On 11 October in Ostuni at S. Maria La Nova, was held the Assembly of the Provincial Guardians and Definitors of the two Provinces of S. Michele Arcangelo of Foggia and of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lecce with the Minister General of the Order, fra Massimo Fusarelli and the Definitor General, fra Cesare Vaiani.
The meeting, on the theme “THE CRY OF THE EARTH, Franciscan perspectives of ecological conversion”, was lived in an atmosphere of serene sharing and fraternity.
Below you can download the intervention of Minister General.
On 13 October 2021, the Holy Father Francis received His Eminence Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorised the Congregation to promulgate the Decree concerning the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Giuseppe Spoletini, priest of the Order of Friars Minor, born on 16 August 1870 in Bellegra and died on 25 March 1951 in Rome.
The Venerable Giuseppe Spoletini (1870-1951), sanctified himself in the generous exercise of his priestly ministry and religious profession. For some years he was responsible for formation of novices and postulants in the friary of Bellegra, where he lived with Fra Diego Oddi, now blessed, and in the friary of Fontecolombo, a sanctuary of the Franciscan Rule, which he observed to the point of becoming an authentic model for his brothers. He spent over forty years in Rome, in the historically rich friaries of San Francesco a Ripa, San Pietro in Montorio and Sacre Stimmate, where he devoted himself mainly to the ministry of confessor, continually sought out by priests, religious and lay people who came to him in search of guidance and comfort. The secret of his holiness can be summed up in the expression with which he was familiar: ‘Act and do everything for God’s sake’. This was the ideal that he cultivated with evangelical simplicity and Franciscan joy and that he pointed out to all those he met on his path. The cause for his beatification began in 1965.
Brothers and Sisters,
Fraternal greetings from the brothers of the JPIC Office of the General Curia. We present to you the recent edition of the “Contact” Newsletter that allows us to be in communion and informed of the initiatives to promote and experience the values of JPIC.
In the following pages of “Contact”, we share with you the news that has reached us in recent months: actions, declarations, formative material and projects that are being born following discernment and, above all, from listening to the daily events that constantly invite us to transform our own lives.
Br. Angelito Cortez, OFM
Br. Jaime Campos, OFM
The intense meeting sessions of the General Definitory took place from 1 to 20 September 2021.
The first three days were intended to assist the members of the Definitory in getting to know each other, with the facilitation of Dr. Raffaele Mastromarino. Br. Aidan McGrath contributed to deepening our understanding of the tasks of governance and animation.
As of 6 September the planning work for the six-year period began, through an in-depth study of the definitive drafting of the Final Document of the 2021 General Chapter and of the Mandates and Orientations entrusted by the General Chapter to the General Definitory for processing. Some operational guidelines have in fact been drafted that will be shared with the Secretariats and Offices of the Curia, in order to be able to further define them during the Tempo Forte of November and thus be able to offer them to all the Friars of the Order.
The Definitory met with all the staff of the Secretariats and Offices and, as already announced, carried out the elections of the three Secretaries, the Procurator and the Guardian of the Curia, and to the appointment of other staff for the Offices of the Curia, confirming other personnel. The process for the restructuring of the Communications Office was also initiated, within the broader project for the reorganization of the infrastructure of the General Curia.
Each Definitor has been assigned responsibility for Conferences of the Order. A Definitor or each house dependent upon the Minister General and for the Missionary realities dependent upon the Minister General has been named.
The General Office for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults was established. Br. Albert SCHMUCKI, Definitor General, was named Director. He will be joined immediately by Br. Isauro Ulises COVILI LINFATI, Vicar General. It is foreseen that other members will be called to serve in this Office.
Provision was made for preparing the work for the final drafting of the General Statutes, including the amendments approved by the General Chapter. The text will be promulgated starting from 29 November 2021.
The acts of the elections that took place both during the Chapters of some Provinces and the respective Capitular Congresses, and in extra-chapter sessions were ratified.
The following general Visitors were elected:
– Br. Edwin de Jesús ALVARADO SEGURA for the Province of San Felipe de Jesús, in Mexico;
– Br. Marcel TSHIKEZ KANGWEI for the Province of the Incarnate Word, in West Africa;
– Br. Darko TEPERT for the Pontifical Academy Mariana Internationalis, in Rome;
– Br. César KÜLKAMP for the International College of Saint Anthony, in Rome;
– Br. João Carlos KARLING for the Custody of Saint Benedict of the Amazon, in Brazil;
– Br. Valmir RAMOS for the Province of San Francisco de Quito, in Ecuador;
– Br. Noel MUSCAT for the Province of St. Thomas the Apostle, in India; who will be joined by Br. Michael D’CRUZ, as Assistant.
The Minister General will go to the Custody of the Martyrs of Morocco and personally carry out the canonical visit to the Friars of this Entity dependent on him.
