Category Archives: Formation

You are called to become a saint

Whether you Like it or not. (Editor’s comment)

Canon Law Made Easy
COMMENTARY: 
by FATHER DWIGHT LONGENECKER 10/30/2013

One of the reasons we celebrate ‘All Saints Day’ and ‘All Souls Day’ one day after the other is a reminder that all souls are called to be saints.
 
In ministering as a Catholic priest, I sometimes get the impression that Catholics are more interested in the minimum than the maximum.

What I mean is that too many Catholics seem to have heard that what is required to be a good Catholic is to go to Mass once a week and confession once a year. That’s it.

Therefore, they do their duty. They check the boxes. They complete the test. They reckon they’ve done just enough to stay out of hell, that God will forgive them the rest, and they’ll coast into heaven having done what’s required.

They seem, to me, like the high-school kid who was told by his teacher that his term paper needed to be five pages long with footnotes, so he turns in a mediocre effort that is five pages of mush with a few footnotes.

This isn’t what a term paper is for. The term paper is a set part of the coursework so the student will not just learn how to write a five-page paper, but also learn something in the process. The term paper was a means to an end. It was not an end in itself. 

So it is with the practice of the Catholic faith. The rules and regulations of the Catholic faith — going to Mass each Sunday and confession once a year, the precepts of the Church and the Ten Commandments — these strictures and structures are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

They are the rules for the game of sainthood. They are the map for the journey.

The game and the journey are far greater. The destination of the journey and the goal of the game is sanctity. To put it plainly: All of us are supposed to become saints.
Our hearts should burn with the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “You must be a whole saint or no saint at all!”

Once we have entered into the body of Christ through baptism, our destiny is total sanctity. In the Eastern Church, they call this theosis. It means becoming transformed into the full image of Christ.

In St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians, it means “growing up into the full humanity of Jesus.” A saint is not simply a person who is more pious than anyone else. A saint is a person who has become more himself than anyone else.

A saint is an ordinary person who has been made complete and whole and has become the fully alive person God created him to be.

I get the feeling, however, that most Catholics find such an idea to be excessive or extreme. It is as if they are saying to God, “You know, I’m not such a great person. I’m not ambitious. I know you are preparing all those mansions in heaven. Well, I’ll be content with a little shed down in the lower gardens. That’s all right for me. Just as long as I squeeze through the pearly gates, I’ll be fine.”

God has much greater things prepared for us than we can ever dare to hope or imagine. He wants nothing less than our total transformation. He created us to be shining stars in the heavens — brilliant examples of his complete, creative love. He wants us to enjoy the fullness of life in Christ, and many seem content with just getting by.
One of the reasons we celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day one day after the other is a reminder that all souls are called to be saints. We pray for the repose of the souls of our loved ones on All Souls’ Day, but why do we do this?

Saying that we pray “for their repose” makes it sounds passive. Are we simply praying that they will rest in peace? There is more to it than that. We are also praying that God will continue his work of grace in their lives and bring them to the full state of holiness and sanctity for which they were created.

Purgatory is not simply a place of rest. When we die, if we are not in mortal sin, we do not simply go to a retirement home in the sky. Purgatory is not a place of hammocks on the beach, where we can finally put up our feet and have a well-deserved rest.

Purgatory is the place where we finish the work we have left undone on this earth. In purgatory, our remaining weakness, cowardice, lust, greed and selfishness are burned away. Purgatory is a place of progress, not simply a place of peace.

When we pray for our loved ones on All Souls’ Day and throughout the month of November, we should be praying in an active way, not only that they will find peace, but that they will grow up into the full stature of Christ Jesus and rapidly rid themselves of every weight that holds them back — so they might become the radiant images of Christ they were created to be.

As for ourselves, there is a beautiful prayer in the funeral service: “That God might help us to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth.”

The work of becoming a saint is easier here than it is in purgatory. All of us still have plenty of work to do as we cooperate with God’s grace in the great adventure of sanctity. This work requires a courageous and joyful spirit. It requires discipline and the spirit of the warrior.

Again, we hear the call of little St. Thérèse, who said to her novices, “Sanctity: It must be won at the point of a sword!”

Father Dwight Longenecker’s latest book, The Romance of Religion, will be published in February 2014 by Thomas Nelson. Visit his blog, browse his books and be in touch at DwightLongenecker.com.

Formation: A Franciscan Perspective

By Bret Thoman, OFS

The Work of the Son.
(5:19) Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. (5:21) For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the San give life to whomever he wishes.(5:22) Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment. to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.”

Footnotes:

5:19 This proverb or parable is taken from apprenticeship in a trade: the activity of a son is modeled on that of his father. Jesus’ dependence on the Father is justification for doing what the Father does.

5:21 Gives life: in the Old Testament, a divine prerogative (Dt 32:39; 1 5m 2:6; 2 Kgs

5:7; Tb13:2; /5 26:19; Dn 12:2).

5:22 Judgment: another divine prerogative, often expressed as acquittal or
condemnation (Dt32:36; Ps 43:1).

We need a Franciscan Perspective

There are different acceptable theologies in the Church. Each one leads to a particular way of
interpreting life and guiding the lives of Catholics. Franciscan Theology gives us the framework
within which Franciscans live.

