Join us for this year’s celebration of the Order’s Plenary Council.
From June 12th – 28th, we will reflect on contemporary realities in the world, the Church, and the Order, spending time in prayer, study, discussion, and decision-making.
For more information, visit the event homepage here.
The President of COMPI, br. Claudio Durighetto, described the week of meetings between the Conference of Ministers Provincial of Italy & Albania and the Minister General Michael A. Perry with his Definitory as “an experience of communion”. The meeting took place at a Franciscan retreat house, “La terra dei fioretti”, Loreto, from April 9th – 14th, 2018.
The gathering was an important opportunity for the friars to engage in mutual listening and dialogue. The program was wide-ranging, with some topics of particular interest, such as the current reality of the Provinces and Custodies that make up the Conference, as well as presentations of various projects that the Order’s General Government is pursuing.
The conversations took place in a fraternal atmosphere, with some topics attracting more attention and arousing in the participating friars a desire to know more about the current state of the Order. Space was also devoted to listening to reports about important initiatives in the Conference such as: “Abraham’s Tent“, a community in Favara di Agrigento, Sicily, that offers hospitality to refugees; the new hermitage fraternity in Casacalenda di Campobasso, Molise; and the dining room for the poor in Milan. In addition, the Ministers Provincial and General Definitors visited Treia friary in the Marches, a formation fraternity badly hit by the recent (2016) earthquake.
The number of brothers present increased considerably on Friday, when friars of the Conference in Temporary Profession and in the first seven years of Solemn Profession came to meet the Minister General and Definitory. Br. Michael’s presentation emphasized the beauty of discipleship, highlighting the close link between vocation as a personal response to God’s call and life in fraternity. There cannot be an authentic relationship with the Lord without a genuine relationship with the brothers.
In the afternoon the young friars were divided into small groups to share, reflect, and answer the questions that the Minister General put to them: What motivated you to begin living the Franciscan way of life? What robs us of the joy of following the Lord, and what disappointments have you experienced in your personal journey? What, on the other hand, restores peace, enthusiasm, and authenticity? What do you see as the future for your Province and the Order?
The friars’ answers revealed a great sense of belonging to the Order, and a desire to give of themselves in the cause of the renewal of our Franciscan charism.
At the conclusion of the meetings on Saturday, deep gratitude to God was expressed, asking the Lord for the strength to nourish communion so as to continue to walk together as brothers and witnesses to the truth of the Gospel.
Holy Week is a special time of the year. It is the moment when Brothers, together with the people they serve, recommit themselves to living the joy of the Gospel. This is particularly true for the Brothers of the International Fraternity for Dialogue.
The International Fraternity for Dialogue was established by then-Minister General Jose Carballo as an expression of the Order’s commitment to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue (CCGG art. 93-95). Its founding home is the parish of St. Maria Draperis in Istanbul, Turkey, where the Brothers also serve the parish of St. Louis on the grounds of the French Consulate. Three years ago, they opened a second house in Izmir, where they serve the parishes of Holy Spirit and St. Mary.
As only 0.05% of the population of Turkey is Catholic, everything the Brothers do entails dialogue – from the dialogues of life and work to the dialogues of spiritual and theological exchange. While Islam is Turkey’s predominant faith (98% of the population), making Muslims their major dialogue partners – from Sunnis and Alawites to Sufi masters and curious searchers – the Brothers also have excellent relationships with the Orthodox Churches, as well as with Protestant communities.
This diversity marked every aspect of Holy Week, from Monday’s ecumenical prison ministry to Easter Vigils that brought together the parishes’ Italian-, English-, French- and Spanish-speaking communities. In between were multi-lingual penance services, blessings from church leaders, and visits from the cities’ Muslim mayors. Since Catholic parishes are so intimate, many liturgies were held in common to enhance that felt sense of unity which lies at the heart of the Paschal Mystery.
One quickly feels the Church’s catholicity in Turkey, where Christians are daily called to give common witness to the Gospel, especially in the face of the daunting challenges confronting them. Given Turkey’s historical place at the crossroads of Christianity, from St. Paul’s journeys to today’s migration of Middle Eastern and African refugees, is this surprising? It is such catholicity that enables the Brothers to live the joy of Holy Week throughout the year.
The best way to come to know the Fraternity is to visit the Brothers. Their doors are always open, especially in October for their annual Course on Dialogue. People can also visit their website (www.istanbulofm.org) and watch their documentary Together on the Way, available on YouTube.
