Category Archives: Fraternity

Franciscan Community

By Bret Thoman, SFO

St. Francis was virtually always in community and he hardly ever did anything alone. He understood that we are brothers and sisters and we need one another. His experience may run counter to our own, as we (Americans and others of Anglo-Saxon cultures) tend to be highly individualistic. We take great pride in our individualism, which is sometimes referred to as rugged. Often we view groups as a sort of “impediment” which prevents us from doing what we want to do. I remember some years ago when I was a student learning Italian in an international school in Florence, Italy. We were having a classroom discussion on the advantages of public transportation. I recall very vividly one of our fellow US students proudly speak up and declare, “When I drive my own car, I get there when I want to, I leave when I want to, and I do what I want to do.” We experience these “inconveniences” regularly when we accompany English-speaking groups on pilgrimage. One of the most challenging things for us Americans to get used to is the reality that on pilgrimages, we are not alone: we are not on our own time; we have to be respectful of schedules; we have to wait on others who may not be punctual; we have to walk at a certain pace – either slower or faster than what we are used to; and we have to “put up with” others who may have challenging personalities.

However, St. Francis offers us a different perspective: that there is great value in community. His entire life was spent with other people – often in very close quarters. And, as we shall see, he placed great emphasis on community. Similarly, our Secular Franciscan life makes a big deal out of fraternity; in fact, the third chapter of our Rule deals entirely with community.

Have you ever noticed how people light up when they enter into a group of their community members? How do you feel when you arrive at a community gathering? Personally, some of the most peaceful, serene moments of my life are when I am with people in community. For me, community is when I am with my family, with my brothers and sisters from the SFO, other church groups I am involved in, and an ecumenical men’s group I attend. I found community to be strong in the religious communities among the friars/nuns in Italy. In fact, on a recent pilgrimage to Italy, one of our guides told me that he discovered my vocation – with the capuchins in Renacavata. He said that he saw me at peace.

If just from a practical perspective, community helps us become better people. When we are in community with other people – who are also sincerely seeking God – they can help us see things about ourselves (defects, sin, etc.) we may not necessarily see; they can challenge us to strive for greater things; they can console us when we are hurt, suffering, or mourning.

Twelve-Step programs are founded on groups; without a group, a 12-step program cannot exist. Any psychologist will tell you that addictions, depression, anxiety, neuroses and many other mental ailments flourish in isolation; however, by sharing honestly in groups they tend to get better. Just by identifying with and sharing with others who have been there and suffered from a similar addiction and understand what the sufferer is going through, the suffering is alleviated.

This concept has roots in Scripture: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God” (2 Cor 1:3-4). In a similar way, this is one of the benefits from the sacrament of Reconciliation – when we share our sins and expose them to the priest, they get better; when we keep them to ourselves, they get worse.

Before we talk about St. Francis, let’s talk about community from a theological perspective. First, I would say that the desire we have to be in community comes directly from God. When we want to be in communion with others, we are actually mirroring divinity. In our Catholic tradition and teaching, we have a well-developed theology of relationship among the three persons of the Trinity. In Trinitarian teaching, we know that God exists as three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit -, but has one single divine nature. Yet, even though the Persons are different, there has always existed fullness, communion, and love between the three Persons of the Trinity. Our Scripture describes how the Father sent the Son, who in turn, sent the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14-17). Think about that for a moment: there exists a loving exchange and sharing among the Persons of the Trinity.

Since the Trinity has existed from time eternal, it follows that divine love has existed from all eternity, indeed, before creation. Therefore, when God – who had fullness and completeness within the Trinity-, created people, creatures, and nature, it follows that his creation would mirror such love and fullness, which is divine love. In fact, God bestowed this same love on his creation. This is why humanity reflects the image of God, which is spelled out very clearly in Scripture: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Thus, mankind is created in the image of God, and, hence shares in the nature of God, which is a love relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, man’s nature reflects the relationship that exists within the Trinity, and is a relationship of equality, oneness, and love. This communion within the Trinity is what God desires for humankind: he desires people to be in communion with himself (which is a communion between the three Persons). In fact, the reason that the Father sent the Son – Christ – was to reconcile humanity (by salvation and forgiveness from sin) to himself: that through Christ Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit people may be made one with God. The Son renders the person able to receive the relationship that God wishes to establish with humanity.