A Franciscan perspective leads to the development of a sense of freedom. We believe in a God
who always loves us. Our Franciscan perspective assists us in making moral decisions; in
understanding the truths of the Faith with a Franciscan flavor; in responding to the call of the Holy Spirit to follow Francis of Assisi. The Franciscan perspective offers a particular way of seeing what a Christ-Gospel-centered life looks like. It reflects our understanding of God as a
God who loves us.

1 John 4:16New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

General Constitution of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter ll
Form of Life and Apostolic Activity
Title I
The Form of Life
Article 9

Rule 5 The spirituality of the secular Franciscan is a plan of life centered on the person and on the following of Christ, rather than a detailed program to be put into practice.

2. Rule 4,3 The secular Franciscan, committed to following the example and the teachings of
Christ, must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture. The fraternity
and its leaders should foster love for the word of the Gospel and help the brothers and sisters to
know and understand it as it is proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Spirit.

Article 12

1. Gaining inspiration from the example and the writings of Francis and, above all, filled with
the grace of the Holy Spirit, each day the brothers and sisters faithfully live the great gift which
Christ has given: the revelation of the Father. They should bear witness to this faith before all:
+ in their family life;
+ in their work;
+ in their joys and sufferings;
+ in their associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the some Father;
+ in their presence and participation in the life of society;
+ in their fraternal relationships with all creatures.

2. Rule 10 With Jesus, obedient even to death, they should seek to know and do the will of the
Father. They should give thanks to God for the gift of freedom and for the revelation of the law
of love. In order to carry out the will of the Father, they should accept the help which is offered
to them through the mediation of the Church by those who are constituted as authority in her
and by their confreres. They should take on the risk of courageous choices in their life in society
with decisiveness and serenity.

3. Rule 8 The brothers and sisters should love meeting God as His children and they should let
prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do. They should seek to discover the
presence of the Father in their own heart, in nature, and in the history of humanity in which His
plan of salvation is fulfilled. The contemplation of this mystery will dispose them to collaborate
in this loving plan.

Many Catholics believe the Jesus came among us as the result of sin. Therefore, someone
having equality with God was needed in order to save us. The incarnation, in this view, came
about because of something outside of God, namely, sin. Jesus suffering and death saves us
and reconciles us to God. This is a very legitimate perspective (Salvation History)

Franciscans, however, have another perspective. For us the Incarnation happened because God desired to be ‘with the people He had created. The love in God’s heart prompted the Incarnation.

1 John 4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

God’s Love and Christian Life. Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not
know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son
into the world so that we might have life through him. in this is love: not that we have loved
God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved
us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another,
God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

Footnotes:
4:7-12 Love as we share in it testifies to the nature of God and to his presence in our lives. One who loves shows that one is a child of God and knows God, for God’s very being is love; one without love is without God. The revelation of the nature of God’s love is found in the free gift of his Son to us, so that we may share life with God and be delivered from our sins. The love we have for one another must be of the same sort: authentic, merciful; this unique Christian love is our proof that we know God and can ”see” the invisible God.

It is God’s deliberate choice to come among us. God is not moved by sin but by the love in His
heart, for God is love! Franciscans embrace this perspective. We believe in God’s loving concern for us. God’s love is constant and is not changed be events outside of God. None of us
has the power to stop God’s love for us.

God never give[s] up on us. God never abandons us. God never leaves us orphans. God chooses
to be with us because love does such things. We believe in this God. Our God is not a punishing God, making certain no failure goes unpunished. Our God is not a distant God, untouched by the pain of the people He loves. Our God is not bland and indifferent, but celebrates with us in our joys. Our God is not a manipulative God who treats us like marionettes on a string. Our God is not a God who fails to understand pain and suffering. God’s love is persistent and calls for conversion that brings us life and light.

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Jesus Christ is intimate with His Abba. Whatever he said or did, it was in the name of His Abba.

John 12:49-50New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

”because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

We have a well-grounded trust in God because God is faithful. We are hopeful in the midst of
chaos in the Church and society because God is with us. The Holy Spirit is present to help us
know the truth revealed by Jesus. At no point does God abandon us no matter how bad things
get. God finds ways to love us back to life even when we are at our worst.

Our Franciscan belief in God’s love makes a difference in our lives. It makes a difference when
questions come up in life and we look for guidance of the Holy Spirit. It makes a difference when we become vulnerable and Jesus understands because He experienced vulnerability in both the crib and on the cross. It makes a difference when violence seems to dominate life and Jesus’ Peace creates space for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.. It makes a difference when we don’t know how to pray and the Spirit prays on our behalf.

Romans 8:26-27 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know
how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it
intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

It makes a difference when Sister Death approaches and we can look forward to an intimacy with God beyond anything we can imagine.

Franciscans in the Church after Vatican II

The Influence of Vatican ll and its consequences are part of our History. The Rule of the OFS
(1978) was written in the atmosphere of Vatican II.

Our calling invites us to add a Franciscan Flavor to the Church. We dialogue within the Church
to find ways to make her presence a faithful model of living the Gospel. The idea of a common
goal and a common life spills out of Vatican II into the OFS Rule.

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 dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

Franciscans, with or without success, faithfully seek to achieve communion among people within the Church and beyond it. The Church is a welcoming place where people can feel part
of God’s people.

DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH (LUMEN GENTIUM) para 13
13. All are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God’s will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one. It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life- giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature.