Furthermore, Br. Caoimhín Ó LAOIDE was appointed Delegate General for the unification process of the six US Provinces, while the Vicar General, Br. Isauro Ulises COVILI LINFATI as General Delegate to follow and offer support to the Province of San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador.
On the basis of the positive experience of the General Chapter and after evaluating all the different aspects, it was decided to hold in person meetings at the General Curia both with the General Visitors, from 15 to 19 November 2021, and with the new Provincial Ministers and Custodes, from 19 to 28 January 2022.
The following cases of separation from the Order were handled:
– Indult of exclaustration for one year: 2
– Indult of exclaustration for three years: 2
– Dispensation from temporary vows: 1
– Dispensation from solemn vows: 4
– Secularization ad experimentum: 2
– Dispensation from duties deriving from priestly ordination: 5
The information concerning two cases of accusations of graviora delicta was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The celebrations at La Verna on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Stigmata of St. Francis, were attended by the Minister, the Vicar and three Definitors. Then on the 18 and 19 September the General Definitory went to the House of Franciscan Religious of Sant’Antonio at Ariccia, for a fraternal meeting for feedback on the most recent session of Tempo Forte. The brothers were also able to celebrate the first Vespers of the 25th Sunday of ordinary time with the Poor Clares at the Monastery of Albano.
The last working session took place on 20 September 2021. The focus of this meeting was to address outstanding administrative matters.
On October 13, an extraordinary meeting of the General Definitory will take place. The next ordinary session of Tempo Forte will be held from 3 to 19 November 2021, and will include an “in person” Meeting with the General Visitors at the General Curia (15-19 November).
To the praise of Christ and the Poverello of Assisi. Amen!
Rome, 5 October 2021
Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, OFM
FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS
Homily, Basilica of Saint Francis
04.10.2021 – Mt 11:25-30
I invite you to return to the Gospel that we have heard and that Francis lived in such a way that Jesus Christ, who is the Word incarnate, made him equal to himself.
First of all, I would like to share three little thoughts with you.
Firstly. The joy of Jesus manifested in praise of the Father for his revelation to the simple and their acceptance of the message of salvation. The Jews thought that those who had knowledge, those who understood, were worthy of God’s revelation, but for Jesus, it is not like that. Jesus has other criteria; he always surprises us. He looks at reality in a different way.
Secondly. Jesus shows us his identity, his intimacy, his soul. He speaks of his special relationship with his Father and his deep desire to embrace us with our weaknesses and frailties, with all that we are and have.
Thirdly. Jesus addresses the afflicted and burdened with the promise that in him, they will find rest. Recognizing Jesus as the Servant and Lord, they will find ways of freedom; they will be his disciples, discovering that the joy of a disciple is to follow Jesus and follow in his footsteps.
The people listening to him were tired, surely like many of us. Yet, Jesus’ voice was surely like a waterfall of living water. Those who listened to Jesus are simple people, but they are able to understand and accept the newness of Jesus’ message, which transforms their lives and their outlook.
Jesus’ invitation is to follow him, as our brother Francis did. Following Jesus is an experience that liberates and gives joy even in the midst of our own tiredness and disenchantment. Do you find yourself tired? What are your projects, your struggles, your sufferings? Jesus invites you, and he invites us: come to me, and you will find rest. It is an invitation always open to the future.
I ask myself, and I ask you, why and for what purpose are we gathered here, why have you come to this blessed city of Assisi? The answer seems obvious, and we can all answer in a single cry: to celebrate St. Francis. But on a deeper level, I invite each person to look within and try to find an answer to the question, Why and for what purpose have I come? Perhaps I have come out of tradition, out of habit. I have come to offer my worries, my health, my problems, the life of my family, of my Christian and parish community. I have come simply to celebrate this great and small saint who has changed the history of the world and of the Church in his time and in every age, as well as in the present. Surely you have thought of some other answers to the question, and it is good that this is the case.
I also believe that we are here, dear brothers and sisters, pilgrims so that we are not overcome by indifference to what is happening around us. To discover and recognize that the path of evangelical poverty and fraternity is the Franciscan way of acknowledging that we are all brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis invites us to do in his letter Fratelli Tutti.
I believe that we are here so that we can all renew our commitment to make this world a home, a better home, where there is peace, justice and care for life. A place where gestures of tenderness are cultivated and all forms of violence and domination are banished. Beginning this endeavour in the place where everyone lives and works.
We have come here so that Francis and Clare may help us walk the world’s roads being welcoming and in dialogue with everyone, especially with migrants and with those who think and believe differently.
We are here, dear brothers and sisters, so that in the light of the experience of Francis, we can make our own journey of conversion and encounter with the poor and crucified Jesus, sustained by the joy of the Risen Christ.
We have come so that Francis may make us men and women who believe in and are passionate about Jesus Christ. To help us see in depth the reality of the human heart and every social, political, cultural and religious structure that makes millions of people invisible as if they did not exist.