The International Fraternity for Dialogue is directly under obedience to the Minister General. It welcomes Brothers from throughout the world desiring to serve in it on either a temporary or permanent basis. Interested Brothers should contact the Guardian, Br. Eleuthere Makuta, for more information (email@example.com).
Promulgation of Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
On 14 April 2018, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorized the same Congregation to promulgate the Decrees regarding the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, Florenzia Giovanna Profilio, Founder of the Institute of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Lipari; born in Pirrera Lipari (Italy) on December 30, 1873 and died in Rome on February 21, 1956.
Venerable Florenzia Profilio
The venerable Florenzia Profilio was born on the island of Lipari (Italy) in 1873. She emigrated to New York (USA) with her family and embraced the religious vocation with the Tertiary Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. In 1905, at the invitation of Archbishop Francesco Raiti, Bishop of Lipari, she returned to Italy to start a new community in the service of the diocese on her native island. The development of the Institute of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate of Lipari gradually spread over time in several cities in Italy, as well as in Brazil and Peru. Mother Florenzia governed with the strength of her example more than with exhortation and words. Her evangelical lifestyle conquered the love and esteem of those who had the joy of spending time with her. She died in Rome on February 21, 1956. Her cause of canonization began in 1982.
The annual International JPIC Course was held in Guadalajara, Mexico from 9th to 16th April by the JPIC General Office with the collaboration of the Province of St. Francis and Santiago. This year’s theme is “Migration: Causes, Walls, and Franciscan Perspectives.” Thirteen experts on the issue, including Br. Martín Carbajo, OFM, Br. Juan Rendón, OFM and Br. Tomás González, OFM, were invited to share their expertise and experiences with 57 participants (41 friars and 12 secular Franciscans). The Course covered the issue of migration in depth with the multi-dimensional (historical, socio-political, cultural, and economic) analysis as well as the exposure to refugee shelter homes. To name some of the expositions, “The Unfair Distribution of Wealth: Social Inequality,” and “Physical and Symbolic Walls: Prejudice, Xenophobia, Fear, and Discrimination.”
There was a fraternal joy among the participating brothers and sisters, and they encouraged each other by exchanging their experiences and ideas.
The Plenary Council of the Order
The Minister General with his Definitory, the Secretary General and the Councillors elected and designated in accordance with the General Statutes, together make up the Plenary Council of the Order.
The duty of the Plenary Council, assembled collegially, is the following:
- to offer assistance to the Minister General and his Definitory in governing and inspiring the Order;
- to encourage relations and communications between the General Curia and the Conferences, and between the Conferences themselves;
- to implement the decisions and decrees of the previous Chapter; to enact decisions and decrees proposed by the General Definitory even if they are contrary to the articles of the General Statutes; these are to have force until the next Chapter;
- to interpret the General Constitutions or General Statutes in accordance with article 15 par. 2-3 of the General Constitutions;
- to help prepare the next General Chapter and to offer advice regarding its location;
- to discuss the finances of the Order.
- 1 Unless it has otherwise been expressly determined, the Plenary Council of the Order has a consultative vote.
- 2 The procedure of a Plenary Council is set down in its rules of procedure.
The Plenary Council of the Order
The Plenary Council of the Order is to be convoked by the Minister General at the time and place established by the General Chapter or when it seems opportune to the Minister himself, with the consent of his Definitory, and, in addition, any time the majority of the Conferences requests it.
- 1 The Council Members of the Plenary Council of the Order are to be elected by the Conferences of Ministers Provincial so that two Council Members are present from each Conference.
- 2 The Minister General, with the consent of his Definitory, can designate other Council Members for the Plenary Council, provided that the designated Councillors do not exceed half the number of the Conferences of Ministers Provincial.
- 3 Friars, who may or may not be Ministers, can be elected as Council Members. The election of Council Members is made by the Conferences as they see fit, so that the Council Members will have been elected at least three months before the celebration of the Plenary Council. The names of the elected Council Members and of their substitutes are to be sent to the Minister General in good time.
- 1 The Minister General, with the consent of his Definitory, compiles the list of questions to be dealt with in the Plenary Council and is to ensure that this is sent to the members of the Conferences of Ministers Provincial six months beforehand so that they may exchange ideas on the matters proposed.