However, in a similar way, God desires people to share in that relationship also with each other. He wishes for people to generate relationship not only with himself, but toward others and even toward the created world. Thus, as people develop their relationship with the Father though Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the individual’s communion with the Triune God grows, relationship also extends towards one another, and all of creation. In other words, as people grow in the likeness of God, they will reflect more and more God’s love for others. Therefore, transformed in this way, people more and more take on the attributes of God and become more loving, merciful, and kind towards other people. In this, community grows and flourishes. Communion with God, communion with other people, and communion even with the created world.

Now, let’s turn towards St. Francis and look at his relationship toward other people. We mentioned above how Francis always desired to be with other people and he was almost always in the context of community. There were some exceptions, for example, when he prayed alone in the hermitages; however, even there his community was nearby. In fact, even his conversion took place with someone else. The sources tell us that Francis was accompanied by “a companion” who took him into the hills and showed him where the caves were and how to pray.

Now there was in the city of Assisi a man he loved more than all the rest. They were of the same age and the constant intimacy of their mutual love made him bold to share his secrets with him. He often brought him to remote places suitable for talking, asserting that he had found a great and valuable treasure. This man was overjoyed, and since he was so excited about what he heard, he gladly went with him whenever he was summoned. (Thomas of Celano, First Life, Chap. 3, 6)

It is not known who this special person was; his identity is mysteriously concealed.1 Yet it shows us that Francis “received” much of his conversion through the experience of someone else. Incidentally, the above episode took place after Francis returned home to Assisi after having decided not to go to Apulia to fight in the crusades. It also believed that during this time, the priest at San Damiano acted as a kind of spiritual director or mentor to St. Francis.

A short time after Francis’s conversion, others began joining him. The first was Bernard of Quintavalle; then came Peter Catani and later Giles. Some sources place Peter joining Francis together with Bernard of Quintavalle. The story is told how the three of them were discerning how to follow the Lord together when they opened the Bible three times at random. The Scriptures were: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”2; “Take nothing for the journey.”3; “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”4 On hearing this, Francis’s new companions immediately went and sold all that they owned, and with great joy gave all to the people of Assisi. In a short period of time many, many men began following Francis in his movement. It is estimated that there were 5,000 men in his order when Francis died in 1226. We also know that women began following Francis’s way, and Clare led what would become the Second Order. And in 1223, Francis wrote a rule for laypersons that would become the Third Order. The fact that so many people began following Francis shows us how strong was his communion with God, which was spreading to others. This is the communion, or community, that God desires for us.

Francis wrote often of the importance of brotherhood and community. In fact, he used the word, “Brother” and related words over 300 times in his writings. Let’s now examine some of Francis’s writings on community. In his Testament, Francis wrote:

And after the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel. And I had this written down simply and in a few words and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me. And those who came to receive life gave to the poor everything which they were capable of possessing and they were content with one tunic, patched inside and out, with a cord and short trousers. And we had no desire for anything more. (Testament, 14-17)

Here we see how Francis saw that his companions were a gift from the Lord: “The Lord gave me…” Thus, Francis believed that community was divinely inspired and was a divine gift. In fact, Francis viewed his new community as being based on the “Form of the Holy Gospel.” In other words, Francis viewed the way of life of the brothers as being modeled after that of Jesus and the first disciples. Just as Jesus needed disciples and apostles to spread the Gospel, so did Francis. From this, we might infer that it is not possible to live the Gospel in isolation; it must take place in the context of others.

Let’s now look at how Francis believed the community should be organized. First, it was to be “fraternal”; that is, there was not to be the figure of an “abbot” or a “prior” who would rule over the community much as the worldly lords ruled over their subjects. In fact, in verse 3 of the Rule of 1221, Francis wrote, “And no one should be called Prior, but all generally should be called Friars Minor.” The communities needed to have leaders, but they would be called “guardians” and they were to lead based on service, not rank. In other words, the brothers chosen for leadership were not to be in any way “superior” to the other, but were to make themselves “lesser” – minor in humility and service. Thus, there would be equality within the brotherhood. It did not matter what “rank” one had before entering; within the community, all were equal. In fact, when the brothers gave away and surrendered their possessions upon entering, they also surrendered their social rank. It did not matter whether the men had come from the noble class or had been commoners: within the community, they were equal brothers.

