialogue, and allows for an open encounter with God and with all others, regardless of the culture or background.  He concluded with a text from the Apocalypse of John that inspired the last Plenary Council.  As Br. Michael described, we have been invited to return to our first love and to listen to what the Spirit says. After these three interventions, the Letter of the friars Under Ten to the friars of the Order was read, prepared by a Commission of delegates. Finally, we received a medal from the Minister, a reminder of this Chapter. We then processed out from the church and into the garden beside the church.  After having declared together that we want to serve Christ and the Church, in the style of St. Francis, and that we especially want to witness to him, dead and risen for us, we received the blessing of St. Francis. The singing of the Salve Sancte Pater concluded our celebration.

The celebration, intense and significant, was prolonged by a time of fraternal recreation, in the garden of the Taizé community.  Once again, we had conversations and exchanges with the brothers (ours and those of the Community of Taizé) whom we met during this week.  Mutual good-byes were shared, given, many of us will leave early tomorrow morning, and, in fact, most will have left by tomorrow afternoon.

This spirit of farewell extended throughout the evening, during dinner and after dinner: hugs and greetings multiplied. During evening prayer, it was natural to be reminded that this would be the last evening of choral prayer, the last evening of participating in the singing and praising of God in evening prayer.

May the blessings of this week accompany use on our way home.  To the Lord every praise and blessings for all experienced this week! 

For more: www.undertenofm.org/2019/en/

Chronicles of the V UnderTen Chapter: Fifth Day

12th of July 2019

The day began, as usual, with the celebration of the Eucharist. The Provincial of France and Belgium, Br. Michel Laloux, presided.  The Gospel challenged us to be “like lambs among wolves, wise as serpents and simple as doves”.  These are the words that St. Francis added to the beginning of Chapter 16 of the Regola non bollato, dedicated to “those who go among the Saracens and other infidels”:  we welcome them as words addressed to our life and mission.

After morning prayer, the biblical reflection offered to us by one of the brothers of the Community, focused on the theme of God’s hospitality towards us, just like the previous days. The reflection focused on the icon of the Trinity, whereby we, the one looking at the icon, are invited to take part in the meal and the chalice that is being offered.  For personal reflection, we were asked to ponder the crucifixion of Jesus and how he entrusted his mother to the beloved disciple and the beloved disciple to his mother (Jn 19,16-26).  This is the new and greatest example of hospitality.

After the biblical reflection, there was time for personal meditation.  The weather has favored and facilitated such reflection over the last days, particularly the splendid vistas that surround us.

We came together for lunch, as usual, with 2000 others. Together, we were reminded of Esau’s favorite meal, lentils.  In fact, this was the principle dish today!

Today’s afternoon looked very different from our usual afternoons.  We divided into eight groups, whereby friars met with their respective General Definitor. Each Definitor reminded their conference participants of the diverse moments of this Chapter of Mats, how each entity celebrated a pre-Chapter event and how they will be asked to have a post-Chapter meeting when they return home.  They were asked, what concrete project proposals can be realized and how? It is impossible to give a fair account of each of the different meetings.  However, the common thread is that, in spite of the different areas of the world, they all experience problems and challenges to dialogue.

After the meetings with the General Definitors, the second part of the afternoon afforded the opportunity of “informal”meetings with the Minister General.  Those who met with him asked many questions, and he likewise asked them many questions. It was truly an open and provoking conversation.  This open and fraternal meeting was greatly appreciated by the participants.

Dinner, like each evening, was followed by evening prayer. We have become accustomed to this style of prayer, learning some songs and melodies.  Each evening, we entrust ourselves to this choral prayer, which supports and animates our own personal praise and intercession.  The day ended just like it began, entrusted to the Lord.

And evening came and then morning…the fifth day.

For more: www.undertenofm.org/2019/en/

Oldalak