All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation.

Lumen Gentium (para 42) further points out that love of God active in the Church. Diversity of
gifts and responsibilities can create the harmony that brings communion. The people of God
share faith and love within the Church and with those outside of the Church. Called to participate in God’s mission (Matt 28:19-20 ”Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, lam with you always, until the end of the age. ”) Franciscans reach out to all people, practicing the love Francis and Clare model for us.

Indeed, in order that love, as good seed may grow and bring forth fruit in the soul, each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept His Will, and must complete what God has begun by their own actions with the help of God’s grace. These actions consist in the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the sacred action of the Liturgy, application of oneself to prayer, self-abnegation, lively fraternal service and the constant exercise of all the virtues. For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law,(229) rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means.(12*) It is charity which guides us to our final end. It is the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ.

Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love.

Our Franciscan heritage both contributes to the Church and receives from the Church a sense of dignity and worth. As one people we seek to make the Gospel a living document for people to
see as well as hear. For us, authority serves all people and facilitates the sharing of the Word of
God with them.

Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern world) shows our link to
the entire human race. All are welcome. Gaudium et Spes (Paragraph 25-26) speaks of interdependence of the individual and society, proclaiming a community that Franciscan Fraternities ought to model. Fraternity is where relationships blossom and acceptance is present even when we disagree.

PASTORAL CONSTITUTION
ON THE CHURCH IN
THE MODERN WORLD
GA UDI UM E T SPES
PROMULGATED BY
HIS HOLINESS, POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 7. 1965

PREFACE

l . The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those
who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.

2. Hence this Second Vatican Council, having probed more profoundly into the mystery of the
Church, now addresses itself without hesitation, not only to the sons of the Church and to all who invoke the name of Christ, but to the whole of humanity. For the council yearns to explain to
everyone how it conceives of the presence and activity of the Church in the world of today.

Therefore, the council focuses its attention on the world of men, the whole human family along
with the sum of those realities in the midst of which it lives; that world which is the theater of
man’s history, and the heir of his energies, his tragedies and his triumphs; that world which the
Christian sees as created and sustained by its Maker’s love, fallen indeed into the bondage of sin, yet emancipated now by Christ, Who was crucified and rose again to break the strangle hold of personified evil, so that the world might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and reach its fulfillment.

3. Though mankind is stricken with wonder at its own discoveries and its power, it often raises
anxious questions about the current trend of the world, about the place and role of man in the
universe, about the meaning of its individual and collective strivings, and about the ultimate
destiny of reality and of humanity. Hence, giving witness and voice to the faith of the whole
people of God gathered together by Christ, this council can provide no more eloquent proof of its solidarity with, as well as its respect and love for the entire human family with which it is bound up, than by engaging with it in conversation about these various problems. The council brings to mankind light kindled from the Gospel, and puts at its disposal those saving resources which the Church herself, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, receives from her Founder. For the human person deserves to be preserved; human society deserves to be renewed. Hence the focal point of our total presentation will be man himself, whole and entire, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will.

Therefore, this sacred synod, proclaiming the noble destiny of man and championing the Godlike seed which has been sown in him, offers to mankind the honest assistance of the Church in fostering that brotherhood of all men which corresponds to this destiny of theirs. Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.

Man’s social nature makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another. For the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person which for its part and by its very nature stands completely in need of social life.(3) Since this social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny.

Among those social ties which man needs for his development some, like the family and political
community, relate with greater immediacy to his innermost nature; others originate rather from
his free decision. In our era, for various reasons, reciprocal ties and mutual dependencies increase day by day and give rise to a variety of associations and organizations, both public and private. This development, which is called socialization, while certainly not without its dangers, brings with it many advantages with respect to consolidating and increasing the qualities of the human person, and safeguarding his rights.

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.

Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.

At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable. Therefore, there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one‘s own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious.

Hence, the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person if the disposition of affairs is to be subordinate to the personal realm and not contrariwise, as the Lord indicated when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

This social order requires constant improvement. It must be founded on truth, built on justice and animated by love; in freedom it should grow every day toward a more humane balance. An improvement in attitudes and abundant changes in society will have to take place if these objectives are to be gained.

God’s Spirit, Who with a marvelous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth, is not absent from this development. The ferment of the Gospel too has aroused and continues to arouse in man’s heart the irresistible requirements of his dignity.

Rebuilding the Church faces many difficulties. We humans do not changes easily. Secular Franciscans find conversion just as difficult as anyone else. The point of the Rule (#7) about conversion does not mean it actually happens in our lives (even though we profess to do it).

United by their vacation 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 itself 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.

Anyone expecting this point of the Rule to be an easy slide to holiness does not realize our aversion to change. If rebuilding the Church means reshaping people’s attitudes, then we are involved in a long-term ministry. Vatican II encourages us to stay the course no matter how huge the obstacles. The Holy Spirit is always with us to guide our way. Paragraph 93 of Gaudium et Spes gives us a glimpse of this.

Mindful of the Lord’s saying: “by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you
have love for one another” (John 13:35), Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world with mounting generosity and success. Therefore, by holding faithfully to the Gospel and benefiting from its resources, by joining with every man who loves and practices justice, Christians have shouldered a gigantic task for fulfillment in this world, a task concerning which they must give a reckoning to Him who will judge every man on the last of days.

