Fraternity & Francis; 

and, Fraternity as a Fundamental Element of St. Francis Spirituality

These are two separate topics covered in the same set of F.U.N. pages: there are no page numbers of these pages. The first is: "Fraternity & Francis" by Tom Bello, OFS; the second paper is: "Fraternity as a Fundamental Element of St. Francis Spirituality" by Fr. Irudaya Samy, OFM Cap.

These "FUN Reflections" only cover the highlights of each chapter of the FUN Formation Manual - it is strongly recommended that the original work be read, used for formation of others, and for ongoing formation of the Professed. /Fred Schaeffer, OFS

Deacon Tom begins "Fraternity and Francis" with an Outline and Key Concepts. Let's review these. Section I begins with the SFO Rule #14. "Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively." Also, found in our General Constitutions Art. 3.3: "The vocation to the SFO is a vocation to live the Gospel in fraternal communion. For this purpose, the members of the SFO gather in ecclesial communities which are called fraternities."

Continuing with Dcn. Tom's outline, item III "Therefore, if at the heart of the Franciscan call is Christ, then around that heart is fraternity."

Item IV "Why this emphasis on Fraternity to Franciscans?" we find a number of definitions. Let's just reflect on a few.

A. "God is love, and love is always more than self. Thus, God as God is now alone; Christ as God is not alone; The Holy Spirit as God is not alone.

B. "God is a Fraternity of a Trinity. The basic mystery of the Trinity reveals a unity in community that shows what fraternity should look like.

C. "Further, Christ as a man was not alone. He had a Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. He called to Himself, not just one to follow Him, but Twelve, a fraternity of apostles."

Let's go to F. "Francis calls all of us Seculars, not to individually follow him, but together, as "Brothers and Sisters of Penance."

V. "Fraternity is thus a call to build a community of love in harmony with all of God's children and all of God's creation to reflect Love back to the God of Love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

"Thus, Fraternity is a call to unity and harmony with all our brothers and sisters, all of whom are children of the same loving God.

Fraternity is a call to unity and harmony with all of creation, plant and planet, all created by the same loving God.

Fraternity is a call to build a community of love that reflects Love back to the God of Love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

 

Next, as part of this same chapter in the FUN Manual, we find the paper by Fr. Irudaya Samy, OFM Cap, of the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants to the Secular Franciscan Order, entitled: "Fraternity as a Fundamental Element of St. Francis Spirituality."

""Calling" is a basic concept found throughout the Scripture. It is exemplified by call of Abraham in the old Testament, the call of Jesus in the New Testament, and the call of Saint Francis in the 12th Century.

"Realizing that God initially "calls" a person to the Secular Franciscan Order, still, every person within the Order has the responsibility to nurture the genuine call. The purpose of the entire formation process is to accompany the person on his or her journey of discovery of God, discovery of St. Francis, and discovery of the individual's own call."

"Francis used the term "brothers" to refer to those men who asked to join him. Never did he refer to them as followers or sons as was the case in other religious Order. Francis wanted this group that God had set apart to be known as a family. Even the name he chose for them, the Order of Friars Minor, the Lesser Brothers, gives us an insight into how Francis viewed himself and those with him. They were not to be set above, but to be servants, following the example set by our Lord. Within their own community, no one person was to be set up above the others. the one who was to care for the others was the guardian of all that would keep them close to God. Francis chose the family as his model of relationship."

"This small band of men, this brotherhood, would be the basis for the rebuilding of the church."

How does this apply to Secular Franciscans? Well, we are brother and sister to one another. Using the example given by St. Francis, who made Christ the inspiration and center of his life, "the vocation of the SFO is a vocation to live the Gospel in fraternal communion."

Fraternity is "the basic cell of the Order, a visible sign of the Church, a supernatural reality based on the paternity of God and on the brotherhood in Jesus Christ experienced in the strength of the Holy Spirit."

"The fraternity is called upon to provide a prophetic and charismatic presence within Church and to assist in her universal mission."

"The Fraternity is a living gift which should always be carried inside oneself which is quite different from just having meeting: these only mark the rhythm of making the journey."

This paper by Fr. Samy is wonderfully written and should be read by everyone. I've just quoted a few key paragraphs, or parts thereof, so at this point we'll skip down to Section 3. "Life in Fraternity." Father continues to point out the relationship between our Rule and Life in Fraternity.

—We are a Fraternity OF LOVE
—Fraternity is the lived experience of togetherness, unity of mutual love
—Fraternity as Sacrament of Gospel Living

–an effective support system for evangelical growth;
–a productive experience of group spiritual direction;
–a context of stability for grounding and maturing Gospel values and praxis;
–a concrete, human manifestation of a deeper spiritual reality;
–a real sign of the Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation of the Reign of God.

The fourth section deals with "Fraternity a Place of Conversion." He talks about a "launching pad for apostolic activity of members."

Fifth, "The Eucharist, the center of life in Fraternity."

Sixth, "The Challenges of Fraternal Life." Father quotes Mary Ann Julian, OFS, "Our fraternities are the nurseries where God prepares nurtures, and strengthens us for our work in the world...."

This chapter on Fraternity is a wonderful contribution to the FUN Manual, and should be read by all. These few lines do not do it justice, but it's a start.

"My God and My All"

Peace and Good,

Fred Schaeffer, OFS
July 28, 2012