January 2006

Dear brothers and sisters,

May Christ bless you and your families abundantly in 2006! As we begin another year of our journey together, we will be turning our attention to Chapter 3 of the Rule: Life in Fraternity. At first glance, the remaining seven Articles of the Rule aren’t terribly exciting; they talk about mundane matters like the organization and governance of the Order. And yet…what excellent topics for us as we approach our fraternity election in November! (This year we will also see elections for the National Fraternity, at the end of October, and for our Regional Fraternity in early December. Please keep all levels of the Order in your prayers.)

We will reflect on how our fraternity is functioning, what we do well, and what we would like to improve when we have our periodic assessment in September. (This largely corresponds to articles 22 and 24 or the Rule.) Once we have a clearer idea of where the fraternity needs to go in the near future, we can more confidently discern nominations for the council in October and elect our new Council to meet the current needs of the fraternity in November. (See Article 23 and the many related articles in the Constitutions.) (This learning and discernment is not unlike the process the College of Cardinals went through in conclave – the first part of their time in Rome was spent listening to reports on the needs of the Church and the World, thereby preparing them to elect a new Pope.)

Another reason these articles of the Rule are relevant at this particular time of year is that we are required to provide our annual report on the fraternity and our fair share/per capita contribution to support the higher levels of fraternity by March 1 (see article elsewhere in the newsletter). Article 25 talks about our obligation to provide financial support to our own fraternity and the higher levels of fraternity as well, while Articles 20 and 21 address the interrelationship of the levels of the order in other respects.

Most of you know that life in fraternity is one of my favorite topics (one which we’ll talk about more at the February meeting). Recently, I realized I have an answer for the challenging question, “So what do you Secular Franciscans do, anyway?” We do many things, of course, but the answer I’m going to give (until I think of a better one is), "We support each other in our efforts to follow Christ more closely, with St. Francis as our model and guide. " As we begin 2006, it is a good time for each of us to consider how we support each other in fraternal life. For our excused members who are unable to attend meetings on a temporary or permanent basis, the Ministry of Praise and Prayer provides a wonderful opportunity to support the fraternity, the Order, the Church, and the world. For the rest of us, I have to say that the first step is presence. I don’t see any other way for us to make the fraternity more truly a "privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members." (Rule, Article 22). We are an extended family, and we need to spend time together on a regular basis! "Things happen" and none of us can attend every month; however, it’s easy to get out of the habit of making fraternal life a priority. Please start the new year with a renewed commitment to attending fraternity meetings on a regular basis.

Speaking of fraternity meetings, our January meeting will be on an inexhaustible topic, as Alice leads us to once again go from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel through reflection on Scripture together. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the January meeting.

Peace and all good…Vickie