Not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the Father’s will by taking a strong grip on the work at hand. Now, the Father wills that in all men we recognize Christ our brother and love Him effectively, in word and in deed. By thus giving witness to the truth, we will share with others the mystery of the heavenly Father’s love. As a consequence, men throughout the world will be aroused to a lively hope—the gift of the Holy Spirit—that some day at last they will be caught up in peace and utter happiness in that fatherland radiant with the glory of the Lord.

Ephesians 3:20-21New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at
work within us, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever
and ever. Amen.

John 5:19-24 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Seek the Gospel Life

THE SECULAR FRANCISCANS INVITE YOU TO FOLLOW THE GOSPEL AS ST. FRANCIS DID.


Francis of Assisi is known as Everybody’s Saint. In fact, many men and women love him so much that they make a lifetime commitment to follow his way of life. Is God calling you to follow Francis?

Questions a prospective member might ask…
What’s the main difference between a practicing Catholic and a Secular Franciscan?
The difference is that in addition to following all the guidelines and fulfilling the obligations of the Church, we make a permanent commitment to live a life of penance, sacrifice and service to God and others as we try to spread the Gospel in the way of Saint Francis of Assisi.

What are some of the qualifications that a person must have to become a Franciscan?
You must be a practicing Catholic in full agreement with all the teachings of the Church, and other laws and not belong to any Religious or other Third Order. You must have a joyful, peaceful disposition with the desire to help and serve others. .

Do I have to attend a lot of meetings? I’m already bogged down with too many.
We have Fraternity meetings once a month. These meetings must have top priority over all your other meetings. This is our special place and time for sharing the spirit of St. Francis with our Franciscan brothers and sisters.

What about dues? How much is it a month?
Members are expected to give to a Common Fund which supports the fraternity and their charities. They are also expected to give to a Regional Fund which supports the Secular Franciscan Order in the Region and Nationally.

Those who cannot pay into the Common and Regional funds as outlined, due to financial hardship, are not required to do so. They will only be asked to contribute according to their means. No one is turned away from the Secular Franciscan Order because of financial difficulty. All are expected to willingly do penance and make sacrifices to give proof of their love for God. The money they give should represent the sacrifices they make for God during the year.

Is the Secular Franciscan Order part of any other Franciscan organization?
We are united in a worldwide Franciscan Order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi over 750 years ago. Our Franciscan family consists of Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters and lay Franciscans…which we Seculars are. There are, worldwide, about one and a half million lay Franciscans. Here in the USA we have over 25,000 members.

If you’re united into such a worldwide Order, what means are used to guide you?
The Rule, Constitutions and particular Statutes are the guidelines for all of us. It unites us to work as one family for the same spiritual goals and lead us away from the materialistic way of life. We are committed by our vocation to center our life on Christ and to build the Kingdom of God in temporal situations and activities. We live our membership in the Church and in society as an inseparable reality. We allow God to be in charge of our life.

What do you do at your meetings?
 We begin with Mass — Socialize — Say our Franciscan Office, the “Liturgy of the Hours” — Discuss “On- Going-Formation” in which we discuss some aspect of Francis’ life and apply it to our own way of living in the world — Share Scripture, ideas and apostolates — And we have a short business meeting.

Are there any set prayers that must be said everyday? 
Members are required to say a daily office; usually morning and evening prayer of the “Liturgy of the Hours”

Would I wear any kind of a habit or distinctive sign to identify me as a Secular Franciscan?
 You wouldn’t wear any habit as the members did in the 1200s and for many years afterward. To show that you’re a member, you would now wear a “Tau Cross” or a pin, ring, medal, etc. that displays the “Tau Cross.”

What kind of works do you do? 
There are no obligatory works; but, we do have works that we call “apostolates” — these are works that everyone can do. Each Secular Franciscan fraternity tries to fill the needs in their own area and parish. We have individual personal apostolates as well as those where many of the members work together. For example, we work as volunteers in soup kitchens, food and clothing collection centers, hospitals, nursing homes, or act as Eucharistic Ministers, etc. We try to give dignity and courtesy in the face of neglect and degradation. You may choose to work on whatever apostolates that would suit your ability and time.

What kind of spiritual activities do you have? 
We have Retreats, Days of Recollection, Holy Hours, Rosary and other spiritual activities in conjunction with our Region brothers and sisters.

If you want to know more about the Franciscans or find a fraternity contact the editor on our home page.

Art of speaking or writing effectively

Formation
Lesson 2. artificial, inflated or exaggerated language

We will consider the second sort later, but let us reflect on the good sort for now. It is perfectly possible to use words poorly and ineffectively, and those of us in the communications business need to develop our communication skills.

There has been recent discussion in the British press about two men who were famous for their rhetoric, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King. Churchill originally gave his famous, “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech in the House of Commons. It was apparently electrifying and members were so excited they insisted he deliver it to the nation on the radio the following day. He was very reluctant to do this, and in the event, he merely read his original script. This came across as flat and uninspiring – though he used exactly the same words!

Now this is very interesting. Imagine saying now in a loud voice, “The house is on fire – get out as fast as you can.” Imagine saying it in a way that will induce immediate action, if not panic. Now imagine saying the same words in a way that no one would take seriously. The difference here is not in the words but the way you deliver them.

