Monthly Formation from the Regional Formation Director – June 2019

“You will be my witnesses”

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:8-9)

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The time between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost is quiet but thrilling. Quiet, because it is an in-between time of wonder and awe. Thrilling, because it anticipates Pentecost Sunday when we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. During this interlude, we recall how the Risen Lord, after a period of time in which he appeared to the apostles and others, departed from them. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.”1 Jesus commissions his followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole of creation.”2 And he assures them “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”3

These events and mysteries have special meaning for Secular Franciscans. They present to us the origin of the Church’s mission of evangelization. In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), Pope St. Paul VI teaches that “the task of evangelizing constitutes the essential mission of the Church… Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”4

That task of evangelization is one that Secular Franciscans share, in a most definite way, by virtue of our profession. Our Rule says we “should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.”5 Furthermore, we “are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.”6 Franciscan scholar Andrea Boni, OFM, wrote that Franciscans “have been entrusted by God with the task of rebuilding his house. The Church is rebuilt with the same tools with which it was constructed: evangelization and witness of life.”7

For Secular Franciscans, both in fraternity and in our individual lives, the role of witness is fundamental. Again, to cite Pope St. Paul VI, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”8 What does that witness look like? He offers a very Franciscan description: “The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience, humility.”9 And he clearly intends this to be the action of individuals, adding poignantly, “In the long run, is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person one’s personal experience of faith?”10 Secular Franciscans know how to do this. We know how to go from “gospel to life and life to the gospel.”11

In our culture, evangelization is often associated with a particular form of proselytizing. However, to be truly evangelical is simply to embrace the gospel and proclaim it fearlessly. We evangelize by the example of our fraternities when we live as communities of love. We evangelize as individuals by following Jesus after the example of St. Francis. Our witness will look different depending on how we are graced and on our various situations in the world. But the Church’s mission of evangelization—to spread the gospel—is central to our vocation. The General Constitutions affirm this: “Secular Franciscans proclaim Christ by their life and words. Their preferred apostolate is personal witness in the environment in which they live.”12

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 From the OFS Rule and Constitutions

  • They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they   should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words. [Rule, 6]
  • Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. [Rule, 14]
  • Called to work together in building up the Church as the sacrament of salvation for all and, through their baptism and profession made “witnesses and instruments of her mission,” Secular      Franciscans proclaim Christ by their life and words. Their preferred apostolate is personal          witness in the environment in which they live and service for building up the Kingdom of God       within the situation of this world. [Constitutions, 17,1]

For reflection and discussion

  • Pope St. Paul VI says that the “Church exists to evangelize.” How do you imagine an authentically Catholic evangelization? What form or modality might it take?
  • If the mission of the Church is to evangelize—to proclaim the gospel to all the world—what does it mean in your daily life to be a “witness and an instrument” of that mission?
  • Our Constitutions make the striking statement that for a Secular Franciscan the “preferred apostolate is personal witness in the environment in which they live and service for building up         the Kingdom of God within the situations of this world.” What are some of the ways you can develop such an apostolate in your own life as a Secular Franciscan?

Further study

Copyright © 2019 by Justin Carisio, OFS

 

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director - April, 2019

Brothers and Sisters,

May the Lord give you peace!

I am humbled to have been elected to serve you as St. Katharine Drexel Region director of formation. I would like to continue the practice of my predecessor, our brother Ted Bienkowski, OFS, by posting something for formation on a monthly basis. My format will be a PDF file that can be printed out (two sides of one sheet) and used for individual reflection or as a discussion piece for ongoing formation in a fraternity meeting or similar setting. This month, I consider how early 13th century penitents influenced St. Francis and how penance became the founding charism of our own Secular Franciscan Order. I  welcome your questions, comments or suggestions. Thank you!

