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May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ | Homily for the Feast of the Stigmata

Homily of the Minister General for the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi

 

“But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation” (Gal. 6:14-15).

 

My dear brothers of the Province of San Francesco Stimmatizzato, my dear brothers and sisters in service to this sacred shrine of La Verna, distinguished civil Authorities, brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, peace and health to you!

We once again ascend this holy mountain to enter into the mystery of the love relationship between God and Francis of Assisi. Our ascent comes at a particularly difficult time in the life of the human community and the natural environment, where all appear to be descending. The new Coronavirus pandemic has provoked countless deaths and untold suffering. It has left hundreds of millions of people without work, facing the brutal consequences of dehumanizing poverty and hunger. It has uncovered deep social and ecological fractures bubbling below the surface of our daily interactions. These fractures have erupted into expressions of hatred and violence on a global scale. The pandemic also has forced us to shelter in place in quarantine, creating great uncertainty, fear, isolation, and psychological instability. The environment continues to suffer from reckless exploitation by human beings.

Our human temptation might be to try to deny or run away from these crises affecting humans and the planet but there is no place for us to hide. The new Coronavirus has shown us this to be true. We have only one true choice: to allow the crisis to draw us into a serious reflection on the quality of our individual and collective lives, with the hope that we might discover a new way of living and acting with God, with one another, with ourselves, and with the created universe reflective of our true identity. The Lord Jesus seeks to accompany us on our journey. He is never far away from us, even if we are far away from ourselves, from one another, and from God.

Before we try to understand the meaning of Francis’s reception of the Stigmata, we must allow the humanity and fragility of Francis to speak to us. When he came to La Verna in the fall of 1224, he came as a person in deep crisis. He came to isolate himself from serious problems present in his life, in the life of the brothers of the Order, in the Church, and in the world around him. St. Francis came as a wounded man. He bore the pain of having been rejected by his brothers because his way of living the Gospel was seen to be too demanding. He came bearing the wounds of political, social, and religious conflicts that were dividing people, destroying any sense of the common good, leading, oftentimes, to violent clashes.  He came bearing the wounds of the poor and marginalized who were cruelly exploited by the rich and powerful, enslaved in abject poverty, dehumanized. And he came bearing debilitating physical infirmities that probably created within him a sense of isolation and depression.  This is the man who came to La Verna, who entered into spiritual quarantine in order to listen to the voice of the One who had called him to embark upon the evangelical way of life kneeling before the crucifix at San Damiano.

In his brokenness, his poverty, Francis came in search of new possibilities for rediscovering the liberating power of the Gospel.  But Francis knew that this liberation does not come freely; it comes with a cost. What is that cost? We heard it proclaimed in the Gospel today: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he or she must deny self and take up his or her cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his or her life will lose it but whoever loses his or her life for my sake will save it” (Lk. 9:23-4). We are invited to undergo a spiritual death: death to those thoughts and attitudes within us that lead us towards death and despair instead of life and hope; death to those wounds we harbor in our hearts inflicted by those who pretend to love us – our husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers or sisters in our religious communities, friends – and wounds accumulated in the daily struggles of life; death to our quick tempers and rush to judgment of others; death to those fears and prejudices that prevent us from recognizing the face of God in all people, especially the poor, marginalized, the ‘strangers in our midst’, and that keep us from recognizing one another as brother or sister in the one family of God; and death to our unwillingness to let God love and forgive us, turning our stone cold hearts into hearts of flesh (Ezek 36,26) capable of receiving and sharing love.

St. Francis came to La Verna with the hope that through the cross of Jesus he would once again be healed of his brokenness, transformed into that ‘new creation’ announced by St. Paul in to the Christians in Corinth. He needed once again to touch the wounds of the crucified Jesus in order that by touching these wounds, his heart and spirit might be healed. But the story of the Stigmata does not end with Francis receiving personal consolation from Jesus, which took the form of the Stigmata. When he received this gift, Francis more fully recognized that he was being drawn more deeply into the mystery of God’s willingness to suffer with all who and that God had created. The wounds of Christ are the wounds of humanity and creation. We, like Francis, are invited to enter into this great feast not only to be spiritually consoled but in order to be transformed into agents of the ‘new creation’, messengers of love, universal fraternity, and restoration. Like Francis, we come to this mountain to be healed and re-energized. We come in order that we might once again have the courage to take up the cross in our daily lives, a cross that bears the sufferings of all of our brothers and sisters everywhere in the world and those of the created universe (Cf. Pope Francis, Angelus, August 30, 2020). Only those willing to undertake this difficult journey into the darkness and pain confronting humanity and the natural environment will experience the fullness of grace St. Francis experienced when he was marked by the wounds of Christ.

Let us conclude this reflection by praying together the prayer of Saint John Paul II during his visit to La Verna September 17, 1993:

O St. Francis, stigmatized by La Verna,
the world yearns for you as an icon of Jesus Crucified.
It needs your heart open towards God and man,
your bare and wounded feet, your pierced and imploring hands.
It longs for your weak voice, but strong with the power of the Gospel.
Help, Francis, the men [and women] of today
to recognize the evil of sin and seek its purification in penance.
Help them to free themselves
from the same structures of sin that oppress today’s society.
Revive in the conscience of rulers
the urgency of peace in nations and among peoples.
Transform into young people your freshness of life,
capable of countering the pitfalls of the many cultures of death.
To those offended by all kinds of wickedness,
communicate, Francis, the joy of knowing how to forgive.
To all those crucified by suffering, hunger and war,
reopen the doors of hope.
Amen.

 

La Verna – 17 September 2020

Br Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General

Inauguration in Paris of the exhibition “The guardians of Christ’s tomb”

Every year, more than ten million tourists visit the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur in Paris, the second most visited place in France after the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  As the Sacré Coeur closes the celebrations for the jubilee of one hundred years since its consecration, an exhibition for the general public is hosted for the first time on its railings. Twenty-nine photographs are on display, taken by  Thomas Coex, who was head of the photography department of the press office of the Agence France Presse (AFP) in Jerusalem from 2014 to 2019.

“A part of this work had already been displayed at the Curia of St. Saviour’s Convent in Jerusalem in June 2018. At the time, the Commissariat of the Holy Land of Paris had expressed the desire to host the exhibition. After more than a year’s work, this project has at last become reality. It is a great joy for the whole of the Custody and I will never be able to thank Thomas enough for his energy and his commitment. This place is not only prestigious, but it is above all a place of prayer. I hope that the tourists and the French people who see the exhibition will carry in their prayers the Christian presence in the Holy Land,” said Fr. StéphaneMilovitch, in charge of the department of Cultural Heritage of the Custody of the Holy Land, who took part in the inauguration.

Thomas Coex, the author of the exhibition, cannot conceal his emotion. “In 30 years of working for AFP, I had never been able to work for such a long period on a single subject, which moreover had never been open before to the international press. This exhibition is a real conquest and I feel very privileged,”he said during the interview with the KTO television channel. “I have experienced the joy of getting to know the friars very well: I discovered humble and generous people who form a family, they are affectionate people. They give their time and their lives to others. Their educational and social actions brought me closer to them. I was surprised, I did not think I would have found such openness. This is the Church I like.”