- 2 It is the right of each Friar to propose to the Minister General, in good time, topics to be dealt with during the Plenary Council; likewise, each Member is able to present questions to be discussed during the assembly itself, if one third of the Council has approved them.
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The International Fraternities in Istanbul and Smyrna (Turkey), working with the General Secretariat for the Missions and Evangelization, will present a Course of Ongoing Formation on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue from October 14th to 28th, 2018 in Istanbul. The course is open to Friars Minor and to members of the Franciscan Family, and will be conducted in French, English, Italian, and Spanish.
The course will deal with Formation in dialogue according to the Franciscan charism, and with Ecumenical and Interreligious dialogue — Islamic-Christian and Jewish-Christian. During the course there will also be a 3-day visit to historical sites in Cappadocia.
The cost of the course is €600. Anyone interested may apply no later than August 31st, 2018 to the course managers:
Br. Giancarlo Guastella: firstname.lastname@example.org
Br Pascal Robert: email@example.com
or by fax + 90-212-2432791
The first 20 people to be registered will receive confirmation and a detailed course program.
The March 2018 Tempo Forte was held at the General Curia, Rome, from the 12th to the 23th of the month. From the 16th-18th, the Minister General travelled to Egypt for events marking the beginning of the 8th centenary celebrations of the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi with the Sultan.
The first day of Tempo Forte included sessions during which each of the friars of the Definitory spoke about the activities and experiences in which they had been involved during the period since the last Tempo Forte, particularly their meetings with four Latin-American Conferences of Minister Provincials and Custodes in Mexico and Brazil.
On March 19th and 20th, Br. Manuel CORULLÓN FERNÀNDEZ, Secretary of the Plenary Council of the Order, and Br. Matteo GIULIANI attended the work sessions devoted to the Plenary Council (June 12th to 28th in Nairobi). The work schedule for the Council was decided upon, and workshops were held so as to have experience of the world café method that will be used during the PCO.
The final reports of the Canonical Visitation of two Provinces were presented:
- The Province of the Twelve Apostles, Peru;
- The Province of the Blessed Trinity, Chile.
Changes to Particular Statutes were ratified for the following entities:
- The Province of the Blessed Trinity, Chile;
- The Province Magnae Dominae Hungarorum, Hungary;
- The Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Italy (Naples);
- The Province of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Spain;
- The Province of Sts Peter and Paul, Mexico (Celaya, Michoacán);
- The Custody of St. Clare, Mozambique;
- The Custody of St. John the Baptist, Pakistan;
In addition, the Particular Statutes of the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies were approved, as was the text: Statute on the Procedures to be observed in dealing with cases of recourse to the Minister General.
Various acts of elections were ratified during the Tempo Forte sessions. These included elections that had taken place:
- During the Provincial Chapter of the Province of “Our Lady, Queen of Peace”, South Africa;
- During the Capitular Congressus of the Province the Twelve Apostles, Peru;
- During the Capitular Congressus of the Custody of the Annunciation of the BVM, Albania, dependent on the Minister General.
- During the Capitular Congressus of the Foundation “Our Lady of Africa”, Congo-Brazzaville, dependent on the Minister General.
Extra-Capitular elections of some Guardians in various Entities of the Order were ratified, as were the elections of a new Minister, Vicar, and Provincial Definitor in the Province of Sts Francis and James (Zapopan, Mexico), arising from the appointment of the previous Minister Provincial, Br. Juan Manuel MUÑOZ CURIEL, as auxiliary bishop of Guadalajara.
The General Definitory elected the following General Visitators:
- Ivan SESAR, Definitor General, for the Province of St. Jerome, Croatia (Zara);
- Cesław GNIECKI for the Province of the Assumption of the BVM (Katowice, Poland);
- Dymitr ŻEGLIN for the Province of St Hedwig (Wroclaw, Poland);
- Hugh McKENNA for the General Curia fraternity “S. Maria Mediatrice”, Rome;
- Jónás BÁN for the Province of St Stephen the King, Transylvania-Romania.
Sadly, the following substantial number of requests were examined:
- dismissal from the Order (3);
- dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state (4);
- secularisation pure et simpliciter (6);
- secularisation ad experimentum (4);
- dispensation from Solemn Vows (7);
- exclaustration for three years (4).
A list of the personnel needed for various important services in the Houses and Entities directly dependent on the Minister General was drawn up. These brothers will have to be located, and so the members of the Definitory undertook to search for friars who would be available for this service.