Pax et bonum,

Justin Carisio, OFS

Director of Formation

St. Katharine Drexel Region

Francis of Assisi, Penitent
One of the easiest ways to misunderstand Saint Francis is to overlook how much he was a man of his times influenced by the environments in which he found himself: family, city, culture, and church (including one of the great church councils). In the Secular Franciscan Ceremony of Introduction and Welcome (1), the person who is being introduced to the fraternity is handed a biography of Saint Francis by the formation director and told “to read it carefully, in order to learn how to live the gospel life of our Lord Jesus Christ by following [Francis’s] example.” One hopes if it is the first biography of the saint a potential inquirer reads, it will not be the last. There is always more to learn about his remarkable witness and the world in which he lived.

An aspect of his life we should not lose sight of is that before Francis was a friar, he was a penitent, and in a very real sense, he remained a penitent all his life. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Church experienced a resurgence in penitential lifestyles as “vast numbers of the laity became voluntary penitents.” (2) Francis’s conversion took place in that context. It is likely his encounter with penitential groups influenced his vision of a life of penance and the expectations he had for penitents who later became associated with his own movement. What were some specific characteristics of Franciscan penitents? Consider a few described by Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR, in his history of the Third Order:

  • Adherence to Catholicism and fidelity to the Church. “[The penitents’] beliefs and lifestyle…correspond to Francis’s basic principle of complete adherence to Catholicism and absolute fidelity to the Church” (3)
  • High regard for the sacraments and the priesthood. “Francis understood that, according to the teachings of Christ, no spiritual life was possible without the Eucharist [and] without the sacrament of penance there would be no remission of sin. Eucharist and penance, in their turn, cannot exist without the ministry of the priesthood.” (4)
  • Penance is a journey to God. “The ‘life of penance’ is a road of ascent and a means for this ascent. This is a fundamental point of spirituality for Franciscan penitents, those of yesterday as well as today.” (5)
  • The spirit of love is part of the life of penance. The “relationship of love between God and man, between God and creation…is for Francis the only light, the only reality.”(6)

If we attend to this history, we readily appreciate that Francis’s own message of penance and conversion often fell upon fertile soil ready to receive it. Many Catholics of his day were ardent in their desire to imagine a way to live the gospel life in their own time and place and to do so literally. It is no wonder that the example of Francis and his brothers inspired so many. Francis went on to found the Order of Lesser Brothers—the Friars Minor—but in the Franciscan movement, penance would always remain the fundamental charism of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the progenitors of the Third Order and, by extension, of our own Secular Franciscan Order. Penance, especially in the form of joyful, ongoing conversion, retains a central place in the lives of Secular Franciscans to this day. As individuals and in fraternity we should seek ways to embody the love and zeal of those early Franciscan penitents.

From the Rule & General Constitutions:
United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily. On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace. (Rule, 7) Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times “the brothers and sisters of penance,” propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion. Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are: listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life; spiritual retreats; the help of a spiritual adviser, and penitential celebrations. They should approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and participate in the communal celebration of it, whether in the fraternity, or with the whole people of God.
(Constitutions, 13.1)
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Questions for discussion:
1. “The term Penance in Franciscanism is equivalent to the biblical meaning of metanoia, understood as an intimate conversion of the heart to God, as a continuous state of being. It is not a question of doing penance but of being penitent.”(7) What are some of our present-day characteristics of being penitent?
2. During his time as a penitent, Francis was formed in part through the influence of others. Who has been influential in your journey of penance?


(1) Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, 10.
(2) Robert M. Stewart, OFM, “De Illis Qui Faciunt Penitentiam” The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order: Origins, Development, Interpretation, Instituto Storico Dei Cappuccini, 1991, 120.
(3) Raffaele Pazzelli, St. Francis and the Third Order, The Franciscan and pre-Franciscan Penitential  Movement, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1989, 118.
(4) Ibid., 119.
(5) Ibid., 120-21.
(6) Ibid., 121.
(7) Lino Temperini,TOR, Penitential Spirituality in the Franciscan Sources, Franciscan Publications, July 1983, 41.