In Martin Luther King’s famous speech, he repeats the phrases “I have a dream” and “Let freedom ring” nine times. Because of the energy and passion he famously put into it, it is difficult to imagine that speech being delivered in a tedious way, but it was certainly repetitious, and could potentially have been a real turn off!

The art of rhetoric is more than formulating the sequence of words. It is also in the way they are delivered – and that goes for all speech. We can be boring, passionate, humorous, sardonic or sincere – just in the way we deliver our words. Certainly, the apostle Paul showed rhetorical skills in his writing, as 1 Corinthians 13 demonstrates so clearly, but he evidently had skills in rhetorical speech as well.

So if the salesman on the doorstep is going to sell his product, he needs to give attention to his appearance, his manner, his sale’s pitch, his descriptive powers, and the clarity of his explanations, as well as the force and integrity of his arguments, if he is going to persuade people to purchase his product.

Philosopher Peter S. Williams says that Aristotle taught that rhetoric had to do with three aspects of communication: ethos, pathos and logos; that is:

1) the character and credibility of the speaker (ethos),

2) the disposition and responsiveness of the audience (pathos)

3) and the content and construction of the speech itself (logos).[i]

He quotes the apostle Paul, who urged the Colossian church to pray, not only that he would find “an open door” to speak about Christ (pathos) but also that he would speak clearly “which is how I ought to speak” (logos). In turn, Paul advised the Colossians in their evangelism to be wise, and to “let their speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (ethos) (Col. 4: 3-6). So the challenge that faces us is identical to the challenge which faced the early Christians. “Good rhetoric,” Williams concludes, “is crucial for persuasive evangelism.”

The same applies, of course, to writing. It is my experience that whatever we write can be improved! If we are writing something important, we must not settle for the first draft. I have just checked a manuscript for a friend, which has already been checked by several people. I found a further 38 errors. He is most grateful! But I was just checking for typos. I left him to worry about the words.

Years ago I read a very helpful little book called “Words on Target”.[ii] The title itself alerted me to the fact that words are the weapons of truth. They can be fast, sharp and penetrating, making a deep impact! Or they can equally well be sluggish, blunt, and ineffective, going off with a “fut”. It taught me the value of well-deployed short sentences to arrest attention; the use of unexpected adjectives to stir the imagination; to avoid repetitions; to use dictionaries and a thesaurus to select fresh words; and to understand the difference between strong words and weak ones. The author wrote, “Economy, energy and subtlety pry open the twentieth century mind.”

In my view, and probably yours, every sentence that I write could be improved! The stuff we churn out reflects the amount of effort we have put in. Obviously, we should get other people to check our work. But we should be our own most critical analyst. To my mind, the golden rules include:

1) Always sleep on a text and review it next morning

2) Re-read it at different times of the day and in different “moods”

3) Read it imagining you were quite ignorant about the subject matter

4) Alter every sentence that needs to be read twice – if you doubt it, change it!

5) Be constantly asking, “Is there a better way to say that?”

6) When you think it is finished, then start to polish it. Those final tweaks can smooth out the remaining glitches and make the prose flow smoothly.

7) Never write a book – it takes too long!

EXPLANATIONS

Billy Wilder, the film producer of Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, said, “I have a vast and terrible desire never to bore an audience.” The quickest way to bore an audience, apart from being dull, is to make sure they lose the plot! If we are to persuade people that Christianity is true, we must make sure that we are making sense to people and that they can follow what we are saying. The moment we use terms they do not understand or try to explain concepts which we haven’t properly grasped ourselves, they will quickly glaze over – losing not only the plot but probably the will to live!

It has been well said that “it is not what we say that matters, but what they hear”. So what words should we use to explain incarnation, sin, justification, redemption, faith and repentance? We have to work at these things. We need sparkling illustrations to carry these ideas. For instance, I like to explain the incarnation as Jesus being the “human face of God” and sin as “self-worship”. I describe redemption in terms of buying and restoring a damaged antique. And I always explain faith in terms of trust. Metaphors have their limitations and weaknesses, but good ones can go a long way in getting across complex ideas. Like parables, they convey packages of truth – and we need lots of them. However, we should not allow ourselves to believe that Christianity is too complex to explain. It would never have taken off so dramatically if it was. Our problem may be that we spend too much time listening to amateur theologians and not enough time listening to the straightforward questions of unbelievers!

EVIDENCES

Once the door to door salesman has explained what he has to offer, there are three basic questions that we need to ask: Is it true what he is saying? What are the implications of buying it? Do I actually need it?

Most other questions we might ask come into those categories (Is there a guarantee? Does it smell? Have I got a good alternative?)

I have often heard people say that the questions people ask about Christianity today are different from the questions they asked a generation ago. Certainly our cultures evolve and do so with increasing speed. So the questions relating to culture will change. But once the Gospel is “on the table” it invokes the same sort of questions that it always has done, because they are not questions about our culture but questions about a very specific and, at first sight, improbable proposition. And they are highly predictable!

Is it true and how can we know it is true?

1. Are the New Testament documents historically reliable?

2. Is Christ unique among the world’s religious figures?

3. Has science disproved God?

4. Isn’t religion all psychological? What are the implications of it being true?

5. What are the natures of faith and repentance?

6. What happens to unbelievers and those who never hear about Christ?

7. Why would a good God allow suffering and evil?

Do I need it?

