Dear sisters and brothers,
What does it mean to be a Secular Franciscan? We each have our reasons for wanting to become an SFO - an opportunity to grow in holiness, a way of following the spirit of St. Francis, a desire to share our faith journey with others - but becoming an SFO is more than that. We are expected to share our gifts for the good of the Order. We are Secular Franciscans for the good of the Order, the good of the Church, and the good of the world!
Just as the Magi brought their gifts to the Christ Child, so each of us has something to offer Christ - and, concretely, to Christ present in each person ("trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone" - Rule 19). But how do we know what we are to offer?
Some of us (like me) expect to give spiritual gifts - prayer, maybe teaching, helping the poor, working on "church" things. I/we don't necessarily view the skills and abilities we use in daily life as being "good enough" - we should be doing something specifically related to our vocation, not "just" doing what we do every day. Yet - what God-given gifts have we developed the most? Most likely, the ones we use every day - be it preparing food, working at a computer, caring for the sick, or whatever. So, wouldn't we want to offer our best gifts to God? How better to serve in the Order, then, than to bring the gifts of our daily lives to offer to our brothers and sisters!
This reflection is on my mind in part because my current "official" role as a Secular Franciscan is...computer work. To be honest, I want to do things as a Secular Franciscan that help me to grow spiritually - or at least to make me feel like I am! Doing computer work doesn't feel like an opportunity for spiritual growth for me. And yet...it needs doing, for the good of the Order; I am well-suited for doing it; and, most importantly, I have been asked to serve. Those are rather strong "hints" that I'm doing what I should be.
So, then, the problem is not what I'm doing, it's how I look at it. Certainly the fact that our daily work is mentioned in the Rule emphasizes that all we do is part of our way of life...and I can see how the work I'm doing helps other people...but how is it helping me to grow spiritually? Those who exercise hospitality can recognize their labors in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; sometimes it may be merciful for me to rescue someone else from a computer problem, but that's pushing it. Doing my daily work as my service to the Order is an opportunity for humility - to realize that what I think I should be doing (or might like to do) is less important than what I'm needed to do.
This year, each of us will be asked to do many things, many of which we won't want to do, don't have time for, or really would rather avoid. We can and should say no to some of those...but I pray for myself and all of you:
- That we may be given vision to recognize when what we are being asked to do is something that only we can do, here and now;
- That when we recognize the call and the need, we thank God for the opportunity to use our gifts in service, and for bringing us to the place where we are needed;
- That we respond to the needs set before us with love, confident that God will provide whatever is lacking.