We Franciscans who live on the five continents have come to Assisi this year to ask St. Francis to accompany us from this sacred place to bring to life the renewing invitations that the friars gathered at the recently celebrated General Chapter offered us: an invitation to gratitude, an invitation to renew our vision, an invitation to conversion and penance, an invitation to mission and evangelization, an invitation to embrace our future. These exhortations are a beautiful itinerary to witness with our lives to the Mercy that God has and will always have for humanity and all creation.
I conclude this homily by inviting you to repeat three times the words of hope that Jesus speaks to us in today’s Gospel: Come to me, and I will bring you rest.
Br Massimo will be in Assisi for the meeting of the Ministers General of the Franciscan Family and for the feast of St Francis, praying for everyone at the Portiuncula. Peace and Good!
HOMILY FOR THE VIGIL OF THE FEAST OF THE STIGMATA OF SAINT FRANCIS
La Verna, 16 September 2021
- At one time, the blessed and venerable father Francis, with worldly crowds gathering eagerly every day to hear and see him, sought out a place of rest and secret solitude. He desired to free himself for God and shake off any dust that clung to him from the time spent with the crowds. It was his custom to divide the time given him to merit grace and, as seemed best, to spend some of it to benefit his neighbours and use the rest in the blessed solitude of contemplation. He took with him only a few companions—who knew his holy way of living better than others—so that they could shield him from the interruption and disturbance of people, respecting and protecting his silence in every way. After he had been there for some time, through unceasing prayer and frequent contemplation, he reached intimacy with God in an indescribable way. He longed to know what in him and about him was or could be most acceptable to the Eternal King.
He sought this diligently and devoutly longed to know in what manner, in what way, and with what desire he would be able to cling more perfectly to the Lord God, according to His counsel and the good pleasure of His will. This was always his highest philosophy; this was the highest desire that always burned in him as long as he lived. He asked the simple and the wise, the perfect and the imperfect, how he could reach the way of truth and arrive at his great goal.
This evening we too have withdrawn to this mountain with Francis to get away from the noises that accompany us within and without. We come to remain in solitude and see and listen to what matters with different, new eyes.
In this solitude, Francis sought familiarity with God: it was not enough for him to believe in the reality of God. He wanted to meet it and know it, to allow himself to be touched and transformed by it. Why withdraw? Because he wanted to tune in to what pleases God. The search for what pleases God is at the heart of Francis’ solitude, a space open to encountering the Other. In this solitary space, Francis can perceive himself as “the most imperfect of all”. In this movement, Celano tells us, Francis “felt pouring down on him from above a sweetness and delight rarely given to even a few, and it made him lose himself completely”. (1 Cel 92)
This going out of himself is marked by listening to the Gospel. “So, one day Francis approached the sacred altar which had been built in the hermitage where he was staying and, taking up the volume where the holy Gospels were written, he placed it reverently upon the altar (…). Rising from prayer in a spirit of humility and with a contrite heart, he prepared himself with the sign of the holy cross. He took the book from the altar and opened it with reverence and fear. When he opened the book, the first passage that met his eye was the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that tells of the suffering he was to endure. To avoid any suspicion that this was just a coincidence, he opened the book a second and a third time. Every time he found either the same text or one that was similar. This man filled with the spirit of God then understood that he would have to enter into the kingdom of God through many trials, difficulties and struggles”. (1 Cel 93).
Listening to the Gospel nourished Francis’ prayerful solitude and prepared him for the new encounter with the Lord that took place here on La Verna. That Gospel which Francis had opened on the altar at the beginning of his journey of conversion and evangelical life returns in this summit of his existence. At La Verna Francis does not have an aristocratic spiritual experience, but rather adherence to the Gospel in a renewed listening. And if back then the Gospel invited him to follow, now it immerses him in the Passion of the Lord. The same Gospel that in different ages of life opens up new paths.
At La Verna, Francis reaches conformation with Christ in pain and love; it is a spiritual experience, which in the Gospel finds its path and a guarantee of ever new youthfulness in the experience of God’s love.
“In these last times, a new Evangelist, like one of the rivers of Paradise, has poured out the streams of the gospel in a holy flood over the whole world. He preached the way of the Son of God and the teaching of truth in his deeds. In him and through him an unexpected joy and a holy newness came into the world. A shoot of the ancient religion suddenly renewed the old and decrepit. A new spirit was placed in the hearts of the elect, and a holy anointing has been poured out in their midst. This holy servant of Christ, like one of the lights of heaven, shone from above with a new rite and new signs.” (1Cel 89).
This evening, gathering at La Verna to celebrate the Stigmata of Francis brings us into a SOLITUDE, a space for an ENCOUNTER, to listen to the GOSPEL for a NEW YOUTHFULNESS of life.
The solitude that the pandemic has shown to us, together with so many men and women of our time, small and poor, makes us welcome this fundamental human experience in a different way.
Today, so much solitude can make us turn in on ourselves: every man for himself!
Can we instead find a path, a space in our own solitudes and the solitudes of so many? Can we leave the roadway open to encounter?