Let’s now look at Francis’s attitudes toward relationships in the context of community. In the Rule of 1223, Francis wrote:

And wherever the brothers may be together or meet [other] brothers, let them give witness that they are members of one family. And let each one confidently make known his need to the other, for, if a mother has such care and love for her son born according to the flesh, should not someone love and care for his brother according to the Spirit even more diligently? And if any of them becomes sick, the other brothers should serve him as they would wish to be served themselves.

Here we see Francis describing the brothers with interesting language; he uses that of a mother caring for her son. It is a tender and gentle image, but powerful in its message: the brothers are to care for one another as a mother cares for her son. They are to share their needs with each other – physically as well as emotionally. The Rule for Hermitages is another example of Francis using familial terms in describing how the brothers are to care for one another. Francis’s imagery of mothers caring for their sons may be a reference to Mary caring for Jesus and the relationships of the first disciples. Certainly he was aware of the relational dimensions of the spiritual life.

In “The First Version of the Letter to the Faithful,” Francis uses more familial terms. He wrote:

They are children of the heavenly Father whose works they do, and they are spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are spouses when the faithful soul is joined to our Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are brothers to Him when we do the will of the Father Who is in heaven. We are mothers, when we carry Him in our heart and body through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience and [when] we give birth to Him through [His] holy manner of working, which should shine before others as an example. Oh, how glorious it is, how holy and great, to have a Father in heaven! Oh, how holy, consoling, beautiful and wondrous it is to have such a Spouse! Oh how holy and how loving, pleasing, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all things to have such a Brother and such a Son: our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up His life for His sheep and who prayed to the Father … 5

Here we see Francis describing relationships with more relational terms: filial, maternal, and spousal. He states that when we relate properly to God, our relationship with him is so close that we take on the characteristics of closeness that are normally reserved to those people who are as close to us as parents, children, and spouses. What remains clear and apparent is that Francis believed that one’s relationship with God could be as close and real as that of one’s closest family members.

Most of what we have so far discussed, however, is Francis’s relationship with the brothers in the community known as the First Order. Community for Francis also certainly extended to the Second and Third Orders. We know that Francis had a fondness for Clare and the sisters, even if that relationship was at times strained. We also know that he cared about the laity, for whom he wrote a way of life and formed the Third Order. However, for Francis, community was extended to those he served. In previous lessons, we talked about how Francis always sought always to serve the marginalized; in fact, his life’s work was one of tremendous dedication and service to the lepers and other marginalized. Further, there is community within the larger Christian Church, and we have already spoken about Francis’s commitment to the Catholic Church. Yet, Francis extended his sense of community within the greater human family, and we have also spoken about his relationship to the non-Christian religions, with whom he desired to dialogue and reach through evangelization. For this reason, Pope Francis has often said us in recent speeches: “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.” Pope Francis has often said that the Church that closes within itself is a sick Church, but the Church that goes out, even with sin or weakness is healthy. Finally, there is community of the supernatural: communion with the saints and angels.