On this Thursday 10th September, Father Stéphane Esclef, who has just been appointed rector of the Basilica, is also pleased: “Many people pass by the place where the photos are on display. A lot of tourists from all over the world will see them. I consider this exhibition like a spiritual twinning between the Holy Places and the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. It follows on Pope Francis’s invitation to our Church to reach the outskirts of cities. Many tourists do not dare enter the Basilica. This exhibition is a message: the heart of Jesus must not remain confined inside the church. Photography can affect the exterior of the person, but at the same time reveal something important in the life of those who believe.”

As Julie, who stops for a moment in front of the photos during her jogging, says, “When I think of Jerusalem, I think of the Jewish world, but it’s true that there are Christians there as well.” Nicolas as well, a young parishioner of the neighbourhood, commented, “We are not used to seeing Franciscans in Montmartre! When I see these photos I understand better why the Holy Father took the name of Francis, we see the concrete aspect of Franciscan life.”

The guests at the inauguration, who numbered about two hundred, then went to the private gardens of the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, exceptionally opened for the event. Figures from civil society. From the political and diplomatic world, religious and diocesan priests, knights and ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, journalists, correspondents and photographers  were plunged into the atmosphere of the Holy City for an evening.

The exhibition “The guardians of Christ’s tomb” is free of charge and the photographs will remain on display until 13th December 2020.

Special thanks go to AFP and Canon for their cooperation on this project.

Source: Emilie Rey | custodia.org
Pictures courtesy: MAB/CTS and Canon.

Economy of Francesco: online event confirmed from 19 to 21 November

The Economy of Francesco, the international event with young economists and entrepreneurs encouraged by the Holy Father, is confirmed and will be held from 19 to 21 November 2020.

Given the ongoing state of the health emergency throughout the globe, the Organising Committee, together with the Holy See, have decided to celebrate the international event of the Economy of Francesco on the previously established dates (19-20-21 November 2020) entirely online, with live streaming with the young participants and speakers. The “virtual” participation of Pope Francis has also been confirmed.

The following meeting will take place in Assisi and is scheduled in autumn 2021, when circumstances allow everyone’s participation. The established date – in agreement with The Holy See and according to the evolution of the pandemic – will be confirmed later on.

The organisation of the event The Economy of Francesco 2020 online will allow all young people who registered for the event to participate in a uniform way, sharing the experiences already lived, the work, proposals and reflections which have emerged over the past few months in the 12 villages. The Committee is working to ensure the realisation of an innovative, participatory and global programme, which preserves the unique elements of the Economy of Francesco (group workshops, plenary sessions involving keynote speakers, the places and spirituality of St. Francis, silence and meditation, artistic performances and displays, interviews) enriching the event with the opportunities and languages which the digital means offer.

Today the Economy of Francesco is a movement of young people with faces, personalities and ideas, which is present and growing around the world in order to change the current economy and give a soul to the economy of tomorrow. Today, more than ever, the world needs the creativity and love of young people, who as craftsmen of the future, are creating the Economy of Francesco, weaving between the “already” and “not yet”.

 

For more information and to follow the online events: www.francescoeconomy.org

Pope Francis will visit Assisi to sign the new Encyclical, “All Brothers”, on fraternity and social friendship

In the afternoon of Saturday 3 October 2020 the Holy Father Francis will visit Assisi to sign the new Encyclical, “All Brothers”, on fraternity and social friendship.

The prefecture of the Pontifical Household states that at 3:00 p.m. the Holy Father will arrive at the Sacred Convent, where he will celebrate Holy Mass at the tomb of Saint Francis, and at the end he will sign the Encyclical.

Due to the health situation, it is the Holy Father’s wish that the visit should take place in a private form, without any participation of the faithful.

As soon as the celebration is over, the Holy Father will return to the Vatican.

Source: press.vatican.va

 

Complete English Translations of Early Franciscan Sources now Online

On August 31, 2020, the Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT) announced the full incorporation onto its website of the classic three-volume series on the life and mission of St. Francis, Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, as well as a companion volume, Clare of Assisi: Early Documents.

The original print compilation of the primary sources on the Franciscan movement, published between 1999 and 2001, was the work of Franciscan scholars Regis J. Armstrong, OFM. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, OFM Conv., and William J. Short, OFM. A separate volume, Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, edited by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM Cap., was published in 2006. In addition to these translations, for the benefit of researchers and students this online version also incorporates the original Latin texts.

The multi-year task of bringing the several thousand pages of primary sources, translations, annotations, introductions and footnotes to the web was the painstaking work of Dr. Daniel T. Michaels, an expert in educational technology and digital humanities at the National Institute for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh (USA).

This new web version of the writings of Sts. Francis and Clare and the early Franciscan witnesses will make the original Latin documents and English-language translations instantly accessible to a new generation of scholars, students and lovers of il Poverello across the globe. This version is optimized for the users of mobile devices.

Fr. Dominic Monti, OFM, chair of CFIT and overseer of this six-year project made note of the significance of this web version: “Our goal was to bring our foundational Franciscan sources to the widest possible audience, especially to people in countries around the world who do not have ready access to the print volumes. CFIT is very grateful to the Academy of American Franciscan History for several grants which enabled us to bring this long project to fruition.”

Now containing the complete writings of Francis and Clare of Assisi and the early witnesses to their lives, ministry, and canonization, the website can be accessed by students, researchers, and lovers of things Franciscan by going to the CFIT website at: https://www.franciscantradition.org.

 

 

Franciscan Online Course: Laudato Si’ and Integral Ecology

The Laudato Si’ and Integral Ecology Franciscan Online Course is offered to everyone who wants to gain insights into the major themes of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical and who desires to become a part of the global Franciscan movement towards ecological conversion and systemic change.

This course is created as a transformational tool that will inform and empower you to respond creatively, collaboratively, and courageously to Pope Francis call for “a true ecological and social that integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Each of the ten sessions of this online course consists of a video lecture, reading material, and short test. The curriculum features a diverse group of presenters: theologians, scientists, teachers, and activists. In this course, the registered participants will learn from different Franciscan perspectives, faith-based environmental activism, and Jewish and Muslim viewpoints about the practical implications of the encyclical Laudato Si’.

The content of the course also includes additional, optional background material you can use at your parish, school, and the wider community to inform, inspire, and empower others around you to grow in their Christian faith, seek justice for the poor, and protect our common home.

Do not miss this opportunity to learn about and put into practice the Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Click on the link to enter our “LS Revolution Training Center” and create your user account to access all the course content. There are only a few days left, the course starts on September 7, 2020.

 

Register now at: https://laudatosi-school-77aa.thinkific.com/users/checkout/auth

Download the PDF flyer for more information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

N. 106

PDF: EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

DOC : EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

 

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

Message of the Holy Father Pope Francis for the Celebration of the VI World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

You shall thus hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim a release throughout the land
to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you
” (Lev 25:10)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year, particularly since the publication of the Encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS, 24 may 2015), the first day of September is celebrated by the Christian family as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the beginning of the Season of Creation, which concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October. During this period, Christians worldwide renew their faith in the God of creation and join in prayer and work for the care of our common home.

I am very pleased that the theme chosen by the ecumenical family for the celebration of the 2020 Season of Creation is Jubilee for the Earth, precisely in this year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.

In the Holy Scriptures, a Jubilee is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.

