Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This month, our fraternity welcomes our Regional Minister, Patrick Mendes, and Regional Spiritual Assistant, Fr. Larry Dreffein, for our triennial fraternal and pastoral visitation. I thought it might be useful this month to review why we have visitation and the benefits to us.
The last sentence in our Rule speaks about the importance of visitation:
"To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions." Rule 26
Visitation, along with spiritual assistance, has been part of keeping fraternities Franciscan since the time of Francis. According to St. Francis and the Third Order by Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR, the early (1221-1228) Third Order Rule, Memoriale Propositi, provided for a visitor to the fraternity, and the Rule of Nicholas IV specified that the visitor be a friar (p. 145). [As an aside, Pazzelli’s book is an excellent way to learn about the context in which our Order developed and Francis’ role in it.]
While visitation is mentioned as part of the responsibilities in many places in the Constitutions, it is the sole subject of Title VI (the final section and last four articles) of the Constitutions. This is obviously too lengthy to quote here in full (if you don’t have a copy of the Constitutions, see me or go to http://www.nafra-sfo.org and click on the Constitutions link), but I do want to include the first paragraph of each article, since they give the key to understanding the significance of visitation and why this is an opportunity and a time of joy for us.
- 92.1: "The purpose of both the pastoral and fraternal visits is to revive the evangelical Franciscan spirit, to assure fidelity to the charism and to the Rule, to offer help to fraternity life, to reinforce the bond of the unity of the Order, and to promote its most effective insertion into the Franciscan family and the Church."
- 93.1: "In the visits to the local fraternities and to the councils at the various levels, the visitor will verify the evangelical and apostolic vitality, the observance of the Rule and Constitutions, and the insertion of the fraternities into the Order and into the Church."
- 94.1: "The fraternal visit is a moment of communion, an expression of the service and concrete interest of the secular leaders at the various levels, so that the fraternity may grow and be faithful to its vocation."
- 95.1: "The pastoral visit is a privileged moment of communion with the First Order and the TOR. It is carried out also in the name of the Church and serves to guarantee and promote the observance of the Rule and the Constitutions and fidelity to the Franciscan charism. The visit is carried out with respect to the organization and the law proper to the SFO itself."
We could easily spend time reflecting on each clause of the sentences above as a fraternal "examination of conscience." How faithful are we to the charism and to the Rule? Where do we need help in fraternity life? How well are we connected with the rest of the Order? With the rest of the Franciscan Family? With the Church? Our visitors give us a loving opportunity to take a look at ourselves and see how we can grow in our vocations. Their presence alone helps to reinforce our connection with the larger Order and the Franciscan Family. As I said before, visitation is an occasion for joy! I hope you will be able to be with us on February 26 for this special event.Peace and good…Vickie