Copyright © 2019 by Justin Carisio, OFS

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director - March 2019

March 2019

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary!

 

In my February 2019 “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” I continued a discussion on the wonderful Feast of Epiphany. This month I will finish our discussion on what it means to be “Epiphany” and why it is so important.

 

I want to go straight to the sacred scripture and hear what our Lord has to say. You might expect me to share the Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16. We hear it all the time and even see it at sporting events. And it is a beautiful and special passage but there is one even more special to me.

 

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

 

This entire passage should bring us to our knees and make us cry with joy and amazement! Listen to it slowly and prayerfully, Jesus is explaining that what our Heavenly Father has done thru Jesus’ love is enfolded us into the Blessed Loving Circle of the Trinity! The Father loving the Son loving the Holy Spirit loving us and then back the other way! This is not only why we should be Epiphany but it is how we are to be Epiphany.

 

By being completely immersed in the Trinitarian love we can then be brought to perfect love. That perfect or Agape3 love will cause us to love God more perfectly and love those around us. This love will in turn attract those that are seeking perfect love themselves, even if they don’t know it at the time. That same love helps us to live and love as Jesus does and how our seraphic father, Saint Francis did. Our desire should be the same! That all those given to Jesus should be enfolded into the Blessed Trinity!

 

I know some may think all this talk of love is a bit over sweet, but let’s look at how the prophet Isaiah describes Jesus treatment even the sinners.

 

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice.”

This passage is powerful and should speak volumes to us. Jesus would not damage the bruised reed or put out the smoldering candle. What did he do? He healed the sinner and reignited the sinners’ light to the world. He did it in a gentle loving way. But some might say “he made a whip and cast out the money changers” that wasn’t so gentle.

 

We need to take a close look at that event. First, it was not Jesus’ normal behavior. Secondly we must ask why he did it. It is very simple really, the money changes and sellers set up their shops in the outer court of the temple. The outer court was also known as the court of the Gentiles. You need to know a little about temple worship back then. Gentiles wishing to worship the one true God were allowed to enter only into the outer court to pray and worship. The next court was the court of the women. Women, even Jewish women, were only allowed to enter the temple to that point. Then there was the inner court. That is where Jewish men could go. It was right next to the Holy of Holies or where the tabernacle was. And only the high priest could go there and only once a year to offer sin offerings for himself and the people.

 

“Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”

 

So, when the ruling priests and Sanhedrin8 allowed the sellers and money changers to set up shop in the outer court they in essence made it impossible for the gentiles’ to enter into a prayerful and worshipful relationship with God! That is way Jesus did what he did. The Jews were actually preventing people from encountering God in a meaningful way and they were doing it to make a profit. To them the gentiles had little value as people and could be abused.

 

My sisters and brothers, I ask you to truly be Epiphany to let the love of the Blessed Trinity shine thru you and place a spotlight on Jesus!

Pax et Bonum Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

1 John 17:20-26 2

2 Emphasis mine

3 This Greek word, agápē, and variations of it are frequently found throughout the New Testament. Agape perfectly describes the kind of love Jesus Christ has for his Father and for his followers.

4 Isaiah 42:3

5 Gentiles (Heb., usually in plural, goyim), meaning in general all nations except the Jews.

6 Luke 19:45-46

7 Emphasis mine

8 The Jewish ruling council or government

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – February, 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

February 2019

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary! As we prepare for our Regional Chapter of Elections this coming March, I ask you all to be praying for and seeking the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and that those called to serve the next three years be filled with the grace and wisdom of God!

In my last edition of “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” we started a discussion on the wonderful Feast of Epiphany. I asked you to reflect on this incredible feast and what it meant to us as Franciscans. I also gave you some scripture passages to reflect on as I did sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and our Rule. This month, I want to continue that theme even though Epiphany is long past. Although, for those of us who see the church’s calendar as a continuation of our faith and a part of our ongoing conversion, it is not past, it is just getting ready to come around again in eleven months!