 

  1. A Time to Remember

We are invited to remember above all that creation’s ultimate destiny is to enter into God’s eternal Sabbath. This journey, however, takes place in time, spanning the seven-day rhythm of the week, the cycle of seven years, and the great Jubilee Year that comes at the end of the seven Sabbath years.

A Jubilee is indeed a time of grace to remember creation’s original vocation to exist and flourish as a community of love. We exist only in relationships: with God the Creator, with our brothers and sisters as members of a common family, and with all of God’s creatures within our common home. “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth” (LS, 92)

A Jubilee, then, is a time of remembrance, in which we cherish the memory of our inter-relational existence. We need constantly to remember that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (LS, 70).

 

  1. A Time to Return

A Jubilee is a time to turn back in repentance. We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life.

A Jubilee is a time to return to God our loving Creator. We cannot live in harmony with creation if we are not at peace with the Creator who is the source and origin of all things. As Pope Benedict observed, “the brutal consumption of creation begins where God is missing, where matter has become simply material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate measure, where everything is simply our property” (Meeting with Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008).

The Jubilee season calls us to think once again of our fellow human beings, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. We are asked to re-appropriate God’s original and loving plan of creation as a common heritage, a banquet which all of our brothers and sisters share in a spirit of conviviality, not in competitive scramble but in joyful fellowship, supporting and protecting one another. A Jubilee is a time for setting free the oppressed and all those shackled in the fetters of various forms of modern slavery, including trafficking in persons and child labour.

We also need once more to listen to the land itself, which Scripture calls adamah, the soil from which man, Adam, was made. Today we hear the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order – to remember that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters. The disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption.

Particularly during this Season of Creation, may we be attentive to the rhythms of this created world. For the world was made to communicate the glory of God, to help us to discover in its beauty the Lord of all, and to return to him (cf. SAINT BONAVENTURE, In II Sent., I, 2, 2, q. 1, conclusion; Breviloquium, II, 5.11). The earth from which we were made is thus a place of prayer and meditation. “Let us awaken our God-given aesthetic and contemplative sense” (Querida Amazonia, 56). The capacity to wonder and to contemplate is something that we can learn especially from our indigenous brothers and sisters, who live in harmony with the land and its multiple forms of life.

 

  1. A Time to Rest

In his wisdom, God set aside the Sabbath so that the land and its inhabitants could rest and be renewed. These days, however, our way of life is pushing the planet beyond its limits. Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world. Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify. Creation is groaning!

During the Jubilee, God’s people were invited to rest from their usual labour and to let the land heal and the earth repair itself, as individuals consumed less than usual. Today we need to find just and sustainable ways of living that can give the Earth the rest it requires, ways that satisfy everyone with a sufficiency, without destroying the ecosystems that sustain us.

In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living. Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared. The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads. We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.

 

  1. A Time to Restore

A Jubilee is a time to restore the original harmony of creation and to heal strained human relationships.

It invites us to re-establish equitable societal relationships, restoring their freedom and goods to all and forgiving one another’s debts. We should not forget the historic exploitation of the global South that has created an enormous ecological debt, due mainly to resource plundering and excessive use of common environmental space for waste disposal. It is a time for restorative justice. In this context, I repeat my call for the cancellation of the debt of the most vulnerable countries, in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises they face as a result of Covid-19. We also need to ensure that the recovery packages being developed and deployed at global, regional and national levels must be regeneration packages. Policy, legislation and investment must be focused on the common good and guarantee that global social and environmental goals are met.

We also need to restore the land. Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us. We need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic, especially for poor communities around the world. We need to stand up for intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity at this critical moment. I invite all nations to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions, in preparation for the important Climate Summit (COP 26) in Glasgow in the United Kingdom.

Biodiversity restoration is also crucially important in the context of unprecedented loss of species and degradation of ecosystems. We need to support the U.N. call to safeguard 30% of the earth as protected habitats by 2030 in order to stem the alarming rate of biodiversity loss. I urge the international community to work together to guarantee that the Summit on Biodiversity (COP 15) in Kunming, China becomes a turning point in restoring the earth to be a home of life in abundance, as willed by the Creator.

We must restore with justice in mind, ensuring that those who have lived on the land for generations can regain control over its usage. Indigenous communities must be protected from companies, particularly multinational companies, that “operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home” (LS, 51), through the destructive extraction of fossil fuels, minerals, timber and agroindustrial products. This corporate misconduct is a “new version of colonialism” (SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 27 April 2001, cited in Querida Amazonia, 14), one that shamefully exploits poorer countries and communities desperately seeking economic development. We need to strengthen national and international legislation to regulate the activities of extractive companies and ensure access to justice for those affected.

 

  1. A Time to Rejoice

In the biblical tradition, a Jubilee was a joyous occasion, inaugurated by a trumpet blast resounding throughout the land. We are aware that the cries of the earth and of the poor have become even louder and more painful in recent years. At the same time, we also witness how the Holy Spirit is inspiring individuals and communities around the world to come together to rebuild our common home and defend the most vulnerable in our midst. We see the gradual emergence of a great mobilization of people from below and from the peripheries who are generously working for the protection of the land and of the poor. We rejoice to see how young people and communities, particularly indigenous communities, are on the frontlines in responding to the ecological crisis. They are calling for a Jubilee for the earth and a new beginning, aware that “things can change” (LS, 13).

We also rejoice to see how the Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year is inspiring many initiatives at local and global levels for the care of our common home and the poor. This year should lead to long-term action plans to practise integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities, our healthcare, business and agricultural institutions, and many others as well.

We rejoice too that faith communities are coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. We are particularly happy that the Season of Creation is becoming a truly ecumenical initiative. Let us continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of a single family.

Let us all rejoice that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth, which is also God’s home where his Word “became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14) and which is constantly being renewed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (cf. Ps 104:30).

 

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 1 September 2020

FRANCIS

 

Rap song for Ecological Conversion, “Laudato Si’ Revolution”

The 1st of September 2020 is the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and the first day of the Season of Creation. As part of the Laudato Si’ Revolution, a global Franciscan campaign for integral and ecological conversion, the JPIC Office celebrates this year’s World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation with the newly released RAP SONG, “Laudato Si’ Revolution” by Br. Sandesh Manuel, OFM.

The music video, which is the second video of the campaign, is full of energy and inspiration for ecological conversion. It urges us to take a bold move to live our Franciscan vocation more radically in today’s world. Pope Francis asked us to get engaged in the interreligious dialogue for the integral ecology. That’s why the video contains various clips from multi-religious groups around the world. We hope you listen to it, watch it, sing to it, share it with others, and take part in the action. We believe that it has enough power to get other religious traditions and youth together in the campaign. Let’s feel the beat and take action!

