by Lester Bach OFM Cap
The SFO Rule and Constitutions provide insights about the role of the Eucharist in Franciscan life.
Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ (SFO 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. (Constitutions – Article 11.3)
The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church. Christ unites us to himself and to one another as a single body in it. Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the fraternity. The brothers and sisters should participate in the Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of the respect and love shown by Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all the mysteries of the life of Christ (Constitutions-Article 14.2)
1- The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church. Franciscans belong to the Church. The Eucharist is the center of Church life of which Franciscans are a part. All Catholics recognize the Eucharist as the center of their lives. Why? Because of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist and the proclamation of the gospel Word.
Catholics are called to active participation in the Eucharist. At Mass, we are an assembly of believers called to be a community joined in the praise and worship of God. (United States Catechism for Adults – USCCB – Page 225)
Our lives reflect the influence of this sacred meal. There are a number of meal stories in the New Testament. Prayerful reading shows Jesus not only teaching but also pointing out ways to live. When Jesus spoke/acted at meals, he asked his friends to imitate him. (E.g. servant leadership in John 13:3-17. Other meal lessons can be found in Luke 5:27-32, Luke 14:1-6 Matthew 26:6-13 and other texts).
2- The SFO Rule focuses on Christ: following the example of St. Francis of Assist, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. Christ the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life he has come to give abundantly (SFO Rule #4).
Catholics are expected to let the Gospel infiltrate their lives, attitudes, judgments, relationships and perceptions. Franciscans have a special call to make the Gospel come alive in their lives.
3- A fraternity Eucharist for special occasions (Profession, jubilees, and special feasts) seems realistic. But generally we are called to participate with the larger Church (parish). E.g. Profession at a parish Eucharist could give witness to the parish of our commitment
to the Franciscan way of life.
Church celebrations help us realize that we are not in this ministry alone nor in isolation. We have professed a Rule that requires us to bring our Franciscan spirit to the Church and the world. We need to be present to both the Church and the world to achieve this goal. Frequent participation to parish Eucharistic celebrations will help us fulfill the Rule and Constitutions.
4- Eucharist deepens our sense of sacrifice is doing what is holy. Doing what is holy requires the same loving self-giving that Jesus shows on the cross. Working within the fraternity and the larger Church community, we do what is holy and give flesh to the gospel vision of Jesus in our world. Without the Church, the SFO would not exist. Francis’ dedication to the Eucharist and the Church changed his life. The Rule challenges us to a similar daily conversion! (cf. SFO Rule #7)
5- Ongoing formation should be a major part of the regular gathering. It offers practical ways and means for members to influence the world by living the SFO Rule. Good interaction about how to live the Franciscan way of life is an important ingredient of the regular gatherings.
While the Liturgy of the Hours is important, using a variety of prayer forms at gatherings can offer models for prayer. A fraternity can begin to die when it lacks growth and/or increased dedication to our Franciscan way of life. Wise use of ongoing formation and prayerfulness can keep this from happening.
Christ came to take away our sins, not our minds.