Pope Francis met today with the participants of the Order of Friars Minor General Chapter, which includes all of the provincial ministers from around the world as well as several friars offering technical and secretarial support. In his address to the friars, quoted below from a Vatican News report, Pope Francis demonstrates that he not only lives up to his name (taken after St. Francis of Assisi) by his example and actions, but he also understands the Franciscan charism very well. He cites several passages from our Rule and the early sources. Among other things, Pope Francis reminded the friars and the church universal that the Franciscan charism is an “outbound” one, for which the whole world is our cloister. We are meant to be with and among the people of God.
Here is the news report with several key quotes from his address:
Vatican City, 26 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Sala Clementina of the Vatican Apostolic Palace Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor, dedicated this time to two key aspects of their identity: minority and fraternity.
In his address, the Holy Father remarked that minority “calls us to be and to feel small before God, entrusting ourselves entirely to his infinite mercy. The perspective of mercy is incomprehensible to those who do not recognise themselves as ‘minor': that is, as small, needy and sinners before God. The more aware we are of this, the closer we are to salvation; the more convinced we are of being sinners, the more disposed we are to be saved. … Minority also means coming out of ourselves, of leaving behind our preconceptions and personal views; it also means going beyond structures – that are of course useful if used wisely – and beyond our habits and certainties, to bear witness to real closeness to the poor, needy and marginalised, with an authentic attitude of sharing and service”.
Similarly, the dimension of fraternity is essential for bearing witness to the Gospel. “In the primitive Church, Christians lived in fraternal community to the extent that … the people were surprised to see them so united in love, so willing to give and to forgive each other”, commented the Pope. “Your religious family is called upon to express this concrete fraternity, by recovering this mutual trust in interpersonal relations, so that the world may see and believe, acknowledging that Christ’s love heals wounds and renders us as one”.
In this respect, Francis invited the Franciscans to be “bringers of mercy, reconciliation and peace”, in obedience to their charism which has made them an “outbound congregation” since their origins. “It is said that when the first friars were asked to show their cloisters, they climbed a hill and, showing the land around, as far as the eye could see, they answered, ‘This is our cloister’. Dear brothers, continue to go into this cloister, which is the whole world, driven by Christ’s love, as St. Francis invites you to do … when he says … ‘I counsel, warn and exhort my friars in the Lord Jesus Christ, that when they go about through the world, they are not to quarrel nor contend in words, nor are they to judge others, but they are to be meek, peaceable and modest, meek and humble, speaking uprightly to all, as is fitting. … Into whatever house they may enter, first let them say: ‘Peace to this house’, and … it is lawful to eat any of the foods which are placed befor them”.
The Pope stressed that St. Francis’ exhortation remains valid. “It is a prophecy of fraternity and minority for today’s world too. How important it is to live a Christian and religious existence without losing oneself in disputes and gossip, cultivating a serene dialogue with all, … with modest means, announcing peace and living in a sober fashion, content with what is offered to you. This also requires decisive commitment to transparency, to the ethical and fraternal use of goods, in a style of sobriety. If, instead, you are attached to worldly goods and wealth, and place your security there, it will be the Lord Himself Who will despoil you of this spirit of worldliness in order to preserve this valuable heritage of minority and poverty to which He has called you through St. Francis. You will either be freely poor and minor, or find yourselves denuded”.
“The Holy Spirit is the inspiration for religious life”, continued Pope Francis. “When consecrated persons let themselves be enlightened and guided by the Spirit, they discover in this supernatural vision the secret of their fraternity, the inspiration for their service to their brothers, the strength of their prophetic presence in the Church and in the world. The light and the strength of the Spirit will also help you face the challenges that lie before you, especially the numerical decrease, ageing and diminution of new vocations”.
“The people of God love you. Cardinal Quarracino once said: ‘In our cities there are groups or people who are against the clergy, and when a priest passes by they say certain things to him – in Argentina they call them “crows”. But I have never, ever heard these remarks in the presence of a Franciscan habit. Why? You have inherited authority with the people of God with your minority, fraternity, meekness, humility, and poverty. Please preserve this! Do not lose it. The people love you”.
Photo: L’Osservatore Romano