“We need to let go of ego till we don’t know vanity
We are not God, our role is humanity
Many things have to change why don’t we start with us?
But I know there are naysayers that want to discuss

Others are passive, choosing not to change
All of their habits, then they wonder why they’re blamed
And in terms of business and consumerism
I think we’ve lost track of what’s real and what really isn’t

In one way or another we all wanna see the light
So how about we start living today in the name of Christ?
Like Saint Francis and let go of our possessions
Do that and see what happens to all your obsessions

Put your hands up when you listen to this song
Rejoice in Jesus’ name, realize we can get along
We can’t replace beauty with man-made constructions
Change the way you live and let go of all your obstructions!”
(second verse)

 

The Plenary Council of the Order 2018, in number 188 tells us:

“In evangelization and catechesis, to make use of art, culture, and nature in the light of Laudato si’; to use new technological tools, inviting young people to participate more deeply in the real world, and involving them in the realities of the poor, of the Church, and of God in a more concrete and incarnated way; making sure that connections are created with people from other cultures, countries and continents”

Koinonia: A Secular Franciscan in today’s world

The Second Vatican Council and the Rule of OFS given in 1978 have made clear the role of the laity in the church and in the world. They recall all the faithful to the baptismal mission to which, without any exclusion, all are called: “They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world”[1]. And it is in this context that all members of the Secular Franciscan Order, on the day of their Profession, are called to renew their baptismal promises. Thus they commit themselves to live the Gospel in the world according to the example and teachings of Christ, inspired by the Writings of Francis and following the Rule of OFS[2]. In their secular condition, the Secular Franciscans must therefore witness that the Franciscan charism and spirituality are lived according to the different aspects of life, such as family and work, in joy and suffering, with the presence and participation in social life, in the fraternal relationship with all creatures, up to the meeting with all, who are brothers and sisters in the same Father (GGCC art.12).

The challenge generated by the rapid change and sometimes by the deterioration of the moral and traditional values ​​of the family and the society, must involve every member of OFS to live authentically their identity as a Franciscan secular. This must be rooted in the Gospel of Jesus which continually invites them to the highest, visible and effective witness without ever forgetting that the mission entrusted to each baptized person requires a continuous search for the face of God in one’s brothers and sisters and in every situation of life. Jesus reminds us of this when he says that: “…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25: 35-36). In all these situations, the coherence of faith helps and encourages us to see each one as brothers and sisters, to love them as we ourselves would like to be loved, in deepest respect for the Gospel commandment of love. An ethics of reciprocity can help us to find permanent solutions to the many discriminations and indifferences of our time. The world needs ‘persons renewed in love’ who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty by serving others, people who recognize that they have been called to live not for themselves, but for Christ and for the world.

Secular Franciscans are therefore called to “…commit themselves to a faith-inspired reflection on the Church, her mission in today’s world and the role of Franciscan laity in the Church”. (GGCC art. 14.1). In order not to frustrate the commitment of one’s mission in the world, each Secular Franciscan should never forget the fact that although he/she is called to live in an atheist world, wounded by the indifference of division and individualism, “baptism does not take them from the world at all, as the apostle Paul points out: «So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God» (1 Cor 7:24). On the contrary, he entrusts a vocation to them that properly concerns their situation in the world. The lay faithful, in fact, «are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others»”[3].

 

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

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

N. 106

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[1] Christifideles Laici, no 9.
[2] Cfr. OFS, Rite of the promise of Gospel life, no. 31
[3] Christifideles Laici, no 15.

Message of Solidarity for the Friars and the People of Lebanon following the explosions that rocked the City of Beirut

Bro. Francesco Patton, OFM
Custos
Custody of the Holy Land
Jerusalem

Rome, August 25, 2020

Dear Bro. Francesco,

May the Lord give you his peace!

On behalf of the General Definitory and the entire Order, I wish to extend our prayers for, and solidarity with, the Friars and the people of Lebanon following the recent explosions that rocked the city of Beirut. The loss of innocent lives, the suffering of so many who have been injured, and the devastating destruction of property, which has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless risk creating a sense of hopelessness. The crisis of the new Coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of the political order heighten the anxiety and threaten to create a power vacuum that could lead to further suffering and uncertainty.

Please convey to our Franciscan brothers, the Christian communities they serve, the various leaders of the Christian churches, and other religious leaders with whom you are in contact, our sincere concern and our offer of prayer, that God might provide light, courage and strength to the people of Lebanon. Our greatest wish is that there might be a movement of solidarity among the nations so that necessary financial, logistical, and other support can be provided in a timely manner to assist the Lebanese people in this most difficult moment.

I also appeal to the Franciscan entities of the Order to provide financial assistance where possible, working closely with the Custody, as it serves those in greatest need.

Fraternally yours in Christ and St. Francis,

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

 

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Prot. MG 139/2020

We Franciscans come together to celebrate the “Season of Creation”

The Season of Creation is approaching — it begins on September 1st 2020,  which marks the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, and continues until October 4th, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology and Ecologists [1]. Many Christians join in this special time to reflect, pray, and implement concrete activities that will lead humanity towards a lifestyle of solidarity that cares for our Common Home.

The Season of Creation is an ecumenical initiative that has been celebrated since 1989. For decades, during this annual season Christians across the globe have focused on being reconciled with our Creator. The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Dimitrios I, proclaimed September 1st as a day of prayer for creation in 1989. In fact, the Orthodox Church year begins on that day with a commemoration of how God created the world. Other major Christian European churches embraced the day in 2001, and Pope Francis followed up for the Roman Catholic Church in 2015.

We Franciscan friars are enthusiastically joining in this ecumenical initiative. Several Provinces of the Order, through their JPIC offices, have organized activities in conjunction with the wider Franciscan Family. This year, our participation has more energy and hope because of the project called The Laudate Si’ Revolution.

 

We’d like to tell you about some activities that the General Curia’s JPIC Office is promoting:

September 1st  – Launch of the music video, “Laudato Si’ Revolution” (on JPIC Facebook)

September 5th – Web Seminar: “Eco-Pastoral Center and the Eco-village Movement”. Available only in English, and registration is required HERE.

September 5th – Live: “Revolución Laudato Si’”, available only in Spanish (Facebook and YouTube)

September 12th – Web Seminar “Global Laudato Si’” (East). Aimed at friars of the Order in Initial Formation. In cooperation with the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies

September 19th – Web Seminar “Global Laudato Si’” (West). Aimed at friars of the Order in Initial Formation. In cooperation with the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies.

September 19th: Live: Laudato Si’ Revolution. Available only in Portuguese (Facebook and YouTube)

September 26th and 27th – “Ecological Conversion Retreat” in cooperation with the World Catholic Climate Movement and JPIC-Franciscan Family in Colombia. Available only in Spanish. Registration required HERE before September 24th.

 

For a video that promotes the Season of Creation:

[1] John Paul II, Inter Sanctos, Apostolic Letter proclaiming Saint Francis of Assisi as patron of ecology (1979)

Koinonia: Francis of Assisi and the unknown brother

In every human being there is an attitude of self-defence and a sense of fear towards the other, especially if the latter is a stranger. The reaction to these situations, if supported by poor knowledge, is that of not wanting to meet others. This attitude sometimes becomes a reason for repudiation and intolerance, causing the closure towards the newness of the other who is seen not as a gift but as a problem. The unknown, in some cases, is even considered as a danger. The history of the Israelites exiled to the land of Pharaoh confirms the drama of the fear of the human being towards the unknown.

Then a new king arose over Egypt, who had not known Joseph. And he said to his people: “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” (Exodus 1: 8-10).