And within this reality, can we recognise the words of the Gospel, the fire of the Gospel, the features of the face and the life of Jesus Christ, in whom we are given in the Spirit, to share, right up to his journey of death and life, Easter?
If we are looking for a way to find newness of life, enthusiasm for our vocation, a renewed flowering of our form of life, here is the source to which we must return.
Is this desire, this tension, the ardour of this love – to become like the Beloved – familiar to us believers, laypeople and friars, of this time?
- Without this encounter, is faith not in danger of becoming irrelevant, to the point of dying out?
- Can we genuinely believe in a new rebirth and flowering in a time that seems to close off any possibility of a future, almost denying it, to live here and now?
- Is not coming as a pilgrim to this mountain an act of faith in this possibility?
- Was Francis not sent to warm a dying world, where faith itself seemed to be failing?
Today the challenge that reaches this mountain is great: an age in which God seems to have become a useless “accessory” for many. Non-belief is becoming widespread and a spirituality without God, without religion, finds its place…. could this be the right time for a more adult and personal faith? Motivated in a new way?
The hour to open ourselves to a faith of fire, thanks to the One who comes to meet us with a peaceful and loving gaze? Will we be able to allow ourselves to be wounded again so that we can descend from the world marked by this encounter and become more transparent and radiant witnesses to it?
We ask this of the Lord on this Vigil of the Stigmata through the intercession of St Francis: for the Church, for so many people searching, for the brothers of our Order and the brothers and sisters of our Franciscan Family.
HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE STIGMATA OF SAINT FRANCIS
La Verna, 17 September 2021
This celebration began with an intense prayer: we told the Father that He Himself marked the flesh of Francis with the signs of the Passion and the intention is to inflame our spirit with the fire of His love.
Therefore, the Stigmata is not Francis’s “private” privilege but a burning and living reality for us today. The goal is to enable us to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and, therefore, in his Passover. But is this not the heart of all new life according to the Spirit that we received in baptism? It is what Paul says: to share in his suffering (pain) in order to enter into his life (joy). To accept the rejection that Jesus faced, to allow ourselves to be touched and transformed by his love.
We find this tension between pain and joy, rejection and love, in Francis’ vision on this mountain:
When the blessed servant of the most High saw these things, he was filled with the greatest awe but could not decide what this vision meant for him. Moreover, he greatly rejoiced and was much delighted by the kind and gracious look that he saw the Seraph gave him. The Seraph’s beauty was beyond comprehension, but the fact that the Seraph was fixed to the cross and the bitter suffering of that passion thoroughly frightened him. Consequently, he got up both sad and happy as joy and sorrow took their turns in his heart. Concerned over the matter, he kept thinking about what this vision could mean, and his spirit was anxious to discern a sensible meaning from the vision.
Francis is seized by a new encounter with the Lord, so great that it overwhelms him and leaves him almost overwhelmed. He cannot understand. Rather he is called to allow himself to be embraced, to be touched in his deepest reality, where the conformation to Christ awaits him, the acceptance of his form, of his way of being, of living, of loving and dying.
Francis shows us not everything is clear and straightforward, accessible to our understanding in the life of the Spirit. It is necessary to accept that admiration and incomprehension mingle, that something eludes us, that not everything can be taken in.
We experience it in our own lives and in all that moves around us: how much pain and love mingle! How much searching and striving along with fear and uncertainty! And how much all this troubles and confuses us. We would like a straightforward and tranquil path, and instead, like the Seraphic one, our spirit is agitated because we cannot grasp the meaning of what is happening to us. As believers, this disturbance frightens us. Perhaps we do not have faith?
Or we are called to walk another path to grow in faith: the abandonment and surrender of ourselves to his living and active presence amid the contradictions and frailties of our mortal and limited existence. The call to Life, the Passover of death and resurrection happens precisely within the tangle of our poor lives, which we are called to welcome and recognise as a place of salvation. Today more than ever, precisely in that radical weakness that we have experienced at first hand as a result of the pandemic.
What enables us to move on to Easter joy? Undoubtedly the consolation that we can experience through trust in the Father that does not deceive us but wants us to enter into his intimacy of pain and love, offering us himself. Yes, because if the Seraphim shows himself like this to the Poverello, it means that in God Himself love and pain meet, in the logic of total self-giving, which in a certain sense takes the Lord out of himself, turns him towards the world and us, to the point of making him a sharer in our cry.
If the Seraphim turns to Francis in swift flight, the latter knows that the Lord will meet him, seek him out, embrace him and mark him forever.
Let us ask ourselves why in the Testament St Francis does not speak of this initiative of the Lord, while he recalls the others (lepers, priests, brothers, the church…). Indeed, he wanted to hide the secret of the great King on the one hand, and on the other hand, this encounter has no one else with him but is directed only to him, the little one, it is a seal for his journey and a powerful sign for those who will follow him.