Certainly, I am not saying that there are never any challenges or disadvantages to life in community. As anyone who has lived any length of time with others in community knows, dealing with certain fellow members of a monastery, convent, friary, or fraternity can be one of the most challenging parts of religious life. However, precisely in learning to love that “difficult” individual is one of the surest pathways toward sanctification. And, indeed, as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this chapter, there can be advantages to “going it alone.” And certainly there are difficulties when dealing with groups. (We encounter this legitimately and often during our pilgrimages). Further, our American culture, so formed by the frontier mentality in our not-so-long-ago past does indeed highly esteem individualism, as well as the freedom that the new world and seemingly endless space offered. Additionally, there are some who are innately suspicious of institutions or have an aversion to the structure and rules that ensure effective management and healthy groups. Further, legitimate precaution should be taken to guard against “conformism.” It can be a real penance to sacrifice one’s own goals, aspirations, beliefs, values, and even gifts in order to “fit in” with the group. And finally, groups by themselves are not necessarily “healthy” any more than individuals are. Just as we warn our children to wisely choose their friends so as to not get in with the “wrong crowd” so do should discernment be taken in order to choose a group or community well. Yet, despite the challenges or pitfalls of community, I believe the benefits outweigh the challenges. In conclusion, I think we can draw some observations about the Franciscan concept of community and relationship. Certainly, a foundational characteristic of the Franciscan Order is the communal life. In light of the theology of the Trinity, we can affirm that Francis’s attitudes toward community were Trinitarian. In experiencing the redemptive love of God through the cross of Christ, Francis received the exchange of love that has always existed within the Trinity. That experience of communion with God led him to embrace people as his own brothers and sisters. As Jesus sought out and related to the blind, lepers, Pharisees and tax-collectors, the disciples, his friends like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, Francis sought to embrace and love those not only within the Franciscan family, but also the lepers and marginalized, civic leaders, non-Christians – indeed all those he met. Yet, community for Francis even led him to embrace all of creation – including animate and inanimate creatures – fraternally. For Francis, living the Christian life in community was to live the Gospel as Jesus commanded (cf. Luke 10). With language that is familial, intimate, and profound, Francis tried to re-create the same loving communities of the early Church. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). Franciscan Faith Challenge for the month: continue to develop your relationship with other people in your Franciscan fraternity as well as other communities you are involved in. Scripture says, “The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him” (Genesis 2:18). Community life is divine and is given to us as a gift. Cherish it. Spiritual communities are much like individuals. Just as we individuals have our own personal hang-ups, difficulties, challenges as well as our own gifts, talents, and treasures, so do groups; some groups are healthier than others. Yet, it is important to find groups in which we can be ourselves, be accepted, be challenged and grow. Ask yourself what obstacles, if any, stand in the way of your community life. If you have any resentments or hindrances to the communities, take an examen of conscience to remove the blocks you might have. Do you struggle with pride in community? Do you put yourself first? Do you approach your community as simple and humble servant? Do you ever feel resentments or rancor towards individuals in the community? Maybe toward the way the community functions? Maybe you feel people in leadership aren’t doing their job the way you think they should. Few things can destroy community faster than anger. Take some time now to examine your relationship to the groups you are involved in. Fraternity pathway to peace Proposed as an alternative to the globalization of indifference “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace”. This is the theme of the 47th World Day of Peace, the first during the pontificate of Pope Francis. As the theme of his first Message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis has chosen Fraternity. Since the beginning of his Petrine Ministry, the Pope has stressed the need to combat the “throwaway culture” and to promote instead a “culture of encounter”, in order to build a more just and peaceful world. Fraternity is a dowry [gift] that every man and every woman brings with himself or herself as a human being, as a child of the one Father. In the face of the many tragedies that afflict the family of nations – poverty, hunger, underdevelopment, conflicts, migrations, pollution, inequalities, injustice, organized crime, fundamentalisms – fraternity is the foundation and the pathway to peace.

The culture of personal well-being leads to a loss of the sense of responsibility and fraternal relationship. Others, rather than being “like us”, appear more as antagonists or enemies and are often treated as objects. Not uncommonly, the poor and needy are regarded as a “burden”, a hindrance to development. At most, they are considered as recipients of aid or compassionate assistance. They are not seen as brothers and sisters, called to share the gifts of creation, the goods of progress and culture, to be partakers at the same table of the fullness of life, to be protagonists of integral and inclusive development.

Fraternity, a gift and task that comes from God the Father, urges us to be in solidarity against inequality and poverty that undermine the social fabric, to take care of every person, especially the weakest and most defenseless, to love him or her as oneself, with the very heart of Jesus Christ.

In a world that is constantly growing more interdependent, the good of fraternity is one that we cannot do without. It serves to defeat the spread of the globalization of indifference to which Pope Francis has frequently referred. The globalization of indifference must give way to a globalization of fraternity.

Fraternity should leave its mark on every aspect of life, including the economy, finance, civil society, politics, research, development, public and cultural institutions.

At the start of his ministry, Pope Francis issues a message in continuity with that of his predecessors, which proposes to everyone the pathway of fraternity, in order to give the world a more human face.

August 1, 2013 

1 Some biographers (e.g. Sabatier, Pennacchi, Jorgensen, and Attal) believe this person was Brother Elias; while Sabatier later changed his mind and believed it could have been Brother Leo. [See footnote b, p. 198 in “Francis of Assisi” by Arnaldo Fortini.]

2 Matthew 19: 21

3 Luke 9: 3

4 Luke 9: 23

5 The First Version of the Letter to the Faithful, vv. 7-13.

 

VISITOR’S INITIAL INTERVIEW

Brothers and Sisters of St. Francis Region
Alabama • Georgia • North Carolina • South Carolina • Tennessee

This conversation is an opportunity to share who we are as Secular Franciscans and for the
Visitor to share who they are … and what they are seeking.