The brother who comes from another nation is often seen as a stranger, an invader, an individual who can break down and put at risk our securities, those of the law, of the rules, of the culture, etc. Even Francis of Assisi experienced this ‘fear’ towards the other, represented, in his case, by the lepers of his time. He was not paralyzed by any fear, neither of ignorance, nor by the nausea of having to meet an ‘unknown-leper’. Instead he opened his whole heart by recognizing the leper the right of identity as a human being who must never be denied the dignity that derives from being a creature of God. Also the meeting of Francis of Assisi with the Sultan is a reason for reflection to see how ‘a meeting can lead to renewal’. Here Francis refuses the pre-judgment to see ‘the other as an enemy’ but puts himself in the attitude of considering him as a friend, a brother to meet, to listen, to embrace and to share with him the gift of friendship and peace. In this sense it can be said that ‘the Poverello of Assisi’ becomes ‘a very rich man’, a good and just man who understood that only ‘the love of the other and for the other’ is the fruit of a renewed relationship, which is stronger than the power of weapons. As Pope John Paul II said; “The challenge is to combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life”[1].

To lead the gospel life in our daily lives every Christian, as member of the Church and of the Order, can be aware of the importance of promoting “an authentic culture of welcome capable of accepting the truly human values of the immigrants over and above any difficulties caused by living together with persons who are different”[2]. We still have a lot more to learn from Francis of Assisi.

 

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

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

N. 106

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DOC : EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

 

[1] Pope John Paul II; Message for the celebration of the XXXIV World Day of Peace 2001, 13.
[2] Erga Migrates Caritas Christi, no 39.

Koinonia: The OFS Rule as a response in times of great changes

The only act by which a human being can correspond to the God who reveals himself, is the act of unlimited readiness. It is the unity of faith, hope, and love.”[1]

The explosion of COVID-19 has taken the world unawares and is predictably going to cause unpredictable changes in the world. In 2007, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Lebanese-American scholar, statistician, and former option trader and risk analyst published a book titled “The Black Swan the impact of the highly improbable[2]. According to the author, greatest changes in the lives of individuals and collectivities always begin from highly improbable and unpredictable events. This is what is termed a Black Swan. The encounter of Saint Francis with the leper, for example, was a Black Swan. COVID-19 is a Black Swan with global impact. Such phenomena do not have space for stereotype responses, because they were not predictable. We can neither reverse the situation nor change it, people have died, people are dying and the contagion continues to spread.  However, we can change, in fact, entire cities and nations are under lock-down for the past 2-4 weeks. This is change. But the change to which this situation obliges us is deeper, it is a conversion.

How can the OFS Rule be of help to Secular Franciscans in such a situation? We are called to perfection of charity, love of God above all else and love of neighbour as Christ has loved us. We should never lose focus of this, because the Rule itself is a path to this and not an end. Conversion keeps us on the right path. Changing times come and go but the call to holiness remains and the Rule will always be of help in every. Now, for example, is the favourable time to renew our personal and fraternal lives in conformity to the Rule we have professed as brothers and sisters of penance. The Rule states: “Let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls conversion. Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily”[3]. Saint Paul says “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1Cor 13:3). Charity is always creative.

In these times that community celebrations are not even possible for many, our love of God and neighbour should even be more creative in our forms of prayer, communication and activity. The OFS General Constitutions offer some guidelines to this effect: “Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are: listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life; spiritual retreats; the help of a spiritual adviser, and penitential celebrations. … The fruits of conversion, which is a response to the love of God, are the works of charity in the interactions with the brothers and sisters[4]. The present experience of lock-down is new to many. The uncertainty continues to loom over all as the pandemic continues its course across the globe. One thing is certain, God is with us, even as he descended in the furnace with Daniel and his companions. Spiritual assistants are and will continue to be of great help to the brothers and sisters of the OFS especially in such times.

Conclusion

Hans Urs von Balthasar is known to have held strongly that “life is a vocation because reality is a provocation”. Such situations as these certainly provoke us either to seek God for refuge, assistance or for a solution. Like St. Francis, we may want to ask: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”. These times call for discernment in fraternity and openness to the Spirit. “Those who seek the Lord will not be disappointed” (Ps 9:11). In such a situation, God’s will for us might be heard only through the very cry of those suffering. COVID-19 opens our eyes to the fact that humanity is more united than many are tempted to think. If one person is infected, we are all in danger. It provokes us to sincere prayer, penance and to concrete acts of charity towards all affected brothers and sisters. By doing good to others, you do it to yourself. We should join hands to ensure that even if we cannot come together for meetings or celebrations, no brother or sister is left alone, alive or dead.  “When I was in sin, writes St. Francis, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body[5].  God may be waiting for us exactly where we do not want to go. When love of neighbour obliges us to leave our false securities to go to help others, there we will meet Christ, and it will be sweetness of soul and body. The OFS Rule is a gift for Secular Franciscans to live these difficult times of COVID-19 with joy and hope and to bring solace to many.

 

This is an extract from an article written by Br. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFMCap. Download and read the full text:

Koinonia 2020-1“The OFS Rule as a Response in Times of Great Changes”

N. 105

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[1] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Communio 37 (Spring 2010). © 2010 by Communio: International Catholic Review, https://www.communio-icr.com/files/BalthasarVocationFormat2.pdf (2/04/2019).
[2] Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan the impact of the improbable, Random House, New York, 2007.
[3] OFS Rule n° 7.
[4] OFS General Constitutions, Art. 13.1-2.
[5]Testament, 2-3.

The Coronavirus crisis – a turning point | A Franciscan Perspective on COVID19

Since the Second World War, no event has caused the world so much unrest, anxiety and conflict as the coronavirus pandemic engulfing all countries. What hardly anyone could conceive has spread across the world like wildfire. A virus makes humanity – who considers itself the superior species – aware of its weakness and pulls people’s vulnerability and mortality into the public eye. Nature is now painfully teaching humans that it is stronger than our illusion of limitless possibilities, as well as our belief in eternal progress. Moreover, the virus destroys the “economic dogma” of the necessary progressive increase in profits, with devastating results. It turns out that an economic and progress doctrine has been imposed on a world that is now unable to cope with the virus. The mirage of prosperity stands on shifting sands. In this pandemonium, it seems that systems with a social orientation fare better than those based on neo-liberal theories.

In recent weeks, perhaps extending for months, people around the world have been forced to “fast”, whether they like it or not. Restrictions on entry, closure of schools, kindergartens and non-essential businesses. The coronavirus forces people to forego pleasure, consumption and free movement. Instead, “social distancing” and quarantine are required. Even worse, the virus threatens jobs and increases social injustices worldwide. All this scares many people and destroys trust in politics and institutions. Uncertainty is spreading and the longer the anti-measures take, the more the resistance of those who are only concerned with their own freedom and benefit grows. Scapegoats are sought and old stereotypes resurface. Since there are no easy answers to the complex situation, fake news and conspiracy theories rear their heads again. Unreasonableness connects right-wing populists with left-wing ideologues and religious hardliners. In this situation, we must exercise patience, understanding and truthfulness.