Francis wants to feel in his soul and in his body the pain that Jesus sustained at the hour of the Passion, and at the same time, he asks to feel in his heart that excessive love with which the Son of God was aflame for us sinners.
Again, pain and love intersect and show in Francis – and in us – the logic of the Passover.
Taking up the cross and following Jesus in this way of pain and love is the incandescent core of Francis’ Christian experience. The rest is to be understood and enlightened from this centre. The glorification of God in creatures, the love for his brothers, the mission of peace: everything in him is a reverberation and fruit of the Lord’s Passover.
Here is the response from the Lord that Francis was waiting for, in the face of incomprehension and bitterness on the part of his brothers and the fear of having missed the mark with his choices: God invites Francis, once again, to cross the Passover of death and resurrection of the Son, so powerful as to leave its marks in Francis’ flesh.
He invites him to lose his life in the freedom of love, not to hold back, to let himself go, to find himself in a new way: gift and not hoarding, welcome and not possession. Only in this way does Francis’ person and our own come to its truth. A person who relates, who goes out of himself, finds himself in the freedom of love that can submit to the other and not assert himself at all costs.
Francis even let the Lord enter his flesh and leave him a sign, a fiery kiss of love, just as he had let the lepers embrace him, the sinful priests prevent him from preaching, the brothers welcome him, and the unbelievers speak to him. A man unarmed and poor because he was free to love and to serve. For this reason, free to let himself be loved.
The mystery of the Stigmata is then so close to us, so familiar. As we celebrate it in the memory of the Lord’s Passover, we ask to be drawn to it and transformed by it.
The Minister General, Fr. Massimo Fusarelli,
after undergoing a quick swab, he tested positive for Covid.
For this reason he remains in confinement for 10 days,
canceling every appointment.
Next Monday he will have a response from the molecular PCR test.
There will be further updates.
GENERAL CURIA, Sept 15
General Minister Brother Massimo FUSARELLI together with General Vicar Brother Isauro COVILI LINFATI, and the eight General Definitors gathered from September 6 to 15, 2021 at the OFM General House in Rome, to deliberate on matters related to the governance, administration, and animation of the Order.
At this Tempo Forte meeting, the General leadership met with the General Secretariates and various Offices, attended to international matters of immediate necessity, and discussed the direction of the Order for the 2021-2027 sexennium, including practical ways to implement the decisions and guidelines of the General Chapter of July 2021.
After confirming Brother Giovanni RINALDI as Secretary General ad interim until 31 August 2022, the General Definotry elected for this coming sexennium:
- Br Francisco GÓMEZ VARGAS, of the Province of Saint Paul the Apostle, in Colombia, as Secretary General for Missions and Evangelization;
- Br Darko TEPERT, of the Province of the Saints Cyrill and Methodius, in Croatia, as Secretary General for Formation and Studies; and
- Br Claudio DURIGHETTO, of the Seraphic Province of Saint Francis of Assisi, in Italy, as Procurator General of the Order.
Along with these six-year elections, a new Guardian of the Fraternity of the General Curia-Santa Maria Mediatrice was elected for this triennium in the person of Brother Maciej (Krzysztof) OLSZEWSKI, of the Province of Saint Francis of Assisi, in Poland.
In addition, the following official appointments were made:
- Br Dennis TAYO, of the Custody of Saint Anthony of Padua, in the Philippines, as General Animator for Missions;
- Br Hieronimus Yosep DEI RUPA, as General Vice-Secretary for Formation and Studies;
- Br Chryzostom (Jarosław) FRYC, as Secretary of the Office of the General Procurator;
- Br Evodio JOÃO, of the Custody of Saint Claire, in Mozambique, as Director of the Communication Office;
- Br Fabio César GOMES, of the Province of the Immaculate Conception BVM, in Brazil, as General Delegat Pro Monialibus;
- Br Israel PORRAS ALVARADO, of the Province of the Saints Peter and Paul, in Mexico, a Vice-Director of the Office of the General Protocol;
- Br Baptist D’SOUZA, of the Province of Saint Thomas the Apostle, in India, as Vice-Director of the Development Office;
- Br Angel Edwin MONTOYA MONTOYA, of the Province of Saint Francis, in Ecuador, as Rector of the Students of the Fraternity “Blessed Gabriele M. Allegra”, at CISA;
- To be confirmed: Personal Secretary of the Minister General; and
- To be confirmed: Director of the Development Office.
On Saturday 4 September 2021, the Minister General Br. Massimo Fusarelli, presided the Profession of novices at the Sanctuary of La Verna.
4 novices of the Province of Toscana, 2 novices of the Province of Lazio-Abruzzo and 8 novices of the Custody of Holy Land , have professed.
Attached, you will find some photos and the homily of the Minister General.
Homily for the Profession of Temporary Vows at La Verna
4 September 2021Colossians 1:21-23 and Luke 6:1-5
In all our lives, there is always a “before” and “after”: before an event, a choice, a transition and after, with more or less distance. This often leads to anxiety due to anticipation or disappointment, a great expenditure of energy and sometimes to tiredness. An example for all: the before and after of Covid, with everything that we know that has changed and will change.