Date:____________________ Interviewer ___________________

VISITOR INFORMATION

Name: ___________________________

Address include zip code: _______________________

Home phone number _________ cell number: ________________

E-mail address, if applicable: _____________________

Single W Married: ________Name of Spouse: ___________________

Widow/Widower: _________ Divorced: _____

Remarried__________________

Names and ages of children, if applicable_____________________________

Name of Parish: ________________________

Address of parish include zip code: _________________

Name of pastor: _______________________________

SACRAMENTAL INFORMATION

If you wish to learn more about the SFO and enter Orientation, you will be asked to provide us
with copies of your Sacramental Certificates. All copies will be returned.
Baptism__ Eucharist__ Confirmation_ Matrimony___ Copy of Decree of nullity___, if you are
divorced and remarried, and Holy Orders ______ (if diocesan priest or deacon)

Up to this time – within your parish community, in what service or ministries have you been
involved (e.g. choir, sacristan, altar server, lectors)?

If you have participated in other faith formation organizations, classes, etc. (e.g. R.C.I.A., formal
Bible study, “Why Catholic?” other Third Orders), please tell me about those experiences.

What else would you like to share that would help us to understand what you are seeking?

SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
What prompts you to inquire about Secular Franciscan Order [SFO]?

Have you any familiarity with the SFO? If so, what are your impressions?

Have you come to know any Secular Franciscans? If so, what are your impressions?

Our journey as SFO members introduces us to rich spiritual opportunities to cultivate a life of
virtue. Do you currently have any ideas to what you would like to achieve spiritually?

How do you think the SFO might help you achieve these goals?

How willing and able are you to participate in the monthly formation process and monthly
fraternity gatherings?

How supportive is your family of your decision to explore the possibility that you may have a
calling to the SFO?

Should you decide to journey with us, you…
1. Will be asked to reflect upon your understanding of the Church and its teachings.
These teachings, which form our belief system, were most fundamental and of
paramount importance to St. Francis of Assisi. We Secular Franciscans are to mirror
St. Francis by embracing the Church’s teachings.
2. Will have opportunities to experience, interiorize, and integrate gospel values as we
seek to go from gospel to life and life to gospel – as exemplified by Sts. Francis and
Clare of Assisi.
3. Will be introduced and expected to become familiar with our Franciscan history and
spirituality – especially St. Francis and St. Clare.
4. Will study the Rule and General Constitution of the SFO.
5. Will experience different forms of Franciscan prayer.
6. Will come to deepen and understand our call to Justice, Peace, and Integrity of
Creation.

You will also be introduced to and become familiar with the Four Pillars, which are the
foundation on which our Secular Franciscan “way of life” is based. These pillars are Spirituality,
Formation, Fraternity, and Apostolate.

What else would you like to ask about our formation process, our fraternity, our Order?

Four Pillars of our Franciscan life

SPIRITUALITY*FORMATION*FRATERNITY*APOSTOLATE

SPIRITUALITY
Nurturing our Franciscan spirituality and its attending charism requires an ongoing dynamic attentiveness and application. Being attentive reflects the desire; pursuing the application reflects the fire.

It goes without saying that it is the spirit of God that we wish to nourish and make strong within us. This internal quest is realized through the external stimulus of prayer. Prayer, being the lifting of the heart and mind to God, establishes the direction in which we as a whole person are to go. If there is quality and sincerity in private prayer then it will be extended to communal prayer and there will be life-giving worship. On the other hand, if there is rote recitation lacking spirit and vibrancy, then there is no prayer. Whatever prayer mode we engage – personal, communal, spontaneous or formulary – all is to be done with a vibrancy and spirit that truly engages the Almighty.

General Practical Applications:
· Review the Rule and discuss how it is a part of our Franciscan Life
· Read and discuss the Constitutions in gatherings
· Dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of your personal prayer lives.
· Pray the Liturgy of the Hours in your private prayers.
· This practice will nourish the communal prayer.
· This practice unites us with the whole Body of Christ through the ages in continuing the voice of creation; thus affecting the whole world by the Liturgy of Hours prayers.
· Review “Rubrics for the Communal Celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours”

· Keep in mind Francis’ Letter to the Whole Order – On Praying the Divine Office: With all earnestness, I ask my lord minister general to see to it that the clerics pray the Divine Office with devotion before God, not focusing on melody of voice but on harmony of mind, so that their voices be attuned to their thoughts, and their thoughts to God. Thus they will please God by the purity of their minds, and not charm people’s ears with the preciousness of their singing voices.
· Include spontaneous prayers in your fraternity gatherings.
· Explore and practice Contemplative Prayer as a community and in private.
· Dialogue about Intercessory Prayer – seriousness, faithfulness, perseverance and approaches.