8. Aren’t I good enough for God as I am?

Those basic questions are thrown up by the very nature of the Gospel, and are asked, sometimes in identical words, by both educated and uneducated people in every continent and every culture.
I once sat an exam where (without cheating, I might add) the class had managed to work out in advance what the questions would be. The exam paper was exactly what we expected – and everyone in the class scored the top grade. Well, they would have been idiots not to! If you know the questions in advance, you can get to work on preparing good answers.

The Nature of Persuasion

Formation:

Peter May
The Nature of Persuasion

Once the door to door salesman has explained what he has to offer, there are three basic questions that we need to ask: Is it true what he is saying? What are the implications of buying it? Do I actually need it?

FORUM OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS – AUTHOR Peter May 28 JULY 2015 11:52 h

Imagine a door-to-door salesman calls on your house. You chat for a while and eventually you get out your wallet and purchase his product. What are the processes that have taken place in that time?

When you open the door, you make an immediate preliminary assessment. If this guy looks like a rogue, if his speech is incoherent, if he is shabbily dressed, if, and, according to your personal sensibilities, he has a problem with facial hair, he probably won’t even complete his opening gambit. “No thank you, not today!” and, albeit with a friendly smile, you close the door on him.

But what if that initial inspection is more interesting? The man looks pleasant, is well turned out, has a nice smile, presents identification papers, and speaks clearly and courteously. You are more inclined to hear what he has to say. After his introduction, you may well want some clarity about either the product or the possible use you might have for it. So you ask some questions, “How big is this thing? How far does it reach? What does it cost? How long will it last?”

He has some good answers to your questions and you begin to wonder whether this is something you might actually want. So your conversation moves on to some technical matters. “How powerful is it? Has it been thoroughly tested? Is there someone on this street who has bought one whom I could talk to?”

You might then ask him if he has any literature you could study, and if so, could he come back in a couple of days, when you have had time to think about it? He gives you some leaflets and an Internet address to browse, and he promises to return on Thursday.

Come Thursday, you have a list of three things you want to ask him. He answers your questions with confidence and produces evidence for what he is saying. You are impressed and satisfied that this is a good product and the more you have thought about it, the more you realise how useful it could be. You happily part with the money and take possession of the product.

When he has gone, you plug it in and discover one of two things. Either it works like a dream or it blows up with a bang, plunging the house in smoke and darkness. Later, when the fog has cleared and you have fixed the fuse, you realise that your silver spoons are missing. “How did he do that?” you wonder as you telephone the police.

Two conclusions come from this. Firstly, persuasion is a process, leading up to a tipping point, the moment of decision when you open your wallet! Secondly, persuasion is never an arrival at complete confidence. You might be wrong, but the balance of doubt has shifted. You think this is all right, but as we say at home regarding my wife’s cooking, the proof of the pudding will be ultimately in the eating. You may have made a mistake!

In terms of proof, we are not talking about mathematical proof here. Outside of mathematics, all so-called “proofs” are provisional and must be held tentatively. This applies to all the evidence of our senses and to all the findings of science, which is why so many scientific “facts” get overturned in the course of history when new discoveries are made. Similarly, I was persuaded when I got married that Heather would make me a good wife. Well, so far so good, but we have only been married 44 years. She might yet murder me! (In fact, there have been moments when she has intimated as much!)

Previously, we looked at Luke’s description of Paul at Thessalonica (Acts 17:2-4). He went into the synagogue and gave them some information from the Scriptures. He may well have been responding to something the Rabbi had said, because Luke implies that he engaged in dialogue. This was the format that enabled him to draw certain truths to their attention and go on to explain their significance, as well as backing up what he was saying with evidence. In this synagogue context, this was probably with reference to prophecies about the coming Messiah, which supported what he was saying.

Now the people took time to digest all this and we are told he went back to continue the discussion over three weeks (verse 2). We are not told whether he met any of them mid-week, but we must assume he did. He wasn’t a man to sit at home quietly!   Entrance to market in Ephesus in Paul’s day.

Thessalonica was a thriving and largely Gentile city on a major thoroughfare between Italy and the East. While Paul’s normal strategy was to start in the synagogue, where both Jews and god-fearing Gentiles gathered to worship, as in Athens and Ephesus, he readily moved on to the market place (Acts 17:17, 19:8-9). In Thessalonica, he was attacked in the market by a mob, which we are told set the whole city in uproar. Unable to find Paul and his comrades, they dragged Jason before the authorities (called “Politarchs”) claiming that  “Jason has welcomed these men who are turning the world upside down, who have come here also, and acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, are proclaiming another King, Jesus.” (Acts 17:5-9)

Heady stuff! Paul’s reputation went before him and his visit had now become the talk of the town. This helps us to understand how so many people came to be “persuaded” by him. They included some Jews, “a great multitude of God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women” (verse 4). His message made a massive impact.

(Luke described the ruling authorities correctly as “politarchs” using a Macedonian term now confirmed by archaeological findings, and according to the elegant Authorised Version, he described the mob as “lewd fellows of a baser sort” – and I think we have all met them!)

