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 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.
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.
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?