This month I would like to focus more on the idea that we, as Catholics, but especially as Franciscans are called to be “Epiphany” to the world around us. Remember, the word and concept of Epiphany is to reveal or to be revelation, to shed light into the world around us and to live the gospel so clearly that others will see Jesus in you and be attracted to that light and vocation.

I want to share with you a section of the prolog to our rule of life:

“Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50). We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50). We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).” 1,2

In the prologue to our rule, In the Exhortation, Francis himself said we are to “Give Birth to Him,” meaning to reveal Jesus to those around us. We further see this idea in our own rule:

“United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.”3,4

In Rule 10, we are called to “witness to Him.” What does that word witness mean? Simply put, it means to testify. But for us it means not only in word, but in actions also.

Definition of (give) witness to: To declare belief in (a god or religion) They gave witness to their faith.5

Pope Francis once asked: “Am I a Christian giving witness to Jesus or am I a simple numerary of this sect,” unable to let the Holy Spirit “drive me forward in my Christian vocation?”6

Although his Holiness did not use the word “witness,” it is definitely the idea he is conveying. “Am I simply an official elected to a lifetime position within the church, or am I truly driven by the Holy Spirit?”

For this month, I will end with another part of our rule:

“Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.”7,8

Here, too, we are called to be a light and witness for Christ, to be epiphany, not instead of Christ, but pointing to Christ as the solution to the world’s issues.

Next month we will finish up on this topic and discuss examples of what it means to be epiphany!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation

 

1 SFO Rule (Prologue) Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance In the name of the Lord!

2 Emphasis mine

3 SFO Rule 10

4 Emphasis mine

5 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary  give witness to

6 May 6 2013: Homily at Mass Tuesday in the Domus Sanctae Marthae

7 SFO Rule 14 8 Emphasis min

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – January 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

January 2019

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you!  May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary in this New Year!  I pray that your Christmas was blessed and that, as we prepare to celebrate the wonderful Feast of Epiphany, I ask you to reflect on this incredible feast for a while. We all too often see the Epiphany as the three wise men coming to adore the Baby Jesus, and it is that, but oh so much more.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks volumes:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.”[1],[2]  

So, we see that according to the Catechism, Epiphany is not just the visitation of the three magi, it includes the Baptism of Christ and the sign (as Saint John calls it) of the Wedding Feast of Cana.  First, I would like to take a look at this year’s Old Testament reading for the feast.

“Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you.  Though darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds, the peoples, upon you the LORD will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen.  Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning.[3],[4]

In this beautiful passage from Isaiah the prophet proclaims that not only will Zion (the chosen people) see the Glory of the Lord, but all the nations of the earth will see his great light!  This was a very new message for Israel.  In that time, and right up to Jesus’ time, Israel frequently shunned the stranger, or even castigated him, even though they were called to be the light of the world.

Now I would like to look at two scriptures that describe the Baptism of our Lord, one directly and the other indirectly.

“After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”[5],[6]

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the one of whom I said  ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.”[7],[8]

In both the Gospel of Mathew and in the Gospel of John we see the Father revealing to the world his beloved son, not as a baby but as the Lamb of God.  John’s Gospel does not directly link the revelation to Jesus’ baptism, but does link it indirectly.  In both cases, Jesus is revealed in a new and clearer way.

Lastly, we have the wedding feast of Cana:

“And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs[9] in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.[10],[11] 

Though Jesus performed many more than seven miracles, the Apostle John selectively cites only seven for this reason:  the number seven shows the completeness of God’s revelation of Jesus to the Hebrews and to the world, and is traditionally thought of as the number representing God’s perfect nature.  Each of the seven signs builds on the next to paint a complete picture of the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world.

“The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.”[12]

Accordingly we see that the Feast of Epiphany is much more than the coming of the Magi.  It is the celebration of the revelation of the Light of God to all peoples, the declaration and revelation of Jesus and God’s son and Lamb of God (sacrifice) and the revelation that Jesus is the transforming and creative force of the Godhead.