The General Definitory also heard updates on the activities and future plans of the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization, the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies, and the JPIC General Office. In addition, Br. Priamo ETZI, Vice Postulator General and Director of the OFM General Historical Archive (AGOFM), gave a report on the activities carried out in those two offices during 2017. The General Treasurer, Br. John PUODZIUNAS, presented the 2017 year-end accounts of the General Curia and of all the Houses dependent on the Minister General. After a worthwhile dialogue, during which various matters were clarified and studied, the accounts were approved by the General Definitory.
Since no Provincial or Custodial Chapters are to be held in 2018, the Meeting of the Minister General and Definitory with newly elected Provincial Ministers and Custodes will not take place in January 2019. Because of this, the January 2019 Tempo Forte will take place from January 7th to 18th; this schedule will also allow the Minister General to participate in the World Youth Day in Panama from January 22nd to 27th, 2019.
The next Tempo Forte will be held at the General Curia from May 7th to 18th, 2018.
Rome, 10th April, 2018
Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, OFM
Br. Henry Howaniec embraced Sister Death on Good Friday, March 30, 2018, in the 87th year of his life, the 66th year of his religious profession, the 62nd year of his priestly ordination and the 17th year of his episcopal ordination.
Br. Henry was born on February 14, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois and entered the Franciscans of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province, Pulaski, Wisconsin in 1948, receiving the religious name, Theophil.
In 1967 Br. Henry made his way to our General Curia, Rome, Italy where he assumed his new responsibilities in the offices of the General Secretary, Protocal, and Translations. While in Rome he studied at the Antonianum, and at the Christian Russian Center in Bergamo, Italy.
In 1993 Br. Henry was missioned to Kazakhstan and engaged in pastoral ministry in Almaty, the ancient capital of Kazakhstan, where five friars served the church in various activities, including pastoral care, management of an orphanage, preparation for and administration of the sacraments and medical services.
Br. Henry was named head of the Apostolic Administration of Almaty on September 26, 1999 and named Bishop of Almaty with a titular see of Acolla on October 18, 2000.
Bishop Henry left Kazakhstan for the United States to renew his visa with the intention of returning to Almaty. He became ill and was never able to realize his dream. His last days were spent at the Milwaukee Catholic Home where he embraced Sister Death. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on April 4, 2018. Burial at the ABVM Provincial Cemetery, Pulaski, Wisconsin.
May the soul of our brother, Henry, rest in the peace of Christ, Amen.
A Kolozsvári Ferences Templom
2018. április 9. Irgalmasság Vasárnapja, B év.
1. A mai Vasárnap az Isteni Irgalmasság Vasárnapja. Teljes búcsúban részesülhetnek azok, akik a szokásos feltételeket teljesítik: gyónás, áldozás, imádság a szentatya szándékára. Részleges búcsút nyer, aki az Irgalmas Jézushoz fordul imádságában.
2. Hétfőn Urunk születésének hírüladása, Gyümölcsoltó Boldogasszony főünnepe van. Szentmise 18 órától lesz.
3. Ma van a hónap második Vasárnapja. Templomunkban 15–16 óra között Szentségimádást tartunk.
4. Előre hirdetjük, hogy április 17-én kezdődik a Szent Antal Nagy kilenced. Keddi napokon a Szentmisék 10 és 18 órától kezdődnek, 17 órától Szentségimádást tartunk. A 10 órakor kezdődő Szentmisék keretében vendégpapok prédikálnak.
5. Az Erdélyi Római Katolikus Nőszövetségek Egyesülete 2018. április 16–18. között Kolozsváron tartja a lelkigyakorlatos napokat, a Szent Mihály Római Katolikus Nőszövetség szervezésében.
6. Aki szívesen támogatná adójának 2 százalékával templomunkat és az általunk szervezett programokat, az a templom közepén egy padon megtalálja az ehhez szükséges nyomtatványt. Előre is köszönjük szépen az adományát!
The Pope has appointed as bishop of the diocese of Orán, Argentina, Br. Luis Antonio Scozzina, OFM, currently coordinator of the “Santo Tomás de Aquino” Institute of the Rosario Campus of the Catholic University of Argentina.
Br. Luis Antonio Scozzina, OFM
Br. Luis Antonio Scozzina, OFM, was born on 6 May 1951 in the city of San Lorenzo, Province of Santa Fe. He received scholastic education at the “San Carlos” and “San Francisco Solano” colleges of the Franciscan Friars and carried out his ecclesiastical studies at the “Máximo” school of the Jesuit Fathers in San Miguel.
