I missed seeing you at the April 2 meeting. However, it was a joy to share the day with our brothers and sisters in formation. It was particularly moving to begin the final conference of the day with the announcement that our Holy Father had passed away. The message I was sharing with the candidates in that talk was largely based on Pope John Paul's message to the SFO in 2002 and on his message to the Church and all people of good will at the start of the third millennium, so the timing was perfect.
Mary mentioned at the fraternity meeting that we will be drawing a common thread through our continuing discussion of the Rule: how each article relates to our life in fraternity. Many of you have heard me talk about fraternal life; it is very important to me and it is essential to our Order. Pope John Paul's message to the SFO makes it very clear:
"The Church desires that your Order should be a model of organic, structural and charismatic unity on all levels, so as to present itself to the world as a "community of love" (Regola OFS 26). The church expects from you, Secular Franciscans, a courageous and consistent testimony of Christian and Franciscan life, leaning towards the construction of a more fraternal and gospel world for the realisation of the Kingdom of God."
In other words, so there can be no question, our role in the Church as Secular Franciscans is precisely to demonstrate that Christians CAN live in love!!!
I keep returning to the question, "What do Secular Franciscans do?" An answer is that we do what the Church asks of us: we demonstrate how to live as a Christian community. That requires a great deal of us – far more than just showing up for a meeting once a month! As we reexamine the Rule, article by article, we need to reflect on how living that article impacts our relationships with our brothers in sisters in fraternity.
One of the easiest times to celebrate our life as an extended family, of course, is when we rejoice in the permanent commitment of new members of our Order. I hope you will be able to be with us at 9AM on April 23 at the Crane Road church to celebrate Gingie and Nick's profession.
For those who have Internet access, the Holy Father's letter to the SFO General Chapter in 2002 has been reposted by the International SFO along with our Minister General's letter expressing the SFO's sharing in the sadness over John Paul's passing. I encourage you to read it in its entirety (it isn't more than a couple of pages long). Watch for some reflections on this message in the SFO News in the near future as well. The web address is: http://www.ciofs.org/per/lcwwennw.htm