How did Paul gain such a hearing? If we think again about our door-to-door salesman, and the first impression we gained of him, which determined whether we would listen to him or not, both Paul’s manner and his speech must have been attractive. He must have rehearsed his opening lines, having had the door closed on him on previous occasions. He evidently found a way of succinctly expressing himself, which held the attention of his audience. We can get some measure of his effectiveness from the response of the Athenians. They were very keen to hear him out. (Acts 17:19, 20)  

RHETORIC

My dictionary gives two distinct definitions of rhetoric – one good, one bad:

1, the art of speaking or writing effectively

2. artificial, inflated or exaggerated language

We will consider the second sort later, but let us reflect on the good sort for now. It is perfectly possible to use words poorly and ineffectively, and those of us in the communications business need to develop our communication skills.

There has been recent discussion in the British press about two men who were famous for their rhetoric, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King. Churchill originally gave his famous, “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech in the House of Commons. It was apparently electrifying and members were so excited they insisted he deliver it to the nation on the radio the following day. He was very reluctant to do this, and in the event, he merely read his original script. This came across as flat and uninspiring – though he used exactly the same words!

Now this is very interesting. Imagine saying now in a loud voice, “The house is on fire – get out as fast as you can.”  Imagine saying it in a way that will induce immediate action, if not panic. Now imagine saying the same words in a way that no one would take seriously. The difference here is not in the words but the way you deliver them.

In Martin Luther King’s famous speech, he repeats the phrases “I have a dream” and “Let freedom ring” nine times. Because of the energy and passion he famously put into it, it is difficult to imagine that speech being delivered in a tedious way, but it was certainly repetitious, and could potentially have been a real turn off!

The art of rhetoric is more than formulating the sequence of words. It is also in the way they are delivered – and that goes for all speech. We can be boring, passionate, humorous, sardonic or sincere – just in the way we deliver our words. Certainly, the apostle Paul showed rhetorical skills in his writing, as 1 Corinthians 13 demonstrates so clearly, but he evidently had skills in rhetorical speech as well.

So if the salesman on the doorstep is going to sell his product, he needs to give attention to his appearance, his manner, his sale’s pitch, his descriptive powers, and the clarity of his explanations, as well as the force and integrity of his arguments, if he is going to persuade people to purchase his product.  

Philosopher Peter S. Williams says that Aristotle taught that rhetoric had to do with three aspects of communication: ethos, pathos and logos; that is, the character and credibility of the speaker (ethos), the disposition and responsiveness of the audience (pathos) and the content and construction of the speech itself (logos).[i] He quotes the apostle Paul, who urged the Colossian church to pray, not only that he would find “an open door” to speak about Christ (pathos) but also that he would speak clearly “which is how I ought to speak” (logos). In turn, Paul advised the Colossians in their evangelism to be wise, and to “let their speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (ethos) (Col. 4: 3-6). So the challenge that faces us is identical to the challenge which faced the early Christians. “Good rhetoric,” Williams concludes, “is crucial for persuasive evangelism.”       

The same applies, of course, to writing. It is my experience that whatever we write can be improved! If we are writing something important, we must not settle for the first draft. I have just checked a manuscript for a friend, which has already been checked by several people. I found a further 38 errors. He is most grateful! But I was just checking for typos. I left him to worry about the words.

Years ago I read a very helpful little book called “Words on Target”.[ii] The title itself alerted me to the fact that words are the weapons of truth. They can be fast, sharp and penetrating, making a deep impact! Or they can equally well be sluggish, blunt, and ineffective, going off with a “fut”. It taught me the value of well-deployed short sentences to arrest attention; the use of unexpected adjectives to stir the imagination; to avoid repetitions; to use dictionaries and a thesaurus to select fresh words; and to understand the difference between strong words and weak ones. The author wrote, “Economy, energy and subtlety pry open the twentieth century mind.”

In my view, and probably yours, every sentence that I write could be improved! The stuff we churn out reflects the amount of effort we have put in. Obviously, we should get other people to check our work. But we should be our own most critical analyst. To my mind, the golden rules include:

1) Always sleep on a text and review it next morning

2) Re-read it at different times of the day and in different “moods”

3) Read it imagining you were quite ignorant about the subject matter

4) Alter every sentence that needs to be read twice – if you doubt it, change it!

5) Be constantly asking, “Is there a better way to say that?”

6) When you think it is finished, then start to polish it. Those final tweaks can smooth out the remaining glitches and make the prose flow smoothly.

7) Never write a book – it takes too long!  

EXPLANATIONS

Billy Wilder, the film producer of Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, said, “I have a vast and terrible desire never to bore an audience.” The quickest way to bore an audience, apart from being dull, is to make sure they lose the plot! If we are to persuade people that Christianity is true, we must make sure that we are making sense to people and that they can follow what we are saying. The moment we use terms they do not understand or try to explain concepts which we haven’t properly grasped ourselves, they will quickly glaze over – losing not only the plot but probably the will to live!

It has been well said that “it is not what we say that matters, but what they hear”. So what words should we use to explain incarnation, sin, justification, redemption, faith and repentance? We have to work at these things. We need sparkling illustrations to carry these ideas. For instance, I like to explain the incarnation as Jesus being the “human face of God” and sin as “self-worship”. I describe redemption in terms of buying and restoring a damaged antique. And I always explain faith in terms of trust. Metaphors have their limitations and weaknesses, but good ones can go a long way in getting across complex ideas. Like parables, they convey packages of truth – and we need lots of them. However, we should not allow ourselves to believe that Christianity is too complex to explain. It would never have taken off so dramatically if it was. Our problem may be that we spend too much time listening to amateur theologians and not enough time listening to the straightforward questions of unbelievers!  

