Moving to the Peripheries as Brothers and ‘Lesser Ones’
Animation Guidelines of the General Definitory for 2018 and 2019
Download PDF: English – Español – Italiano – Français – Polski – Português – Hrvatski
Dear brothers, may the Lord give you peace!
As we did for 2016-2017, we would like to present you with the guidelines for the next two years (2018-2019). These can be used as a tool for reflection, comparison and discernment in community, to help us deepen the realities in which we live and give new impetus to Inter-religious dialogue.
It is our hope that the whole order may in some way join journey of preparation and eventual celebration of the Order’s Plenary Council which will be in June 2018, inviting every local community to devote some time to examine the realities of the world, of the Church and of the Order. The fruit of reflection and brotherly discernment can change our life and the way we live our charism today in the different places where we live and work.
Secondly, we want to look to St. Francis who with his life and evangelical witness became a brother to the whole universe. In his universality, he today is the person who can most open the doors to dialogue. In this rapidly changing world, in which more and more conflicts arise, dialogue becomes a bridge of interaction that contributes to the construction of true peace. That is why the 8th centennial of the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan in 2019, will be an opportunity and a further stimulus for all of us to deepen inter-religious dialogue.
Finally, with the hope that these pages can help every community discern what the spirit says to the Friars Minor today, I urge you brothers to devote yourselves completely seeking for what God desires from each of us, authentically living the Gospel, charism and mission of our Order.
May the Lord bless you and always accompany you on the journey.
Rome, 08 December 2017
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of B.V.M.
Br. Michael Perry, OFM
We want to present in this booklet what will be the horizon of inspiration for our service of animation and governance of our Order for the next two years, 2018 and 2019.
As we did immediately after the General Chapter, with the 2016-2017 Guidelines, Moving to the Peripheries as Brothers and “Lesser Ones”, we (want to) follow a general theme, thinking of a sexennial plan of two years at a time, in view of a journey of communion with the whole Church, according to our charism.
In the year 2018 we will celebrate our CPO in which we want to “listen, discern and go forth.” It will be a time to take a closer look at the realities in which we are present in different parts of the world, be it in different societies, the church and the Order. (It will be) a time to discern together and therefore to live and implement concretely, in docility, what the Spirit is telling us today.
Moreover, the Episcopal Synod for Youth will be celebrated in 2018 and we want to be (especially) attentive to the reality of the young people wherever we are present. (We desire to reach out) to them with a more sensitive and welcoming action.
Finally, in 2019 we will celebrate the eighth centenary of the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil that took place in Damietta in 1219. We also want to embody a life of dialogue: not only by remembering not just the witness of St Francis, but also by seeking together concrete ways for the possibility of a peaceful relationship between Christians and Muslims. In many parts of the world the presence of other religions grows and we Franciscans are called to live and testify to dialogue and peace with different religions and cultures.
Brothers and lesser ones moving towards…
CPO: “Listen, Discern, Go Forth …”
2018 Youth Synod
“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says…” (Rev 2:29) to the Friars Minor
First of all, we want to emphasize Jesus’s mandate: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15). This implies a profound knowledge of the realities of where we are, or where we go to carry out our mission.
It is the same Jesus who urges us to look beyond the appearance of the events to grasp its profound meaning: “You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times.” (Mt 16.3). He guarantees that we are not alone in this necessary and challenging discernment: “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything.” (Jn 14.26). With this evangelical perspective we move towards the CPO to listen, discern and go forth.
“The Plenary Council of the Order (CPO) is a “synodal” experience of consultation, in order to sharpen our gaze on reality at the level of conferences and continents, to better grasp the presence of the “signs of the times” (GS 4; EG 51), their positive aspects, in keeping with the Gospel, and those aspects that conflict with or weaken the church’s mission. In both cases, we are dealing with provocations to change, in documented and participatory ways, so as to support a common reflection that is as creative as possible, with orientations and choices that will be owned the Order for the coming years. “Listening, discerning, going forth” is the triad of verbs that expresses well the process we are about to embark on” (Introduction to the methodology of CPO 2018).
The proposed itinerary wants to think of this event as an important step of the way of the Order in the ongoing Sexennium (2015-2021), a pause to listen and discern at several levels our witness and evangelization in today’s world, and therefore a revitalization for the animation of the next three years (2018-2021), in view of the next General Chapter.