FORMATION
Formation is the responsibility of the entire fraternity.

Establishing and enacting an effective formation plan is the responsibility of the formation director, formation team and fraternity council.

A Formation Manual was prepared by the regional formation commission and is available on CD. In addition, regional workshops are planned to further enhance and instruct to promote uniformity and consistency in our formation and unity in our region. Our goal is to promote optimum formation and a firm foundation to live our Secular Franciscan way of life by giving guidance.

Caution must be taken when lessons are given in a group session. Each individual must be evaluated to be ready to move to the next phase of formation; then and only then should that individual enter the next phase. For an individual to truly internalize and integrate elements of a way of life that call for life adjustments does not happen on a prescribed timetable.

Your knowledge, experience and insight as a Franciscan give life to words quoted in the formation process. The participation by each of you is vital, integral and indispensable. The “book” knowledge is all head; without you there is no heart.

We suggest that fraternities and groups place special emphasis on beginning formation, i.e., the Orientation Phase and Inquiry Phase. We also suggest that the formation book Come and See be used for both phases. As the aspirants study the sessions of the Orientation Phase and the chapters of the Inquiry Phase in the suggested formation text Come and See it is acceptable that other formation materials be used to supplement the text. But it would still be important to complete the lessons of the Orientation Phase and the Inquiry Phase in Come and See. Use caution not to drift too far from the lesson in the discussions.
General Practical Applications: Include all professed members in the Formation Process
· Formation is the privilege and responsibility of the entire fraternity; we suggest that the members plan a three-year program of formation so that the wealth of formation approaches and resources can be realized.
· Promote variety rather than sameness, i.e., scripture, story telling, book reviews, crafts, instrumental music, singing, writing impressions of aspects of the study and small group dialogue.
· Discern and encourage the “teaching gifts” of the members.
· Include dialogue with presentations. Dialogue is preferred rather than lectures.
· Discuss TAU-USA Ongoing Formation articles.
· Continue to have the Annual Renewal of Franciscan Commitment as a special ceremony on a specific day every year on October 3.

FRATERNITY
Community life is to pray together, to learn, to serve and to grow as members within a particular spirituality and lifestyle.
General Practical Application:
· Keep in mind that the entire fraternity is responsible for consistent and continual vibrant fraternity gatherings and fraternal life.
· Share the technical aspects of fraternal life.
· Offer to help. Share your gifts. Everyone has other commitments.
· Encourage your minister to delegate opportunities to help.
·   Be ready and willing to accept these opportunities to help.
Remember to call a designated member(s) of the council if you will be absent from a gathering. To call is to care. To be excused is to respect your importance and the importance of your brothers and sisters.
· Keep in mind the balance between prayer and formation, social and business.
· Emphasize prayer and formation while minimizing business.
· Conduct most of the business in the Executive Council Gatherings.
· Keep in mind that you are members of a large family.
· Include news and prayer requests of your regional, national and international Franciscan family at every monthly gathering.
· Keep in mind to promote and share apostolate/commission activities so as to encourage each other in making a difference in the world.
· Keep in mind vocations to your fraternity.
· Continue to persevere in endeavors to increase vocations to the fraternity and the Order.
· Remember that you have the opportunity to be the herald of a great leader in the Church, Francis, and to share the gift of the man and message.
· Remember that every member is accountable and responsible for vocations.
· Act upon the statement that personal contact is very important.
· Consider that a vocation may originate with experiencing the Franciscan spirituality of a Secular Franciscan coupled with the invitation to “come and see.”
· Ask, “How might I share the gift of my Secular Franciscan vocation”? Be creative.
· Promote the Secular Franciscan Order and the fraternity in church bulletins, diocesan newspapers, etc. on a regular basis.
· Share the happenings in your fraternal life such as rites, activities.
· Wear your TAU or another symbol of your vocation wherever you might go.

APOSTOLATE
Apostolic life for a Franciscan lies more in the cooperation, sharing and participation than in the act of doing. Not to minimize acts of charity but the Franciscan formula highlights the shared approach. So the preferred is that a community adopt an apostolic activity in which each of the members can participate with their brothers and sisters. This visible activity to make a difference in the world will attract people to the fraternity and the Secular Franciscan Order.