EVIDENCES

Once the door to door salesman has explained what he has to offer, there are three basic questions that we need to ask: Is it true what he is saying? What are the implications of buying it? Do I actually need it?

Most other questions we might ask come into those categories (Is there a guarantee? Does it smell? Have I got a good alternative?)

I have often heard people say that the questions people ask about Christianity today are different from the questions they asked a generation ago. Certainly our cultures evolve and do so with increasing speed. So the questions relating to culture will change. But once the Gospel is “on the table” it invokes the same sort of questions that it always has done, because they are not questions about our culture but questions about a very specific and, at first sight, improbable proposition. And they are highly predictable!

Is it true and how can we know it is true? 

1. Are the New Testament documents historically reliable?

2. Is Christ unique among the world’s religious figures?

3. Has science disproved God?

What are the implications of it being true?

4. Isn’t religion all psychological?

5. What are the natures of faith and repentance?

6. What happens to unbelievers and those who never hear about Christ?

7. Why would a good God allow suffering and evil?

Do I need it?

8. Aren’t I good enough for God as I am?

Those basic questions are thrown up by the very nature of the Gospel, and are asked, sometimes in identical words, by both educated and uneducated people in every continent and every culture.
I once sat an exam where (without cheating, I might add) the class had managed to work out in advance what the questions would be. The exam paper was exactly what we expected – and everyone in the class scored the top grade. Well, they would have been idiots not to! If you know the questions in advance, you can get to work on preparing good answers.  

PERSUASIVE EVANGELISM?

Now I believe that persuasion is the missing ingredient in Christian mission. An important Anglican Report called “The Measure of Mission” shaped Anglican thinking for a generation. In its Theological Reflections, it set out the Ten Marks of Mission, but persuasion was not one of them. It then listed Twelve Words Used in the Mission Debate – but persuasion was not there either.[iii]

Yet Luke in Acts records that a great multitude of people were “persuaded” in Thessalonica (17:4). In Berea, “the Jews examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (17:11). In Athens, the philosophers wanted to know “what this new teaching is that you are presenting” (17:19). In Corinth he “tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4) and was dragged before the tribunal, where the Jews said, “This man is persuading the people to worship God” (18:13). For three months in the synagogue of Ephesus, he “argued persuasively about the Kingdom of God” (19:8) before “reasoning daily” in the hall of Tyrannus for the next two years, enabling the whole of Asia Minor to hear the Gospel (19:9-10). Luke vividly described the riot which eventually broke out among the silversmiths in Ephesus. They said, “This Paul has persuaded… a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” (19:26)

Apollos had previously been at Ephesus, before helping the work in Corinth. We are told he was an “eloquent man” (18:24) who “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Messiah was Jesus” (18:28). Festus thought Paul was mad, but Paul insisted that he was speaking “true and rational words” (26:25). And what did King Agrippa make of Paul’s eloquent defense? “In a short time, would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (26:28).

The final picture we have of Paul is of him being under house arrest in Rome. We are told that great numbers came to his lodgings, where from morning to evening “he tried to convince them about Jesus”, and “some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved, disagreeing among themselves” (28:23-25).

There are then to my mind only two types of evangelism – persuasive evangelism and unpersuasive evangelism – and there is no point or purpose in being unpersuasive! Yet contemporary evangelism can rarely be described as “arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God”.

We have looked at three areas to work on if we want to be Christian persuaders. We need to present our material attractively so that people can listen, explain our message carefully so that they can understand, and address their questions and doubts so that they are convinced by the truth of what we are saying.

But being persuaded is not the whole story. They might conclude that Christianity is really true but want none of it!

I remember once holding a dialogue with students in a very packed room, with every inch of floor space covered. The discussion had lasted two hours and had gone well. As I drew the meeting to a close, pointing out the implications of Christian belief, a student got up to leave. He was at the far end of the room and had to struggle to find  floor space for each step of his way to the door. I stopped speaking and waited for this drama to end. Eventually he made it to the door, which, because of the bodies, was very difficult to open. As he was about to leave, I broke the silence and asked, “Can you tell us why you are leaving at this point?”  “Yes,” he said, “I don’t want anyone else to rule my life.” And with that he left.

That is of course the general state of mankind. It is the very definition of “sin”. People do not want to let God be God over them. They prefer the epitaph from Sinatra’s famous song, “I did it my way!”

So we also must pray that God would take these Gospel truths, and not only give understanding and conviction of the truth of what we are saying, but by his Holy Spirit bring about that change of the heart, mind and will that will enable people to turn away from everything they know to be wrong and place their trust in Jesus as their Saviour, Lord and God. We must do our part in presenting the Gospel persuasively, but only God can change their hearts.

Peter May is a retired medical doctor, former UCCF Trust Board chairman and lay member of Church of England’s General Synod.

[i] Williams P.S. A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Paternoster 2013. p.7

[ii] Nichols S. Words on Target Victory Press 1963

[iii] Report of  Mission Theological Advisory Group, The Measure of Mission 1987 pp.24-44  

See more: http://evangelicalfocus.com/blogs/842/The_Nature_of_Persuasion