For you too, my novice brothers, there is what comes before this day and what begins today. Each of you knows the “before” that has brought you here today, and I hope that in this year, you have been able to look with new eyes at your “before” to be able to welcome this “after” in a new way. I hope and pray that this moment will be marked by the encounter with the Lord Jesus, who generates a beautiful and contagious newness, a joy to be shared: let us allow ourselves this contagion!
St Paul presents us with a time – “a before” – and an after, which is the “now”: “before” the Christians of Colossae were distracted from God, they did not know him, their minds were taken by other things; this means that they were all taken up with filling that emptiness that we carry within us, with thoughts, words, images. The more we fill it, the more that emptiness hungers to be filled. “Now” instead, there is a new situation that touches them. Thanks to the death of Christ’s body of flesh and through him, they have been made what God desires: holy because he is holy, without blemish and able to walk in truth before him. It is thanks to God’s gracious initiative that they are reconciled.
Holy, spotless and blameless in Scripture refers to the sacrificial victims offered to God, who were to be the best, not the cast-off: the Colossians in the “after” of their life in the footsteps of Christ, live the offering of themselves every day as vital worship, until the final fulfilment.
This gift is given to you today: to offer your life as a pleasing and joyful gift so that every thought, feeling, action, affective energy and will be directed to Him, oriented to His will, progressively transformed by His love. This is the meaning of the promise to live without anything of our own, that is, free from attachment to our overbearing ego, which takes possession of everything, even God’s gifts. If throughout this year you have been able to touch and get to know this part of you that is clinging to itself, I hope you have been able to encounter and taste the humble and beautiful reality of Christ’s love, which does not disappoint and surpasses all knowledge.
You have spent a year here on La Verna, in contact with St Francis, who knew the “before” of his condition of sin and the “after” of the encounter with the leper… he says it clearly in the Testament when he came to the end of his life, he knows how to draw that boundary in his life: first I adored myself, then I was able to meet the gaze, the rotten flesh and the embrace of the lepers, and in that “we” I found my true “I”, the fraternal one, marked by mercy.
He knew the “before” of his fatigue with the fraternity of the Order that followed other paths and the “after” of the encounter that made him similar to the Beloved here on La Verna … if it was as if he was closed in on himself, almost bent over in the anguish of the growth of his creature, the fraternity, after, on this mountain, welcomes it back as a gift of the One who loves us as one who is truly humble, dispossessed of everything, free to give himself to the Beloved to the point of leaving a wound of love in his body. The glorious Cross of the Lord imprinted in the flesh of Francis’ heart and life the trace of a humble love: the Seraphim presents himself to Francis in a peaceful, loving way. Christ does not imprint his victorious mark on a servant: it is the friend, the bridegroom, the brother who marks his friend with the fire and the kiss of love.
Francis remained firm in the faith, as St Paul said to the Colossians, attached to the solid rock that is Christ. As he approached his Transitus, the Poor Man showed the brothers that Christ was everything to him, everything…; he taught him his way, which he now leaves to his brothers, to us, today to you, so that we may allow Christ to show us the way. That body lying on the bare earth precisely means this freedom, this gift of self… Oh, how we need it! May Jesus make us see with the eyes of the spirit the way to say a new, freer and happier yes to his call!
Today you too are told to place your foundation in Christ (1 Cor 3:10-12 and Eph 3:17) because faith is the radical and heartfelt adherence to Christ and gives rise to the hope generated by the Gospel.
Today you recognise that the after, the hour of your life, is that of friendship with Jesus, of the gift of your whole life to Him, in the Spirit. On this basis, you can say the ‘yes’ that is being asked of you today. St Francis expressed it thus:
Now that we have left the world, however, we have nothing else to do but to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him. (Rnb 22,9)
Brothers! Do you really want to please Jesus alone? It is a nuptial verb. I wish you this passion, this heart impulse in the ‘yes’ that you say today: you will have reservations and worries, doubts and fears; it is normal. Trust today in the faithful word of the Lord and cast all your concerns on Him. For your whole life. How is it possible to persevere in this way?
You can experience this trust in two ways as you listen to today’s Gospel of Luke:
- To be poor pilgrim preachers, that is, pilgrims and strangers in this world. It is necessary to stay on the journey, without fixing on places, roles, places, as you sometimes see us older brothers do… stay free.
- In the freedom of the Gospel: this is indicated to us by today’s Gospel and recalled by the words of the Rule which you will shortly be professing and which I wish to hear again with you, not without a pang in my heart:
Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all. As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go seeking alms with confidence. (...) Giving yourselves totally to this, beloved brothers, never seek anything else under heaven for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rb 6,1-6)
This poverty, our royal livery as St Paul VI called it, can only be truly and lovingly lived in evangelical freedom. How is it possible to choose to live without anything of one’s own, from the treasure of ourselves to possessions, without this movement of love? Without a great trust in his fatherhood? Without the audacity of those who, out of love, throw everything away and call God alone Father? Without a great love for the world and human beings?