On 9 March 1980 he was ordained a priest and incardinated in the Order of Friars Minor.
As a priest he has served in the following roles: vice master of aspirants and master of the Temporary Professed in San Lorenzo (Santa Fe); superior of the Province “San Miguel” in Rosario; rector of the “Fray Luis Bolaños” Franciscan Theological Institute in San Antonio de Padua, Buenos Aires; dean of the “Fr. R. Bacon” Faculty of Chemistry and Engineering of the Catholic University of Argentina; head of animation of “Justicia y Paz” and “Integración de la Creación” for the Franciscans of the Southern Cone; parish priest of “San Francisco Solano” in the archdiocese of Rosario; guardian of the “San Francisco” Convent in Santa Fe.
He is currently coordinator of the “Santo Tomás de Aquino” Institute of the Rosario Campus of the Catholic University of Argentina.
Dear sisters and brothers,
We wish all of you the blessings of the Risen Christ!
Here is the latest edition of “CONTACT” in 2018 with the joy of Easter:
The “CONTACT” is an open space where you can share stories and information on your JPIC ministry. You can send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. The next issue of “CONTACT” will be published in June 2018.
We ask you to circulate our JPIC quarterly bulletin “CONTACT” among the brothers in your entities. We believe that communication is even more important than publication.
This is the Facebook page of the JPIC General Office. Visit our page: https://www.facebook.com/ofmjpic/
We pray for you, sister and brothers, that our Lord may give you the new spirit and courage.
Jaime Campos, OFM & Rufino Lim, OFM
It is with real joy and some emotion that we present Number 52 of the review cTc which we have chosen to dedicate to the first 50 years of the Pro Monialibus Office of which cTc itself is the ‘child’. In these opening lines which, this time, we have borrowed from the Delegate General, we, the editorial team, would like to express the gratitude of all the sisters, to the Friars Minor. They, immediately after the Second Vatican Council, enabled the nuns of the Second Order to advance along the path of renewal indicated by the Church in the decree Perfectae Caritatis.
Now, when naturally the group of brothers and sisters is dwindling who could tell at first hand that significant part of the story, now we feel a need to make sure we do not lose the memories which form a vital link with a history to which we belong and which belongs to us all. For this reason we ‘knocked at the door’ of those brothers who accompanied us as Delegates Pro Monialibus. We have asked for memories, for a testimony or an echo of that fraternal ministry which they gave us. And the brothers have proved themselves caring and generous once again.
However the first three Delegates are now dead but we could not neglect to gather something from their experience which paved the way and cleared the path along which we were then able to walk! Therefore the help of Sr. Chiara Agnese Acquadro, Abbess of the Protomonastery of Santa Chiara, has been most precious because she patiently sifted through the text of a number of editions of Pro Monialibus and copied them out for us. From this, we have been able to insert what was missing in our own mosaic of the fruitful care and solicitude shown us by the OFM Curia.
The newly established Pro Monialibus Office collaborated with the work of an ad hoc commission composed of sisters from different parts of the world. This was formed in order to count and catalogue the responses sent by the monasteries in preparation for the new General Constitutions. The President of the English Federation told us that two sisters of that Commission are still alive and this pushed us to contact them in the hope of receiving their memories of that unique experience, which was also certainly a pioneering experience, of ‘inter-clarian’ collaboration. The writings of Sister Mary Francis and Sister Marie-Claire close this edition. They are a precious gift which makes us feel that we too are part of a fruitful tradition which in our own time is able to give shape to the ‘holy working’ of the Spirit of the Lord.
The Sisters of the Editorial Team
Download PDF – CTC No. 52 (03.2018)
A Kolozsvári Ferences Templom
2018. április 1. Húsvétvasárnap, B év.
1. Húsvéthétfőn 18 órakor kezdődik az ünnepi szentmise.
2. Jövő Vasárnap az Isteni Irgalmasság Vasárnapja.
Teljes búcsút lehet nyerni minden templomban vagy kápolnában, a szokásos feltételek mellett: gyónás, áldozás és ima a pápa szándékára.