Others will see how you as a Franciscan community minister together.
General Practical Application:
Provide a time of “theological reflection” after each apostolic experience
· What was the benefit of the experience?
· How was your service received?
· How were you present to the experience?
· How was Christ present?
· How did you minister to Christ?
· Did others see you as a Franciscan community ministering together?
· Was the community sensitive to the gifts and temperaments of its members?
· Are you coming to know each other at a deeper level?
· Did you cooperate, share, truly listen, embrace change, respect the other and appreciate the person and the task?
· Did you communicate individuals working as a unit in peace and harmony?
· Was there mutual cooperation among the members?
· Was there sincere respect among the members?
· Was there generous sharing and energy expended?
· What was the experience in working and sharing the task with the other members?
· How were you, as Francis, one with your brothers and sisters?

The Franciscan Meeting

The Importance of the Franciscan Gathering
A gathering of the fraternity should occur at least once a month. The monthly gathering is important because it shows that you have dedicated yourself to the “Franciscan Way of Life” in community with your brothers and sisters. True Franciscanism requires sacrifices, at times, for the good of your fraternity and of the Franciscan Order. You have an obligation to schedule your times of serving other church obligations around the day of your regular Franciscan gathering.
Your Franciscan way of life begins in, is nurtured on, and blossoms out of your Franciscan gathering. This is your community life. Only for a good and acceptable reason should you skip a regular gathering. There are times, such as health problems and family responsibilities, that you may have to skip a regular meeting of the fraternity.
We all owe it to our God, St. Francis, and our brothers and sisters; your presence is NEEDED at the gathering.

Mass
The gathering should begin with Mass. Members attend Mass if possible as a community; they may sit together during Mass if possible, showing that they are a community, all wearing the Tau Cross.

Social Time
The social time usually lasts about half-an-hour. Members share in providing the food and drink and contribute whatever they can to the Common fund.

Opening Prayers Prayers are taken from the “Ritutual of Secular Franciscan Order.”

Reading of the Liturgical Hours
The reading of the Liturgical Hours is the daily prayer of the Order. This is important prayer time and all the members participate in the readings. The minister will arrange the format for the readings.

Old and New Business
A brief time is spent on old and new business; the reading of the minutes and treasury may be unnecessary because it was reported in the newsletter of the month, this leaves more time for prayer and interaction between the members. The minister may bring before the members for discussion, e.g., retreats, days of reflection, fraternity apostolates, etc.

Ongoing Formation
This is a time of great reward for the fraternity members; a time for group discussion and fraternity interaction. Each fraternity should determine when is the best time to schedule Ongoing Formation for the whole fraternity; ongoing formation should be scheduled so that all or most of the members are in attendance.

Closing Prayers
Prayers are taken from the “Ritutual of Secular Franciscan Order.”

Candidate Instruction
The Formation Director for the fraternity may hold instructions for candidates after the gatherning, if not, at another convenient time during the month.

Message to Inquirers

FOR 1NQUIRERS

1. What is the Secular Franciscan Order?

The Secular Franciscan Order is a Religious Order for lay people who are striving for spiritual perfection while living in the world.
The members are a true part of the Franciscan Order and were formerly known as the “Third Order of St. Francis” and much earlier, as the “Order of Penitents.” They are still the Third Order, the Second being the “Poor Clares” and the First, the “Order of Friars Minor.” The community life of the Secular Franciscans is fostered in their local fraternity which meets, at least, once a month.

2. What are some of the requirements for reception?

a. Attend the Regular Monthly Meeting. VERY IMPORTANT
b. attend monthly instruction in the Franciscan Way (novitiate).
c. Provide two letters of recommendation:
(1) from the candidate’s Pastor,
(2) from a lay, adult, Catholic, not a relative.
d. After you are professed you will be required to say the Liturgy of the Hours
e. Attend Daily Mass whenever possible.
f. Attend On-Going formation meetings whenever possible.

3. How does a Secular Franciscan strive for spiritual perfection?
He or she does it the Gospel Way. They strive to follow the way, the truth, and the fife of Jesus. They strive to come to KNOW Jesus intimately. First of all, they strive to bring about an inward radical conversion, and they do this by an on-going stripping away of worldly inclinations and taking on Christ Centered-ness. They strive to rid themselves of their own absorption with their own ideas, their own egotism, their own wanting their own way — then take on an openness to the ways, thoughts, suggestions, etc, of other people. It is important for a Secular Franciscan, at all times, to be an example of Gospel-living in the world where he or she lives.