So, what does that have to do with Franciscan formation?  A great deal! And in the coming months we will continue to discuss this and reflect on our Rule of Life and the Sacred Scriptures.  I will leave you with a chapter of our rule to start contemplating.

“They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.  Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.”[13],[14]

 

 

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

[1] Taken from CCC-528

[2] Emphasis mine

[3] Isaiah 60:1-3

[4] Emphasis mine

[5] Mathew 3:16-17

[6] Emphasis mine

[7] John 1:29-32

[8] Emphasis mine

[9] “Sign” (sēmeion) is John’s symbolic term for Jesus’ wondrous deeds

[10] John 2:9-11

[11] Emphasis mine

[12] Introduction to the Gospel of John, NABRE, approved by the USCCB

[13] OFS Rule, Chapter 6

[14] Emphasis mine

Thoughts from our Regional Formation Director – December 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

December 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you!  May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary.

It is hard to believe but after looking through my files, this will be a full year that I have been sending you my thoughts and it has caused me to reflect on mile-stones and anniversaries which in turn has caused me to contemplate a very special anniversary we all share!  The fortieth anniversary of the approval of our rule of life.  I can almost laugh to myself some times when I hear a sister and brother say “Our New Rule” or “the New Rule”.  Almost all the Secular Franciscans I know have known no other rule!

This rule of ours is a precious and most loved gift from our Order and from the Church.  It has brought us back to the foundations of our origins, brothers and sisters of penance and ongoing conversion.  It truly reflects the spirit of the Second Vatican Council in  LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) where our Holy Mother Church redirects our thoughts to the original intent of “Church”  and mission.

THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH

“Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15), it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church. Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament–a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men–she here purposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission. The condition of the modern world lends greater urgency to this duty of the Church; for, while men of the present day are drawn ever more closely together by social, technical and cultural bonds, it still remains for them to achieve full unity in Christ.”[1]

I encourage all of you to re-read the Second Vatican Documents, but especial Lumen Gentium.  And as you do you should see a striking commonality in tone and form with the Rule approved in 1978, and like the rule the constitutions and statutes.  It is intended to bring us back to our roots and original mission.

In my discussion with many of you I hear a frequent question.  What do we do for ongoing formation?  I can understand the question.  Our materials and guidelines for Initial Formation are very clear and abundant.  But at first glance not so much for ongoing formation.  Just like our rule is a return to our roots, I would suggest the same thing for formation.  Take the rule one paragraph at a time along with the reference material like the constitution and the “Franciscan Journey” and spend your ongoing formation time reflecting and discussing or “Re-Discovering” the most precious gift of our Rule of Life!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

[1] LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), The mystery of the Church, par 1

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – October 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

October 2018

 Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! Blessed Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Francis in imitating Jesus and Mary.

I know I said in my last letter to you that we would start the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process. But something important has come up that I feel needs to be discussed. That is what do you do when a really nice person that seems to be a strong, loving Catholic with strong social convictions is in formation but there is that nagging sense that “maybe they should be part of the Dorothy Day group” the Blue Army or some other catholic organization. The Franciscan Order is one way of approaching God. As our rule of life says: “The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.1

An example of this really “Nice Person” could be a simple one. As stated above, they are good Catholics, very involved in many things. Holy and noble things like the Rosary society, the Blue Army, maybe the Saint Vincent DePaul Society, AA, NA2 and so on. So much so that they have a hard time committing to the process, committing to Fraternal Life and the life of the region and national fraternities.