3. Csaba testvér és a NEMADOMFEL Együttes együtt indul Erdélyi Körútra. Az előadássorozatra Böjte Csaba és a Nem Adom Fel Alapítvány sérült énekesekre épülő csapata közös produkcióra készül. Jövő vasárnap, a 12 órakor kezdődő szentmisén, templomunkban lesznek. Szeretettel várunk mindenkit!
4. Aki szívesen támogatná adójának 2 százalékával templomunkat és az általunk szervezett programokat, az a templom közepén egy padon megtalálja az ehhez szükséges nyomtatványt. Előre is köszönjük szépen az adományát!
Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him!
[Lk 24:31]Easter Letter of the OFM Minister General, 2018
May the presence of the Risen Lord bring you joy!
This year the Order holds its Plenary Council in Nairobi, and at the heart of this meeting will be the theme of listening. In order for us to have a creative understanding of what the Word of the Lord is saying to us in daily events and in our lives as friars, active listening is essential. I thought that my letter should be written in that spirit, and that the limitless springs of the Word could provide us with some key biblical texts, leading us to deeper insight into the mystery of the Resurrection — and especially how this foundational event impacts the life of every believer.
Lent has given us many important ways of understanding our journey towards Easter. Each Sunday we have listened to passages that show God’s commitment in bringing salvation to a people that the Scriptures themselves call hardheaded. In addition, the liturgy of the Second Sunday of Lent in the New Testament account of the Transfiguration of the Lord, offers a glimpse of the glorious splendor of the Son, a glory he shares with those who believe in him. But this splendor will not be ours without first facing a trial that is painful and difficult — our death. I’d like to focus first on this passage because it clearly shows a situation of confusion, bafflement, and even bewilderment on the part of the three disciples that had accompanied Jesus. Most notably, Peter wishes for a state of well-being that is in direct contrast with what Jesus had previously declared: “whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it (Mk. 8:35).
In his version, Mark the evangelist emphasizes the discouragement and confusion that the disciples experienced following their being told about the passion and death of Jesus. We see something of the same incomprehension in the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They think they have understood what has happened in Jerusalem, but Jesus considers them to have been foolish and slow of heart (Cf. Lk 24:25). The Transfiguration story highlights the act of listening — when Jesus is transfigured before them, a voice comes from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mk 9:7). This command drives home the idea that the power of death and the torment of the cross cannot defeat the mission that the Savior and Messiah has undertaken; rather, this sacrifice will become an emblem of victory proclaiming the defeat of death (Cf. 1Cor 15:55). Here, listening means choosing as Jesus chose, accepting the way he points to, following him (Cf. Mk 8:34) on a path that initially is not glorious, nor full of interest, but which will bring fullness of life — a path that leads to an authentic life of love, peace, and communion with all people.
Continuing the theme of listening, I would like to consider a second passage, that of the post-resurrection encounter of Jesus with the two disciples at Emmaus (Cf. Lk 24:13-35). This is a fascinating, beautifully written account, composed with the aim of being a lesson describing the path undertaken by disciples who are in the process of learning to recognize the Risen Lord.
The Gospel accounts of the Resurrection appearances are varied and different as regards form, style, and method, but they are consistent in underlining that it was not easy to recognize the Risen Lord —even for the disciples who actually knew Jesus. The evangelists agree on the fact that when the disciples met the Risen Jesus, they were in doubt and they could not be sure of who he was because they were not seeing him as they had seen him a few days previously when they had seen him in the flesh and as an historical person. The Risen Lord is the same, but also completely different.
The Evangelist Luke accentuates the idea that it is not sufficient to see Jesus to believe in the Risen Lord. What is necessary is to undertake an intelligent process of understanding the Scriptures, accompanied by Jesus himself, in order to come to a real recognition of his presence. In other words, it is through meditation on the Scriptures and their application to Jesus that a conviction of the truth of the Resurrection emerges in the believing community.
Easter faith is not just the result of seeing with one’s eyes, but of rethinking the Scriptures and seeing that they are fulfilled in the person of the Risen Lord. Vision alone is not enough because the apparition itself does not bring conviction; instead, conviction comes about through an explanation of the Scriptures that leads to a growing and maturing faith. Paul asserts this in the letter to the Romans: But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? (Rom 10:14).