Spiritual orientation can also provide guidance. In this context, we could draw inspiration from those who follow the guidance of Francis and Clare of Assisi. While they lived in another century and faced other crises, social problems, and epidemics, their work may still shape our present actions. According to his own words in the Testament, Francis finds his way out of this personal life crisis because he dared to overcome the “social distancing” towards lepers imposed by society and the church at that time through friendship and solidarity. This was done on medical grounds, i.e. to avoid contagions, but also because lepers were deemed sinners from a theological standpoint. And yet, the noble Clare does not abide by the rules of her class and looks after the poor and socially excluded. The encounter with suffering and misery also poses the question of God and one’s own self-image. “Who are you and who am I?” are the existential questions handed down from Francis. In both cases, God’s image changes as we face human misery and the fragility of life. They find the “good” God, empathetic and not punitive, among the poor and the lepers. Both of them were plagued with illnesses and nearing death for most of their lives. This shaped their perception of illness and death. They want sick sisters and brothers to benefit from the greatest possible help and relief at that time. At the same time, they encourage people to accept illness with active patience as part of life, while regarding disease as an opportunity for human growth and maturation. Death is neither kept secret nor suppressed in any way. For them, it is a part of life that instils no fear because it cannot destroy authentic relationships of love and belonging. For it is not in death where the hazard lies but in the unkindness of selfishness. Challenged by crises, diseases, social distance and injustice, as well as driven by a changed image of God, they create a brotherhood lifestyle that stands in stark contrast with the hierarchical society and church. This lifestyle, which is also based on religion – everyone in Jesus Christ as brothers and sisters is a creature of the same God – has a universal character. More importantly, other believers and all creatures are also included. Their experience of poverty, disease and exclusion will help them discover a God who cares about all creatures and fosters life. What is more, the perception that a happy life arises from the gift of the compassionate and sympathetic relationship, and which cannot be acquired through money, property or power, transforms their view of people and the world. Instead of the “Homo Economicus”, they focus on the “Homo Fraternus/Sororius”, which produces social and economic effects. Instead of inserting themselves in the emerging pre-capitalist monetary economy, they favour manual labour to ensure that the people’s economic activity is embedded in social relationships. In doing so, they overcome an economy of profit at the expense of humanity and nature, falling back on a gift economy that defines social, cultural and ethical values in addition to monetary values. With the human and world view of “Homo Fraternus/Sororius” and a gift economy, they are prepared for unforeseeable crises and able to deal with them in a learning process.

So, what could we learn from our coronavirus crisis, inspired by Francis, Clare and the Franciscan-Clarian tradition? Here are a few suggestions: The “physical distance” that is now necessary should be practised through a responsible “social closeness” to those most affected: the poor, the elderly, the sick and those who are losing their livelihoods as we speak. To maintain the distance necessary for health reasons through new forms of closeness, care and solidarity, we must apply imagination, spontaneous flexibility, intuition and unconventional humanity.

Instead of enabling large companies to pay dividends through tax funds, the aim now is to use funds to save lives, alleviate poverty and preserve jobs. Instead of returning to the “normality” of the profit of the neo-capitalist economy, what we need now is the courageous transformation of the economy into a truly social market economy. The crisis of this pandemic has clearly shown that the previous practice of capitalism cannot withstand such a situation. Apparently, it is time to question the neo-liberal economic system and its dogmas of eternal growth, and to take other structures and mechanisms seriously. We must understand this crisis as a mandate to change course, lest we seek to keep on building humanity’s future on shifting sand. There are already approaches to this, for example, in a gift economy, in a solidarity economy and many more. Sustainable and future-oriented business is now the order of the day. Likewise, we should do something more and faster now to protect the balance of nature and thus to preserve creation, our common home. Demands to soften the already insufficient decisions to protect nature must be rejected. We cannot and must not go back to the “let’s keep the money flowing” attitude. If so, we would have learned nothing from this crisis. Basic ethical and moral attitudes to shaping coexistence, the economy and dealing with creation must now be discussed and implemented.

This pandemic also entails a questioning of God’s image by believers and their religious practice. The theodicy question arises again: why does God allow this? Images of God that are reduced to ideas of omnipotence, perfectionism, immutability or dispassion (apatheia), as well as mechanical or causal ideas are rather difficult. In major crises, people guided by the spirituality of Francis and Clare are also open to the God who appears as freedom-loving among the poor, the sick, the marginalised and among those who accept life as a precious gift. This image of God forms a commitment to a better world in which peace, justice and a future-oriented approach to creation are given a chance.

However, the path to a better world demands that we leave this one behind. Moreover, this crisis opens up other paths now. This raises the question of what is really important to us, what is really worth something to us and what does this mean for our future together, our common home? Patience, one of the Franciscan virtues, is required to answer such questions. Patience is now also in demand from all of us, and that does not only mean passive endurance, bearing the burden, and fearful waiting. Otherwise, the nerves will soon be bare. Patience is also the active force of perseverance and confidence in a difficult time, the end of which is not yet in sight. When combined with trust and faith, patience is the basic attitude that has confidence in life. Those endowed with patience do not simply feel at the mercy of the crises but face the challenges found in dire straits and storms, knowing that crises also offer opportunities to learn and mature. Patience keeps an eye on the glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel and knows that a day will follow every night. Sure, it doesn’t just wipe away fear, but it keeps you from depressive paralysis and unnecessary panic. It is the force necessary, perhaps a painful one, to take steps towards the coming summer. Of course, the patience we need now has its price: to adhere to the necessary discipline and show solidarity with the risk groups and the sick, all over the world. With such patience, we will not only overcome this crisis, but hopefully also shape a future that is worth living in for everyone with matured humanity, an increase in knowledge and new skills.

 

Br. Johannes B. Freyer, OFM
Missionszentrale der Franziskarner
Bonn, Germany

This article was originally published in the JPIC Newsletter: CONTACT (04-06.2020).

Press Release: General Chapter

The General Definitory, after an attentive reflection and as a result of the dialogue and moments of discussion with the Presidents of the Conferences, during the extraordinary session of Thursday 30 July 2020, has decided that the General Chapter of the Order will be celebrated in Rome from 3 to 18 July 2021, at the International College “San Lorenzo da Brindisi” of the Friars Minor Capuchins.

As Art. 140 § 1 of the General Statutes states: “The convocation of the General Chapter is to be made by the Minister General at least six months before its celebration through a letter to the Order, in which the Chapter Members are convoked and the dat of its announcement and the principal topics are indicated.”

If the turn of events of the Covid-19 pandemic would oblige us to postpone the date, the General Chapter will be held in Rome from 6 to 21 September 2021.

The Theme and Logo of the Chapter chosen by the General Definitorium are the following:

Theme:
Renewing our Vision, Embracing our Future
“Arise … and Christ will give you light” Ep. 5:14

 

 

Br. Sergio Galdi d’Aragona, ofm
Secretary of the General Chapter

The Amazonian Ecclesial Conference: The Unity and Diversity of our Church | August 8th  – Online Seminar

Following a synodal process, a new Ecclesial Conference came into being on June 29th,2020. What was the process that led to its creation? Who participates in this Conference? What prospects does the Pan-Amazonian region have? To get answers to these questions, why not participate in the online seminar? It will be available with simultaneous translation in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The celebration of the special Synod for the Amazon that took place in Rome during the month of October 2019 was an important step in a long process of listening that has been taking place in the base communities of the Pan-Amazonian region. As a result of the dialogue that took place during the synodal sessions in Rome last October, a proposal was made to“… [create] a Bishops’ organism that promotes synodality among the churches of the region, helps to express the Amazonian face of this Church and continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially incorporating the proposal of integral ecology, thus strengthening the physiognomy of the Church in the Amazon. It would be a permanent and representative Bishops’ organism that promotes synodality in the Amazon region, connected with CELAM, with its own structure, in a simple organization and also connected with REPAM” (Final Document of the Amazon Synod n.115)