4. Is the Secular Franciscan Way the best way to salvation?

Not necessarily the best, but a candidate can be absolutely sure that there is no more exalted charism than that of St. Francis of Assisi. The very fact that it is called the Gospel Way is proof of this truth. The Gospel Way is the way of Jesus Christ. You can’t top that. HIS way is the perfect way.

5. Is the S.F.O. a purely devotional society?
No. We are lay people. Our life takes place in the neighborhood, in the community, in the marketplace; among people in all walks of life. Our next door neighbor is our concern. Our parish, government, ecology, all of God’s creation is our concern. We live a dual role:
First, devotional — our prayer life, absolutely essential to being a good Franciscan.
Second, our life in the world. As very aptly put in Article 4 of our Rule, we go from Gospel to life and from life to Gospel; one does not end and the other begin, they intermesh, and are bound together. One cannot exist without the other.

6. What is the devotion, the Franciscan Crown?
It is the Franciscan rosary — 7 decades — honoring the 7 joys of the BVM. Plus 2 extra Hail Marys at the end, making 72 Hail Marys in all to commemorate the 72 years the BVM traditionally is said to have lived.

7. Information for inquirers and candidates
It is important for you to understand:
a. You are in a learning period.
b. You are a student of the Franciscan Way of life.
c. If you are serious about responding to the call by God to this vocation as a Secular Franciscan, you need to realize that it will be necessary for you to adjust some of your priorities, at least to the extent that you will be able to participate in the study program. This program is reasonable, it will not be burdensome.
d. As an inquirer you will be required to read one book from cover to cover on the life of St. Francis of Assisi before you are received.
e. As a candidate you will be assigned more books about St. Francis to read during you year of novitiate. You will be required to have a copy of the text book in current use.
f. It is important that you know also that the Secular Franciscan Order is a true Order, not merely a pious organization. The Holy See has repeatedly stated that the Secular Franciscan Order is a true Order even though its members do not take vows. It is an Order of lay people who live in fraternity, in the world, not under religious vows, but ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF RELIGIOUS VOWS.

To back up that statement we have the following: Pope Benedict X, in 1725, said: ‘The Third Order of St. Francis has always been, and is, holy, meritorious, and in conformity with Christian perfection, as well as a true and genuine Order established under its own rules, approved by the Roman See, with a novitiate, profession, and a habit (the Tau cross), as is customary in other Orders.

In more recent times, these sentiments have been echoed by other Popes, including Pope John Paul II, Plus X, Plus XI and Benedict XV. In 1956, Plus XII said: “You are an Order, a lay Order, but truly an Order, an Order in the true sense of the word.”

8. And so, in order for you to become a professed member of this true religious order, it is necessary that you conscientiously strive to follow the requirements that lead to reception and profession. You will be given every possible help, cooperation and encouragement. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t think you can’t do it. If you have doubts come and talk about them. Don’t give up.
Ask questions. The Fraternity will listen, and answer your questions. Be assured, we want you to join us if it is will of God. Our arms are wide open to receive you as one of us.

Secular Franciscan’s Monthly Pledge
Realizing the importance of saving my immortal soul together with working for the spiritual and temporal welfare of others and the great value of the Third Order Rule to achieve these all important goals in life, I hereby resolve to observe this sanctifying Rule not only in part but as fully as human frailty will allow.
With God’s grace, I will participate in Holy Mass and communion on week-days, whenever possible, recite my Seraphic Office faithfully, never omit grace before meals, and examine my conscience each night.
I will strive to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month, attend the fraternity meetings regularly, and contribute according to my means for the charities of our Franciscan Family.
I will always carefully observe the Commandments of God and the Church, wear my holy emblem of membership, avoid extravagance in dress and manner of living, shun dangerous amusements, be temperate in food and drink, set a good example by witnessing Christ to my family and fellow-men, pursue wholesome reading, be at peace with all, avoid vulgar and improper speech, and practice charity towards all with special solicitude toward sick and deceased members.
May St. Francis, so wonderful in penance and love of Jesus Crucified, grant me the necessary spirit of prayer, penance, love and sacrifice so that I may faithfully observe his rule until death. Amen