Dear brother novices and soon to be professed: I wish with all my heart and with all my strength that you will truly fall in love with the gaze with which the Lord looks at you today and draws you to himself. To desire nothing else under heaven, to have no fear of losing something, but to know that with Christ, everything is given to us. To trust: you can take the step of following in Jesus’ footsteps in and through your poverty. God is not afraid of our infidelities because he knows and loves us. Rather, he stops at our self-sufficiency, at the pride of life that makes us obstinate in seeking happiness on our own. He knows how to sit and wait for us, and He knows when the time has come to return to Him, to meet His gaze again.
I can testify to you that that gaze can get lost along the way and look for something else elsewhere. However, I can also tell you that the hour is coming when that gaze will once again seek ours, and with us that of many, and overcome resistance and fear, self-sufficiency and sin. We believe it, we trust it, we hand ourselves over once again with you to this obstinate and invincible Love. And in that look, our gaze changes towards the world, towards people. Creation, reality. Creatures become brothers and sisters, not enemies, to be loved and served with humility.
I wish you a happy journey of following in the joy of love that does not disappoint. Amen.
OF VENERABLE MAMERTO ESQUIÚ,
Bishop of Córdoba in Argentina, of the Order of Friars Minor
Saturday 4 September 2021, Catamarca- Argentina
The Venerable Servant of God Mamerto Esquiú was born on 11 May 1826 in San José de Piedra Blanca (Argentina). In 1841 he entered the novitiate of the Friars Minor of the Asunción Province and made his religious profession on 14 July 1842. On 18 October 1848, he was ordained a priest. From then on, he devoted himself to teaching, the direction of souls and preaching. In the latter ministry, he was greatly appreciated, not only by Catholics but also in liberal circles: two of his important speeches on the theme of peace and brotherhood, delivered in 1852, were printed and circulated on the initiative of the Federal Government. In a spirit of service to the common good, Brother Mamerto also accepted an active political role as a deputy and member of the Council of Government of Catamarca. In 1862, wishing to resume a more regular Franciscan life, he moved as an apostolic missionary to Bolivia, where he taught theology at the Sucre seminary. In 1870 the Argentine Senate proposed him as a candidate for the episcopate for the archepiscopal see of Buenos Aires. Feeling unworthy, the Venerable Servant of God preferred to leave his homeland, to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and to Assisi and Rome. Here he received from the Minister General of the Order, Father Bernardino da Portogruaro, the task of promoting common life among the Friars Minor of Argentina. In 1879 the Senate again proposed his candidature as Bishop of Cordoba. Therefore, in obedience to the Pope, Brother Mamerto accepted and was consecrated Bishop on 12 December 1880. He distinguished himself for his doctrine and authority in his ministry and proposed holiness as the heart of Christian and priestly life. He worked for the spiritual and material help of the poor, the formation of seminarians, the foundation of confraternities and associations of the faithful, the preaching of courses of spiritual exercises and missions to the people. He died on 10 January 1883 in Posta del Suncho (Argentina).
The decree on his heroic virtue was promulgated on 16 December 2006.
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In 2021 we remember the 800th anniversary of the Regula non bullata. This precious text still speaks to us in a formidable way of the evangelical inspiration of St Francis and, at the same time, makes us look towards St Clare.
In the prologue, we read (Rnb Prologue 2):
This is the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Brother Francis petitioned the Lord Pope to grant and confirm for him; and he did grant and confirm it for him and his brothers present and to come.
And in the conclusion, we hear:
I ask all my brothers to learn and frequently call to mind the tenor and sense of what has been written in this life for the salvation of our souls.
St Francis speaks of a life that he hands over to his brothers and that finds its source and inspiration in following the teaching and footprints of our Lord Jesus Christ (RnB I,1).
The link that binds the Gospel to life and life to the Gospel in the Regula non bullata is constant in Francis, who also proposes it to Clare and her sisters in two short and intense writings:
Because by divine inspiration… choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers always to have the same loving care and special solicitude for you as for them(Form of Life 1-2)
I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of His most holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask you, my ladies, and I give you my advice that you live always in this most holy life and poverty. (Last wishes 1-2)
It is a counsel that Francis addresses to those he calls my ladies, and at the same time, it is the charismatic nucleus that unites brothers and sisters in the same form of life – lived in different ways and conditions. The Poverello promises to take diligent care and special solicitude of the sisters precisely within this communion in charism, which unites brothers and sisters in the most genuine sense.
The early years of the friars’ experience of the Gospel came together in the Regula non bullata, a text that took root through a continuous dialogue between life, which is movement by definition, and the rule, which lays down its cornerstones. Francis knows that Clare senses and lives this circularity between life and the Gospel and proposes it fearlessly.