Luke sets the scene as occurring in the afternoon as the sun is setting. The disciples are headed toward Emmaus on a downhill road. They are going back home, touched by sadness and wanting to retreat into a private setting more suited to their sense of failure and disappointment. They are returning because they feel they’ve made a mistake, they have wasted this period of their lives. They had followed this personality, Jesus, hoping it would be he who would save Israel, but instead it has all ended tragically. At a certain point, Jesus joins them and walks at their side. The two disciples, who must have known Jesus very well because they had been with him for a long time, are now unable to recognize him. How so?
After the Risen Lord physically approaches the disciples, he initiates a further approach, asking What are you discussing? (Lk. 24:16) Jesus’ pedagogy is to draw them out by asking the question — he does not reveal himself immediately, because recognition of the Risen Christ is a process. To paraphrase his question, what Jesus is saying is: what is in your heart, what is motivating you? His question elicits a long reply from the two disciples that is instructive and superior in its tone, and in which they seek to verbalize the failure they are experiencing at that particular moment. But this is the reason that they do not recognize him; they are convinced they know more than the traveler they have just met.
It is important to notice a detail in the fact that the evangelist has portrayed two disciples, but only Cleopas is named. Who could the other be? Taking into account the narrative structure of biblical accounts, we can assume that the narrator has left a space for the reader to feel involved and to occupy a place within the story. So, the other disciple is me, you, or any believer who accepts this message. Many other details in these texts could be underlined, but rather than trying to examine them in full, I would prefer to ask a question: are we friars of the present time convinced and able to recognize the Risen Lord who walks along the way with us?
I have had the privilege of visiting Entities in our Order and I can say with confidence that the great majority of our brothers and sisters witness in their lives to the Resurrection of the Lord. However, I have also noted that in some places there is still some “noise” (from outside and from within) that hinders the intention of listening to the Lord. This din prevents us from embarking on a process of profound discernment similar to the one experienced by the two disciples in the story, when they understood that they had shared a sublime Eucharistic moment of salvation with Jesus.
Looking at these Gospel accounts, I see a dual risk. On the one hand, when we have to face adversities both fear and confusion induce us to stay in our “comfort zones”, thus avoiding choosing the way of the cross proposed by Jesus. It is as if we try to spare ourselves from pain in order to experience a state of spurious wellbeing that leads us to give priority to our own goals, while we leave God’s plans in the background.
On the other hand, we can adopt the approach initially taken by the two disciples in the Emmaus story. This is the attitude of those who believe that they know everything and that their role is to educate others — to the point of even promoting pessimism and discouragement, without stopping for a moment to listen to the other. Now and then it pains me to come into contact with situations where friars suffer the consequences of a lack of communication in local and provincial fraternities. It further convinces me that people who are “puffed up” with themselves are not capable of creating space to listen to the voice of another person. They are unable to quiet the many voices that speak simultaneously, unable to give priority to the silence that provides the space to listen to God and to read the signs of the times with daring as well as wisdom. And when their plans do not work out as intended, then trouble really strikes, and they find themselves in the same position as the disciples on the road to Emmaus — facing disappointment, failure, desolation; wanting to give up, to retreat and forget everything. Because we believed we were at the center of everything, we removed Jesus, the true foundation of every project, and so we see the collapse of our personal projects.
The Resurrection event cannot be reduced to the contemplation of a dead person coming back to life. The Resurrection transcends the physical dimension and through the effects it produces leads us to an experience of authentic salvation, just as the first-generation disciples experienced it. Luke the Evangelist insists that the Risen Lord can only be recognized when we walk with him, while he teaches and opens up the Scriptures to us, and especially when we sit at table with him sharing the bread that is broken. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, says the text, to emphasize that despite their foolishness, after having walked the way with him, they managed to rediscover the new presence of the Risen Lord. This is the good news that the Gospel itself proclaims: we too will be able to overcome every temptation to self-absorption or skepticism if we practice listening to God and our brothers — if we are able to understand with our hearts and minds the revealed Word that is handed on to us. In St. Francis, we have an obvious example of a person who, in the company of with his brothers and the poor, walks the Gospel way and whose heart is full of joy because he recognizes the One who transformed his life for good.
Let me end this letter with the words with which we were gifted by Pope Francis in his Lenten letter this year. “During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds” and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.” (Message of the Holy Father Francis for Lent 2018)
I wish you all a blessed and Happy Easter. May you journey in a spirit of listening and discernment, thus living a life renewed in Christ.
Bro. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant
Rome, 29 March 2017
Image: Maša Bersan Mašuk, Cristo Risorto, Basilica Marija Pomagaj – Brezje, Slovenia