In the Franciscan Journey3 it says: “Initial Formation (Inquirery / Candidacy) prepares you for permanent profession as a Secular Franciscan. Our way of life MUST TAKE PRIORITY in your life. When choices must be made between SFO requirements and other groups, SFO takes priority”

Now, if a person seems to be in this situation and is willing to put those other “Holy” things aside for the Order, no problem. But if not, they may need to make a difficult choice. And if they can’t or will not, the council must make the choice for them. Fraternity and the Order must take priority. Obviously there are exceptions for Family Life and special occasions. But even family life can be a concern. If a person has a spouse that is not participating and not supportive there can be problems. The spouse could start getting upset if their partner is fully engaged in the order and they don’t like it!

Another good example is a person has a strong personal devotion to a noble Saint or other aspect of the faith, could even be something like “Fatima”. And that person tries to proselytize the fraternity and has them commit to the same devotion. So someone might say “how can that be bad?” In the “Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order”4 it explains that as Franciscans we are bound to liturgical pray. It lists the approved forms of prayer we are to use focusing on the Liturgy of the Hours. The Rosary and Franciscan Crown are suggested to be said in May and October5.

When someone who is a “really Nice Person” and even a good Catholic has a hard time complying with any aspect of the rule, constitutions, statutes and other governing documents there is a very real possibility they should not be professed. This is hard, I know. It is not like someone who obviously shows signs that they have no vocation. But this needs to be done to protect the fraternity and actually the individual. Next month we will continue the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process. I promise!

Pax et Bonum Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS SKD

Regional Formation Director

 

1 SFO Rule, Chapter One – Rule 1

2 Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous

3 The Franciscan Journey, Chapter One, Page 2, last paragraph

4 The Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, Appendix II, Pages 103 & 104

5 The Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, Appendix II, Page 104, number 7

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director
September 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! As summer comes to a close, and school starts again we enter into another cycle of change! Soon we will see the leaves change color and the air start to get cool and crisp. And so as the seasons change so do we. We grow and learn all our lives. It should never stop.

As we said in August’s “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” we were going to continue the discussion concerning the Inquires and the interview process. We had said that there should be no doubt in the minds and hearts of any of the council and formation team before a person is moved on into candidacy. That does not mean that the discernment process is over by any means. All it means is that there are no obvious concerns that the person is not ready or does not have a possible vocation!

When there is some objection by one of the council and or formation team this must be resolved before any action is taken. So, now that we have an individual or several individuals voicing some concern, what do you do? A lot of talking and even more listening. The council and formation team must explore the objections or concerns in a loving and charitable way but also focus on truth. A very good tool to use are the two lists in the resource “The Franciscan Journey i called “Signs that may indicate the presence of a vocation to the SFOii” and the invers, “Signs that may indicate that a vocation to the SFO is not present”. The council and the formation team should prayerfully go thru those lists and ask if any of the signs of vocation are there and if any of the signs that a vocation is NOT present are there.

Now, any one of us could read the lists and look at the signs that a vocation is not present and apply some of them to our own lives. After all we are all human and in need of grace ourselves. The question should be, does an individual live in those signs or perpetually act them out, not occasionally fall into one or two of them. After a  thorough discussion and evaluation another vote should be taken. By the way, only the council votes, that is the Minister, Vice Minister, Formation Director, Treasurer, Secretary, Spiritual Assistant and any elected Councilors at Large. If any members of the formation team are not elected, they do not vote.

In all cases, if there is still any doubt, the person should not move to candidacy. The next thing to do is ask “What Now?” Should the individual be asked to continue some other form of initial formation? If the individual lacks basic Catholic understanding, maybe they should be asked to attend a local RCIA program, then come back. It may be a simple although hard, as to honestly discuss with them why the council voted the way they did and give them the opportunity to correct their behavior. But do not leave it to chance thinking that they will “get it” in candidacy. That only hurts them and the fraternity.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

iPages 15 ‐ 18
ii SFO is now referred to as OFS “Order of Franciscan Seculars”

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – August 2018

August 2018 

 Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. 