What unites us, then, is precisely this link between life and the Gospel, where the one enlightens the other and receives continuous inspiration from it. If it is true that the Gospel directs life towards conversion, it is also true that life helps us to listen to the word of the Gospel in the ever-new journey of existence, immersed in the changes of history.
The word of the Gospel enlightens and transforms lives and is in turn enlightened by the word of the lives of the men and women we meet, of the little ones and the poor of our time, of creation and also of all those who are on a quest for meaning and truth.
We need more of a life that is truly welcomed, lived, loved, given, shared to welcome the Gospel word, without which the book of our existence remains sealed.
We cannot wrap ourselves up in the search for our Franciscan Clarian identity without continuous comparison and dialogue with the journey through life, ours and that of many in this unique time.
The Gospel calls us to conversion and ignites in us the call to the radicality of faith, made up of the search for the Lord’s face in following Jesus. The gift of life calls us to the radicality of self-giving as the decisive factor for a full existence.
The radical following of the poor and crucified Christ united Francis and Clare in the space of a fraternity lived in minority and poverty, typical of those who renounce support and guarantees.
Clare’s cloister lived with her sisters at San Damiano, and Francis’ cloister lived with his brothers on the roads of the world, ask us to seek together what truly unites us and to be, with our lives, prophetic words for our time.
I deeply feel that this is our common call in today’s Church for the world, which God loves: to listen and welcome the word of the Gospel, so that life may be transformed by it and allow the power of the Spirit to express itself, who dwells in it and wants to lead it towards its fullness, which is eternal life, the love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, an eternal dance open to all creatures. And this fullness has the name of liberated and redeemed lives, capable of becoming truly fraternal and a leaven of fraternity for many and many today.
Dear Poor Sisters!
In this first message that I address to you with simplicity, I ask you to make this journey together between life and the Gospel and to watch over us friars minor, your brothers, confident that it is still possible to live our vocation, so beautiful and full of hope for this time.
I commit myself to have for you, in the name of St Francis, that care and solicitude which is grounded in life according to the Gospel, our shared and extraordinary vocation.
Let us be a memory for each other of this fire.
I entrust the Order’s journey to your faithful intercession, which found significant inspiration and a new beginning in our recent General Chapter. I promise to remember you every day before the Lord so that our lives may be evangelized and transformed by the power of the Lord’s Spirit and become, for many, a reflection of His Mercy.
May the Virgin made Church accompany us on this journey.
A fraternal greeting and embrace to you all, with the blessing of St Francis and the care of St Clare.
Rome, 11 August 2021
Solemnity of St. Clare
Br. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM
Minister General and Servant
Cover: St. Clare, Fonte Colombo, Italy.
Peace to everyone!
While writing, our brothers are living their first few days of meeting and work at the General Chapter. We keep them all in our prayers and daily offering.
When you read this no. 57 of Communion and Communication, however, the new Minister General will have already been elected! As of now we welcome him to his “new place of service” and let him know of our fraternal affection and profound desire to walk together with him on the evangelical journey of the Franciscan/Clarian form of life.
During this year 2021, we are celebrating the VIII centenary of the Early Rule (1221-2021), an extraordinary document where the first ‘experiments’ of an evangelical life, made by a fraternity in growth, are gathered. Clare and her Sisters had their own part in this process. Therefore, cTc 57, that we are presenting, is partially dedicated to the bond of fraternal reciprocity between the Friars Minor and the Poor Clares, as lived in two Italian Federations. We appreciated that mutual relationships have been growing for the last few decades, thanks to a deepening understanding of our common charism, and we would like to let know what is happening around the world in this regard. So, we heartily encourage the Sisters (and the Friars too!) to share their experiences, dreams, reflections about this topic, and send them to us to be included in the next numbers of cTc.
Browsing these pages, you will hear the voices of the Sisters from Brazil introducing one of the Brazilian Federations; you will join in giving thanks to the Lord for the Poor Clares’ VIII centenary of presence in France; and, going back to our origins, you’ll be surprised to read an interview with our Mother St. Clare! Clare is alive today and has much to say to our world with all its problems. From her experience and writings, we are led to realize that contemplation is not only the vocation of the person, but is also the only hope for our sociological, human, and ecological reality. A great ‘thank you’ to sr. Rita Valente osc (Vilobí d’Onyar) for sharing with all of us the IV chapter of her final paper of the Licentiate Thesis in Interreligious Dialogue, Ecología en Clara de Asís, relación – comunión con toda la Creación.
Before all this, however, you will read the letter that our Delegate General, Br. Ignacio Ceja, addresses to each and every Sisters, written just before entering the Chapter.
Even if we cannot know what the future holds for you – and for us with you – we thank you so much, Br. Ignacio, for this year together. We want to treasure the invitation you address to us: to continue to support, with our prayer and our example of life, the most fragile members of the Body of Christ.
Enjoy the reading!
Poor Clare Sisters of the Editorial Team
Download PDF – CTC No. 57 (07.2021)