Every community can do its own reflection on the themes of the CPO with an attitude of analysis and listening:
- epochal changes in society and culture, in the church and in the OFM, to discover the signs of the times that guide renewal and change in keeping with our mission;
- a glimpse at the general elements of Culture, Church and Order today:
- general elements of culture (vision of the human person and the world, religion and spirituality, communication, that is, how dpes social media affect culture and the perception of the world, the world of relationships with the other, interpersonal relationships, affection and family, young people, their choices, their vision of life, the theme of work-fiesta-free time, education and school);
- listening to youth;
- listening to the Church (data, options, pastoral strategies, charity, lines of evangelization).
Regarding youth culture, “the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today”(preparatory document of the XV Ordinary General Assembly: Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, 13 January 2017).
“From Krakow to Panama. But, along the way there let’s have a synod, a synod from which no young person must feel excluded. ““Let’s hold the Synod for young Catholics, … No! The Synod is meant to be the Synod for and of all young people. Young people are its protagonists. ‘But even young people who consider themselves agnostics?’ – Yes! – “Even young people whose faith is lukewarm?” – Yes! – ‘Even young people who no longer go to Church?’ – Yes! – ‘Even young people who – I don’t know if there are any here, maybe one or two – consider themselves atheists?’ – Yes! – This is the Synod of young people and we want to listen to one another. Every young person has something to say to others. He or she has something to say to adults, something to say to priests, sisters, bishops and even the Pope. All of us need to listen to you!” (Pope Francis, Prayer Vigil in preparation for World Youth Day, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, 8 April 2017).
Friar Michael Anthony Perry, general Minister, has already invited young people to participate in the Synod:
“As Friars Minor called by the Lord ‘to listen to others with sincere charity and respect, and to learn from the men and women among whom they live,’ (GGCC 93 § 1), the invitation of Pope Francis should resonate deeply in our hearts and minds, and find us ready to respond humbly and with reverence listen to the young people whom we are privileged to serve, and also creating spaces for their voices to be heard so that together we can prepare for the Synod of 2018” (Rome, February 1, 2017).
We invite every community and every entity of the Order, after listening, discerning, going forth, to incorporate in its project of life and mission the ways identified for living Franciscan identity in the different contexts of our changing world.
Some questions for reflection in Community
- What are the most significant changes we can identify in our days about our different contexts: Society, Church and Order on a global and local level? What does the spirit tell us, through the different voices that come through these contexts?
- What can we do to live a simpler Franciscan lifestyle, so that today we can be a prophetic and meaningful sign for the context in which we live?
- What are the steps needed to go towards young people and what language should we use to draw them to the Gospel?
Brothers and Lesser Ones Moving Towards…
Francis goes to the Sultan – Damietta
“An attitude of openness in truth and love must characterize dialogue” (EG 250)
Jesus enters into dialogue with everyone: pharisees, public sinner, Samaritans. We see it in the Gospel in different places. For example, in Lk 19:5-7 we read: “When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’…” And again in Jn 4:7.9 we have the following text:: “A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ …”
In celebrating the 800 years of the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, we also celebrate eight centuries of the Franciscan presence in Egypt, in the Holy Land and in Morocco. The presence of St. Francis and his companions in these places was a novelty in that period, characterized by the Crusades. The way he and another friar arrived and gained the trust of the Saracens opens a way for dialogue for our day.
The story tells that Francis left in 1219 from Ancona to acres in Syria, finally arriving at Damietta, where the army of the Crusades was camped. The saint saw the immorality and looting by the Crusaders, experiencing once again that the war is not right and does not like God. Francis warned that an attack on the Muslim army would not succeed. In September of 1219, he left with his companion, Fr. Enlightened, up to the Sultan’s encampment to proclaim the gospel. A variety of Latin sources document the historicity of the encounter between Francis and the Sultan.
The story tells that Francis left in 1219 from Ancona to Acres in Syria, finally arriving at Damietta, where the army of the Crusades was camped. The saint saw the immorality and looting by the Crusaders, experiencing once again that the war is not right and God does not approve of warfare. Francis warned that an attack on the Muslim army would not succeed. In September of 1219, he and his companion, Friar Illuminato went to the Sultan’s encampment to proclaim the gospel. A variety of Latin sources document the historicity of the encounter between Francis and the Sultan.