On June 29th, this Episcopal organism (or structure) was established and, according to Vatican News, it was inaugurated virtually. The participants, who were linked by video conference, were the President of CELAM, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, OFM, the President and Vice President of REPAM, (Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, and Cardinal Pedro Barreto, SJ) as well as one Bishop for each country that shares the Amazon territory (9) — because of its size, Brazil has two representatives. Other participants include Bishop José Luis Azuaje, from Caritas Latin America and the Caribbean, Sr. Liliana Franco from CLAR, and Mauricio López from REPAM. There are also three representatives of the original peoples, Patricia Gualinga, Sr. Laura Vicuña, and Delio Siticonatzi. The Vatican participants are Cardinal Baldisseri from the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Ouellet from the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Luis Tagle from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Cardinal Czerny from the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

The Order’s JPIC Office has invited three members of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon to participate in this seminar: Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, OFM, president of CELAM, Sr. Laura Vicuña Pereira, Franciscan Sister and Catechist, and Maruicio López, executive secretary of REPAM. The session will be chaired by Br. Valmir Ramos, OFM, Definitor General, and the Order’s General Animator for Evangelisation.

 

The Online Seminar takes place on Saturday, August 8th 2020:

10.00 AM Los Angeles, (USA)
11.00 AM El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
12.00 PM Chicago (USA), México, Panamá, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú
01.00 PM Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay
02.00 PM Sao Paulo (Brasil), Argentina, Uruguay
07.00 PM Madrid (Spain), Portugal, Italy

 

In order to participate, please register HERE: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_w7Gtq0cNSIqZPlXKlBi_ew

 

As Members of a ‘Cosmic Fraternity’, All Creatures share the same Dignity and Vocation given by God | Homily of the Minister General for the Feast of the Pardon of Assisi

“Praised be You, my Lord, who with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun…, through Sister Moon and the stars…
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,…Sister Water,…Brother Fire,…
Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us…
Praised be you, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulations.”

 

Two thousand twenty will be remembered as a year of great infirmity and tribulation for the entire world. Every human community on this tiny planet Earth has been affected in one way or another by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Presently, more than 650,000 people worldwide have died, of whom 35,000 in Italy. More than 17 million have tested positive for the virus but scientists tell us that this is probably only a small fraction of the total number of infected. The social, cultural, economic, and spiritual lives of people everywhere – our lives – have been profoundly disrupted. Many have experienced deep psychological disturbances leading some to give up hope and commit suicide. More troubling, we have no idea about how the virus will evolve. This creates profound uncertainty about the future.

These consequences are all too real for those of us gathered here today to celebrate the Feast of the Pardon of Assisi. We cover our faces with masks; we maintain social distance from each other; we walk about in fear of the invisible enemy; fewer pilgrims are gathered in this sacred space this year for our pilgrimage celebration; the annual ‘Franciscan March’which was supposed to celebrate its 40th anniversary will have to be postponed for another time.

The new Coronavirus has also opened the eyes of more people – and I hope it has opened the eyes of those of us gathered here in prayer – to the deep, longstanding, social and ecological wounds simmering just below the surface in most if not all societies. These wounds, symbols of serious social and institutional sin, have in the recent past caught little attention among those who are part of the majority or ‘privileged’ classes. This is not the case for those who are counted among the ‘minority’, who have experienced serious social infirmity and tribulations on a daily basis for most of their lives. This was demonstrated most clearly by the cruel murder of George Floyd, an innocent black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States who was held down by the police in a choke hold. Despite his plea for mercy, for oxygen – eight minutes and forty-six seconds, “I can’t breathe,” no mercy was shown by those entrusted with the duty to save lives. But the plight of George Floyd, his murder, is not limited only to the United States. It is the experience of so many people around the world – in England, France, Italy, India, South Africa, Brazil, to name only a few places – who have systematically been excluded, reduced to a life of poverty, who ‘can’t breathe’ because of the color of their skin, the social class to which they have been assigned, because of their religious convictions, or their sexual orientation. The experience of suffering and tribulations spoken of by St. Francis are not something experienced only at the personal level. The spiritual insight of St. Francis, his cry for mercy, pardon, and reconciliation also has a social dimension that, if embraced and followed, will produce within each of us a profound conversion. This conversion will produce the fruits of an authentic, just, and joy-filled life as disciples and co-missionaries with Christ, with Mary, and with St. Francis.

The new Coronavirus pandemic is allowing us to examine something else that is deeply troubling, which is producing ever-greater suffering and tribulation for the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants. I am speaking about the deep socio-economic divide that is increasing. Those who control the forces of economic production and distribution – the multinational corporations (Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google) – are getting richer at an alarming rate, even in these uncertain times of the pandemic while the poor, the excluded, people of color are becoming poorer, marginalized, pushed to the brink of survival at an alarming rate. It is they who face the greatest risks and bear the worst consequences of the pandemic because they have nothing to fall back on, no reserve resources, no significant social assets to draw upon. At the same time, we also are witnessing a deepening of the environmental crisis, the unrelenting destruction of the natural environment – the rain forests; oceans, seas, and rivers; the atmosphere that provides oxygen for our lungs; the melting of the two ‘Poles’ and an alarming rise in sea levels, which, in turn, is forcing mostly the poor to abandon their homes and become ‘environmental refugees’. All of these destructive social inequalities and abuses of nature create favorable conditions in which deadly pathogens previously held at bay in protected natural environments can make the leap from the animal to the human community, bringing unforeseen danger and suffering. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has enabled us, perhaps for the first time in our lives, to recognize the deeply interconnected nature of all living things, and the need for us to repent and change our lives.

Brothers and sisters, the call to repentance, conversion, to open our minds, hearts, and lives to a new way of living together on this planet is more urgent now than in any other moment in human history. Conversion requires that we hear “Both the cry of the earth and the cry of the Poor” (cf. Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, par. 49). But is this not also what Francis of Assisi intended when he prayed that all people, and I would add, all of the created universe, might be admitted to paradise, might come to an experience of what St. Matthew calls the “Beatific way of life,” (Mt. 5:1-11) defined by living in just and right relationship with one another and with all of creation?

Today, we come to this sacred place of the Porziuncula, a place of prayer, encounter, pardon, mercy, and love. God has brought us here so that we might enter more fully into the divine drama of Jesus’ redemptive act of liberation from sin and the reconciling power of the cross that invites us to seek the way back towards God, towards one another, towards ourselves, and towards creation. We come as brothers and sisters, carrying in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies every living creature, so that all might participate in the liberating power of God’s reconciling love. As St. Paul tells us: “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:22-23). The very act of this adoption, this redemptive process, is nothing other than the full reconciliation of all things in Christ Jesus, achieved through Jesus’ death on the cross (Col. 1:20). It is here where the testimony of St. Paul and that of St. Francis converge, offering us a new way forward to experience the graced consequences of a reconciled life.

