Pope Benedict’s message to Secular Franciscans

Imitate St. Francis, Pope Benedict tells young people
Assisi, Jun. 18, 2007 (CWNews.com) –
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged young people to imitate St. Francis, during a Sunday-afternoon meeting in Assisi on June 17.
Recognizing the “special attraction” that the figure of St. Francis has for the young, the Holy Father recalled that the great saint experienced a conversion at the age of 25, after an early life of ease and pleasure.
“How can we deny that may people are tempted to follow the life of the young Francis before his conversion?” the Pope asked. Yet the young Francis did not find any lasting joy in secular life, the Pope continued. He found “that finite things can give glimmers of joy but only the infinite can fill the heart.”
“Do not be afraid to imitate St. Francis,” the Pope urged his young audience. He recommended in particular the saint’s “ambition, his thirst for glory and adventure.” Turned to the service of God, that ambition had an enormous impact on the world, Pope Benedict said.
During his Sunday visit to Assisi the Holy Father visited the churches and religious communities there, and prayed before the tomb of St. Francis. His visit was made on the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis.

VATICAN CITY, NOV 22, 2002 (VIS) –
The Pope today welcomed members of the presidency of the International Council of the Secular Franciscan Order, meeting in their Tenth General Chapter on the theme “Vital, Reciprocal Communion in the Franciscan Family.”
The Pope noted that the Chapter “brought to an end the updating of your basic legislation,” including the Rule, the Ritual, the General Constitutions and the International Statute, which was approved in the current Chapter. He said the Church awaits the Order’s “great service to the cause of the Kingdom in today’s world” and she desires your Order to be a model of an organic whole and of structural and charismatic union at all levels.”
”Your renewed legislation,” he added, “gives you optimum instruments to realize and fully express the unity of your Order and the communion with the Franciscan family” as well as your mission to be “courageous and coherent witnesses of Christian and Franciscan life.”
”You are called,” John Paul II affirmed, “to offer your own contribution, inspired by the person and message of St. Francis of Assisi, to hasten the advent of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, co-responsibility and love are living realities. You must study deeply the true foundations of universal brotherhood and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fellowship. Commit yourselves strongly to fighting every form of exploitation, discrimination and marginalization and every attitude of indifference towards others.”
The Holy Father said he wished to conclude his message “by recommending to you to consider your family as the priority place in which to live your Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation,” doing so through prayer, Christian catechesis, promoting respect for every life from conception to natural death and “offering a convincing example of the possibility of marriage lived in a way that fully conforms to God’s plan.”

In Reference to the Holy Father’s Message to Secular Franciscans

The following communication was received at NAFRA from Fr. Nils Francis Thompson, OFM, former General Spiritual Assistant.
“We are blessed to hear the hope the Holy Father expresses for us as Secular Franciscans, in his message at the General Chapter of the SFO. …
I’m attaching an item, which you likely already have seen: The statement of Pope John Paul II to the SFO General Chapter last week.
The statement of the Holy Father was a great blessing to me, as well as to the whole SFO internationally. He makes it very clear that your organic unity and your autonomy within the Franciscan Family are a witness to the whole world of what Christian living is meant to be.
I am sure you will be publishing this to NAFRA-USA in some way or other, and I hope that our people will really understand how important this step in your Secular Franciscan history really is. It is a sign to the Church that the Secular Franciscan Order is measuring up to make Jesus present to this new millennium.
The Pope’s mandate for the SFO … is to be taken seriously by the SFO because he is telling you to take seriously the Franciscan desire to be instruments of evangelization and peace-making.
The Gospel from which you take life leads you to care for all the universe, which is so sorely needed today. Thank you for answering your call from God.
This is so exciting! It was a blessing to me because I worked hard to promote your unity and autonomy. It was worth the effort and the difficulties. I believe the Spirit has led the SFO in this new direction back to its roots. This direction has been confirmed by the Pope’s discernment if you continue to obey the Spirit. The S.F.O. in the U.S. and in the world will see an even more impressive blossoming. It’s happening, my brothers, and I pray that all of you will keep going forward courageously. God be praised for my small part in this amazing work of His! Forgive me for preaching to the converted, but I feel so enlivened by this development.
Nils Thompson, O.F.M.

Pope John Paul II speaks to Franciscans

Pope says, “It is up to you to make God’s merciful love more visible and tangible.
Pope John Paul II told Franciscans to offer their “simple and intense” prayer life to modern men and women, who he said were in search of authentic spirituality.
”Our time shows ever more evident signs of a profound thirst for values, paths and goals of the spirit,” he said, this year on Feb. 17, to participants in the general chapter of Conventual Franciscans.
The pope said this renewed spiritual desire should find “a valid and fruitful response” from the Franciscans, who have traditionally emphasized a simple and direct approach to the Gospel.
”You will thus respond to the requests that come to you in different ways from the men and women of our time and you will be able to effectively draw souls to the paths of spiritual growth and rediscovered interior vitality,” he said.
During their February general chapter in Ariccia, just south of Rome, the Conventual Franciscans elected as the order’s new head, 57-year-old Father Joachim Anthony Giermek, from the U.S. Province of St. Anthony of Padua.
The pope told the Franciscans to persevere in their traditional mission to ordinary people.
”It is up to you to make God’s merciful love visible and, I would say, almost tangible: A love which welcomes and reconciles, which forgives and renews the heart of believers, drawing into a consoling embrace every man and every woman,” he said. – CNS

22 November 2002
Secular Franciscans, you have by vocation [belong] to the Church and to society as inseparable realities. For this reason, you are asked first of all to bear a personal witness in the place where you live: “before all: in [your] family life; in [your] work; in [your] joys and sufferings; in [your] associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same father; to [your] presence and participation in the life of society; in [your] fraternal relationship with all creatures” (SFO, General Constitutions, art. 12.1). Perhaps, you will not be required to pour out your Hood as a martyr, but you will certainly be asked to give a coherent and steadfast witness in fulfilling the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation, which you renewed and confirmed with your profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. By virtue of this profession, the Rule and the General Constitutions must represent for each of you the point of reference for daily living, based on your explicit vocation and special identity (cf. Promulgation of the General Constitutions of the SFO). If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity” (Now Millennia meunte, n. 31). You must be sincerely dedicated to a “high standard of ordinary Christian living” (ibid.), to which I invited all the faithful at the end of the Great jubilee of the Year 2000.
I do not want to end this Message without recommending that you consider your family as the primary setting in which to live your Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation, finding time for prayer, for the Word of God and for Christian catechesis, and doing your utmost to make every life respect^ from its conception and in every situation until death. You must live in such a way mat your families “show convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God’s plan and with the true good of the human person-of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile” (Now Millennia ineunte, n. 47).
At this time, I urge you to take again into your hands the Rosary, which, by ancient tradition, “has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed [in] the Spirit of God” (Rwanum Vtrgmis Marwe,n. 41). Do so keeping your gaze on me Virgin Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, ready for his Word and for all his calls, whom Francis enveloped in inexpressible love and who was made Protectress and Advocate of the Franciscan family. Witness to her your burning love, by imitating her unconditional readiness and pouring out a stream of confident and conscious prayer (cf. SFO, Rule, art. 9). With these wishes, I cordially impart to you, Secular Franciscans and to the members of “Franciscan Youth”, a special Apostolic Blessing.

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