The primary source on the visit of Francis to the Sultan in Damietta in February or March of 1220 is the Bishop of Acres, Jacques da Vitry. He did not understand St. Francis’s intuition or even the spirit that compelled him to go forth to his Muslim sisters and brothers. In a letter he described the carnage of the Crusades against the Muslims and the occupation of Damietta that had been almost completely decimated by a plague. Afterwards he writes:
“The leader of these friars, namely the founder of this Order [is called Friar Francis: a kind man that is venerated by everyone], came to our army, lit by the zeal of the faith, did not fear to have himself taken to the army of our enemies and for many days he preached God’s Word to the Saracens, but without much fruit. The Sultan, King of Egypt, however begged him, in secret, to plead for him the Lord so that he might, guided by divine inspiration, adhere to that religion that most pleased God “ (Letter to Pope Honorius III on the taking of Damietta).
Jacques da Vitry himself wrote in the 1221 in his Historia occidentalis: “for some days (the Sultan) listened very attentively to Francis as he preached Christ to him and his. But ultimately, fearing that some of his soldiers would be converted to the Lord by the efficacy of his words and pass over to the Christian army, he ordered that Francis with all reverence and security be returned to our camp. As he took his leave of Francis, (the Sultan) asked “Pray for me, that God may deign to reveal to me the law and the faith which is most pleasing to Him.” (Historia Occidentalis, chapter 32)
Going to a person of another religion is to undertake a mission of peace in the humility of service. Steadfast in faith and love for all the brothers and sisters, St Francis opens the way to all the good that God can accomplish. Humility, the testimony of faith and truth, put together with the desire for encounter, allowed Francis and his friars to approach their Muslim brothers and sisters.
Dialogue is a two way street, nonetheless, nonetheless Francis teaches us that the initiative of going forth to encounter the other as a sister or brother is indispensable. Friendship is the bridge of dialogue and the starting point is listening.
In a rapidly changing world, societies call us as religious to cooperate as best we can in the construction of a future of peace and respectful and serene coexistence.
As Franciscans we are driven by the Gospel to take the initiative and to go out towards our sisters and brothers to build dialogue. The “church which goes forth” that Pope Francisco speaks is the one that takes initiative and moves towards encounter (cf. EG 24). The “Spirit of Assisi” has opened the road for us when St John Paul II used it with great wisdom, giving the Church a new impetus to encounter the other, Christian or not.
Pope Francis always wants to remember that “Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God,’ and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’.” (EG 254). It is therefore advisable to reflect and take concrete steps to respond to such a great need for dialogue in today’s world.
We invite every community and every entity of the Order, to move or to continue to go forth to other religions, to initiate dialogue as friends and missionaries of the Gospel, of Truth and peace, for the good of humanity. Another important aspect of collaboration and dialogue can be to work together for peace and the safeguarding of creation.
Among the documents of the Order, we recommend the series of texts that the “ Service of dialogue” prepared in the recent past as instruments to reflect, discern and design a more open and ready life for dialogue. These books will soon be published online in various languages. Their titles are: Life as Dialogue (Venice-Rome, 2002), The Ecumenical Vocation of the Franciscans (Venice-Rome, 2003), Dialogue of Believers (Venice-Rome, 2006), and One Faith in Many Cultures (Venice-Rome, 2009).
As support for the brothers doing the work of dialogue, especially with our Muslim brothers and sisters, the Subcommittee of the Order for dialogue with Islam will prepare two sets of proposals. These proposals spring from the proximity of the anniversary of the encounter in Damietta.
The first proposal is to provide the brothers resources and texts of prayer and formation for ongoing formation, concerning the Catholic-Muslim dialogue, as well as the preparation for the commemoration of St. Francis’s encounter with the Sultan al-Malik Al-Kamil.
The second includes an academic conference to research the contemporary significance of the meeting that took place in Damietta. This will be carried out in collaboration with the study centers of the Order and a meeting of the brothers working in Muslim majority countries. In this way, the friars thus involved in this dialogue will be able to share the fruits of their work and experience, deepening their actual commitment: “to go humbly and devoutly among the nations of Islam, for whom also no one is all-powerful except God.” (GGCC 95.3).
Some questions for reflection in Community
- Aware that dialogue is a necessary attitude to authentically live Franciscan life, what tools can we use to improve dialogue internally in our brotherhood and in the environment in which we are present and in which we are working?
- If we do not yet have an attitude of inter-religious dialogue, what can we do to go out to people of other religions and initiate such dialogue?
- What can we do to celebrate the anniversary of Francis’s encounter with the Sultan in Damietta? How can we promote it in Christian and non-Christian communities of our planet?