In his Canticle of the Creatures, Francis offers us a road map for attaining a life of Beatitude, of ‘Paradise’ recovered. In the Canticle Francis celebrates God’s loving presence in all of creation. He looks to nature for guidance on how we are to model our relationships with God, one another, and with the natural world. He recognizes in creation – Brother Sun, Sister Moon and all other elements – the call for us to live in total dependence on the Creator. He invites us to open our lives to an understanding of our authentic identity as members of a ‘cosmic fraternity’ wherein all creatures share the same dignity and vocation given by God from the moment of creation (cf. C. Vaiani, Storia e teologia dell’esperienza spirituale di Francesco di Assisi, Milano, 2013, p. 378). This one fraternity, this common home, has been created by God and given the vocation to love, serve, and honor the Creator by loving, serving and honoring one another. Humans and the creaturely world have as their vocation the duty to support and complete one another, not to compete against and destroy one another. We are co-responsible with and for one another, especially for the poor and excluded. We are co-responsible for the life of the natural environment, showing gratitude and respecting nature’s proper limits, not pushing the planet to the brink of ecological disaster.

“Come to me, all who desire me, and be filled with my fruits. You will remember me as sweeter than honey, better to have than the honeycomb.” (Sir 24:19-20). These words of consolation offer to us the hope that God will always be merciful, will always welcome us back, no matter how far we stray in our lives, and no matter how far our human communities have strayed from the practice of love, care, justice, and mercy to each and every human being, and to the natural world, our common home.

Brothers and sisters, God is calling us through this great celebration of the Pardon of Assisi to abandon all that leads to death, all that robs us of God’s mercy, pardon, peace, and joy. We are invited to live as beloved children of a loving God, destined for freedom, destined for love, destined for God. There is no room for fear, no room for exclusion, no room for apathy or inaction. In God’s paradise, all are welcome, all are forgiven, and all are loved. May Mary, Mother of Jesus, embrace and console us as together we renew our pledge to live in authentic friendship with God, one another, and with our mother earth, our common home.

 

See also:  Catholic News Service’s  story about the Feast of the Pardon of Assisi and the Minister General’s  Homily: “Conversion has personal, social dimensions, Franciscan leader says

 

 

Koinonia: Saint Francis and changes of his time: reconciling the Gospel with history

The gospel experience of Francis, writes Eloi Leclerc, is not a simple episode in the history of Christianity. It has an exemplary and prophetic value[1]. Francis of Assisi lived during a time of great socio-political and economic changes. European societies were moving from feudal systems to communal cities. Financial economy founded on free trade was taking over from that based on land ownership. New associations of common interest were shaking traditional social equilibrium of relationships. There was great mobility of persons, a reality that seriously challenged the Church that for long had found her equilibrium on the monastic model of “stabilitas loci”. It was a time of crises and expectation. Therefore, what did Francis do to become such a model of Gospel witness transcending times and cultures? Eloi Leclerc outlines three features of Francis that we will consider here. First, Francis’ rich human nature. Secondly, the breath of the Gospel and, thirdly, Francis’ complicity with the movement of history[2].

Francis’ rich human nature: all the biographies bear witness to the rich personality of Francis even before his conversion, his passion for life and beauty and his love for his city that would take him to war against Perugia. This resulted in his experience as a prisoner. His ambition for social greatness sent him on the roads to the Puglia for a war expedition. His ability in business was such that he could sell both cloth and horse with no difficulty. In his joyousness, love for life and parties and poetry earned him the title of “king of the youth” in his city. His sensitivity to the needs of others, made him generous to a fault, though fear of lepers kept him away from this particular group.  He overcame this fear despite himself, through merciful service to the lepers, and this for him was a gift of grace as he narrates in his Testament. His experience of the fragility of sickness before conversion and at the end of his life was likewise an enriching experience. He could talk to the sick from the depth of their misery that he shared. Francis  incarnated in himself the life and aspirations of his contemporaries. He was one with them; he spoke their language and shared in their joys, sufferings, and dreams. The words of St. Augustine came true for Francis in a prominent way when he says of God: “Our hearts are made for you and they are restless till they rest in you”.

The breath of the Gospel: The Gospel has in it the power to renew the Church and bring new life to the world. It can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37). As a river flowing from Christ, the Gospel brings abundant life to the world of men and cultures: “Flowing into the sea, it makes the waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live” (Ez 47:7.9). Francis and the movement sparked by him is proof of this, thus confirming the promise of Christ Jesus who says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn10:10). Inspired specifically by the Gospel of the sending out of the apostles (Mt. 10:1-10), Francis discerned for himself and his followers the specific mission to live the Gospel in its pure simplicity and to take the Gospel of peace to the people of his time where they were, on the roads, in town squares or battle fields. Eloi Leclerc puts it very beautifully when he says: “the world of men is a battle field. The messenger of the Gospel must not appear as a rival or a competitor in the scramble for riches and power[3]. The radical choice of poverty made Francis and his followers particularly harmless.

The flame of the Gospel was so strong in Francis that when he could no longer travel due to ill health, he resorted to writing and was so daring to the point of addressing a letter to humanity. He opens the Letter to the faithful in these words: “Brother Francis, their servant and subject, sends esteem and reverence, true peace from heaven and sincere love in the Lord to all Christian religious people: clergy and laity, men and women, and to all who live in the whole world. Because I am the servant of all, I am obliged to serve all and to administer the fragrant worlds of my Lord to them[4]. This letter is the basis for all the Rules of the Third Order down the centuries. He brought the breath of the Gospel to the people by every means available to him. The conversion to Christ and the Gospel rather sharpened the human qualities of Francis and opened up the horizons of his world. And that is how it supposed to be.

Francis’ complicity with the movement of history: “The salvation that God offers us is an invitation to be part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us”[5]. Eloi Leclerc observes that “there are times when excessive asceticism, and intense spiritual life, dampens sensitivity and renders persons more or less foreign to visible and tangible reality[6]. This did not occur to Francis. Francis used the movements of history to take him to his objectives in the same way a good surfer would use the waves of the ocean. This is certainly how Christian life is supposed to be. When one attains such a degree of faith, then there is no more space for lamentations. Every experience becomes an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and an invitation to join in the dance of creation in praise of the Most High Glorious God. Docility to the Holy Spirit and attention to the changing times yet in total submission to ecclesiastical authority has marked the Franciscan movement from the beginning until date. In one of his last recommendations to his followers Francis clearly expresses this fact: “I have done my part; May Christ teach you that which is yours to do”. This is certainly the main reason for the diversity and dynamic creativity typical of all Franciscan groups, including OFS.

 

This is an extract from an article written by Br. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFMCap. Download and read the full text:

Koinonia 2020-1“The OFS Rule as a Response in Times of Great Changes”

N. 105

PDF: EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

DOC : EnglishItalianoEspañolFrançais

 

 

[1]Éloi Leclerc, François d’Assise le retour à l’Évangile, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris 1981, ed. 2010, pg. 203, (my translation)
[2] Cfr. Idem.
[3]Eloi Leclerc, op. cit., p. 83. (Le monde est un champs de luttes. Le messager de l’Evangile ne doit pas apparaitre comme un rival ou un concurrent dans la course à la richesse et au pouvoir )
[4] Second Letter to the Faithful, 1-2.
[5] Francis, Post-synodal Apostolic exhortation Christus vivit to young people and to the entire people of God, n° 252.
[6] Eloi Leclerc, François d’Assise, op cit. p. 204.

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