 All peace and good be with you!  It is hard to believe summer is half over!  I was in the car with one of my granddaughters yesterday and as we passed her school she said how much she missed school and wanted summer to end.  Music to a grandpa’s heart… I said it is wonderful that you love to learn.  She said in her adorable way “Grandpa, I don’t like learning, I miss my friends!” as it should be.  The same is true with our fraternities, we are friends, we are family we should love to gather and be together.  Including just having fun!   

As you know we took a short break from Initial Formation in July’s letter to discuss ongoing formation.  Well, it is time to get back to initial formation.  As you know we were discussing Inquiry and using the Pathways to Profession Chart1 to bring order and constancy to our journey and the exploration of Secular Franciscan spirituality.  Everything we do and teach should be based on this concept and founded in the FUN Manual and the Regional Guidelines.  If we do this we will know we are on the correct path.   

So, when we left off in June, we were discussing Inquiry.  Inquiry is the first true step in initial formation for the Secular Francians.  Orientation is important but is just that, it is meant to give a person some terms and a basic understanding of what will be happening.  But by now your “Inquirer” should have had time to get familiar with some of the language we use (in orientation) and you, the formation team and the members of the fraternity should be getting to know the Inquirer.  And please note I called them an “Inquirer” not Postulate or Novice.  Since regionalization and the adoption of the new rule (forty years ago) the correct terms are Inquirery and Candidacy or Inquirer or Candidate.  While we are on that subject, the Minister or president of a fraternity (at any level) is no longer referred to as a Prefect, it is either minister or president, more places use minister.  But I digress, I apologize. 

Back to the Inquirer, by now you should have collected all of the Spiritual Inventory, sacramental records and other important documents.  There should have been at least one formal interview and possibly two.  In my fraternity we frequently have a BBQ or Picnic with the inquirers and the council instead.  This make the situation much less threatening.  As your Inquirer nears the end of the inquiry phase, they should be invited to request Candidacy (in writing) including why they feel called to a Franciscan vocation.   

Once that is done, the formation team and the fraternity council should review all the documents including the home work where appropriate and have a discussion as to whether they see a vocation in the individual.  Once discussed a council vote should occur and there should be no doubt the individual should continue.  If there is any doubt, a further discussion needs to happen.  What do we do now? 

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.   

Pax et Bonum 

Peace and all Good 

 Ted Bienkowski, OFS 

SKD Region Formation Director 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – July, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

July 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! Well summer is here! It is only 8:00 AM here in Summit Hill and it is 80 degrees already! Hot and humid, but watch, come December we will be saying it is too cold!

I would like to take a short break from Initial Formation for July. Those who know me will know how important I think Initial formation is! It is the bedrock on which our order is built and stands firm. But ongoing formation is also important and needs our attention. Just like initial formation, ongoing formation should be for seculars by seculars. What do I mean by that? Great question.

What that means is that that since regionalization in the 70’s we are intended to be an order true to ourselves and governed by ourselves. Therefore formation of all types should primarily be led by the seculars at a local fraternity level, a regional fraternity level and so on. Does that mean there is no place for our beloved First, Second and Third Order Regular Brothers and Sisters in formation? Absolutely not! They just should not take the lead nor should they be giving formation on a regular basis. That is the job of the Council and Formation Director at all levels.

This might seem like a daunting task, but just like with Initial Formation, there are incredible tools out there. You are not alone! What I have found is that an occasional journey back to basics “The Franciscan Journey” is always a good thing. Take one of the chapters and break it down to 15 – 20 minute small group discussions and then summarize at the larger fraternity level. This is good for several reasons; first, there is always room for refresher and renewed commitment to our rule. Secondly, there are sisters and brothers out there that for one reason or another didn’t necessarily get the best initial formation. This process helps them grow.

Besides the Franciscan Journey, there is a lot of material right on our Regional web site1 under formation resources. Just remember, we should keep it Franciscan. What I mean by that is there are a lot of good and noble Catholic things out there, but we are distinctly Franciscan. We should focus on Franciscan Spirituality. Another good guideline, use only material approved by the Church.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 http://www.skdregion.org/ under formation resources