July 2006

Dear brothers and sisters,

A good challenge to complacency is the question, "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" As Secular Franciscans, we must also assess the impact that living the Rule has on our daily lives. Where is the evidence that our profession of Francisí Gospel way of life has changed us? I think we have to discern the answer in a couple of different ways, or else we are likely to sell ourselves short.

First, and most obviously, we have to look for ways in which the Rule has led us to see inconsistencies in our lives and lifestyles. Not that we will ever be free of inconsistencies - I donít believe Francis was overly concerned with consistency, and we shouldnít be either. However, we need to look for places where the Rule makes us uncomfortable - especially when weíre uncomfortable enough to change. If Iíve made a decision that goes against my natural tendencies, because the Rule made me aware it was important, I think I can safely say, "There - thatís something Iíve done differently because I am a Secular Franciscan." If the Rule makes me uncomfortable with some action and I do it anyway, that isnít automatically wrongÖbut I need to pay attention to that nagging concern. The Rule is supposed to make us uncomfortable - otherwise there is no need for conversion, and we know we need it, every day.

I suspect that most of the evidence of living a Franciscan life (for most of us) is harder to see. Much like a fish trying to find water, I think many Franciscans would have trouble seeing how different their lives are because of being professed, even if they are living the Rule extremely well and are role models to the rest of us. After all, most people who have a vocation to the SFO already have values and attitudes that are consistent with many aspects of the Rule - otherwise trying to live the Rule would be like pounding a round peg into a square hole. In those respects, living the Rule just reinforces those values and attitudes and provides new opportunities to put them into practice, but that doesnít make our living it less Franciscan!

It occurred to me a few days ago that I could see one area in my life where I thought I was behaving in a particularly Franciscan way. In my work life, I have gravitated toward caring, long-term relationships with my co-workers; the friends I still have from twenty or more years ago are the evidence. Is valuing friendship part of my nature? Certainly. Has the importance of relationships in my life increased since I became a Secular Franciscan? Absolutely. Am I anywhere close to the goal of seeing Christ in everyone? No indeed - I have a long, long way to go! The best I can say is that I think the way I behave at work (at least when I am at my best) makes my workplace a better place. And I can feel good about that while still working on the rest!

The reason Iím writing about this is that it made me feel good to see something in my life that seems particularly Franciscan. I think we all need to take the time to see how we live in Franciscan ways - ways that make a difference, large or small. I donít think it matters if youíre doing it because itís the Franciscan way, or just because itís the right way for you - itís the doing that matters. Think about Christís parable of the leaven in three measures of flour, and remember that as Secular Franciscans, we are leaven. We are spread throughout Godís creation, in all layers of society, because the Kingdom of God is for everyone and we are a significant part of making the Kingdom present in our world today. May God give us listening hearts that we may know his plan for us, and the will to live it out dailyÖVickie