Reflections on Formation Topics in the "For Up To Now" Manual
Francis and the Franciscan Trilogy
This Reflection is based on material found on page 6 of 18 ff, in the "Nature of the Secular Franciscan Order" section of the F.U.N. Manual
"The Franciscan Trilogy [the Three Orders] is the first (and only) religious experience, preordained to apostolic life, born simultaneously, and designed to include all states of life.
"Francis received from Christ very precise directions: "go, repair my house..." The Pope clearly confirmed this directive for Francis and his followers: to accomplish in themselves conversion and preach it to others (facere et predicare pśnitentiam).
"Francis began work immediately and put all his confidence in the Spirit. He did not deliberately intend to found three Orders. However, in the institution of his three Orders, Francis let himself be guided solely by the Spirit of the Lord. He welcomed this reality as it flourished in his hands, without any predetermined plan."
Let us realize as we read this lesson, that as followers of so humble a Founder, we should also totally rely on the Spirit of the Lord–in everything we do. Jesus told us many, many times in Holy Scripture to worry less and rely on the Word: His teaching, His advise.
"Essentially, Saint Francis have his three orders only one rule: a more perfect observance of the Gospel, according to their state of life.
"The commitment of a permanent conversion to the Gospel (facere pśnitentiam) must permeate the life of all three Orders.
"In view of their preordained apostolic mission, the three Franciscan Orders are not related among themselves hierarchically, but from their very beginning, are equal and need to recognize both their spiritual interdependence and their need for mutual assistance.
"Within the context of the Fourth Lateran Council, St. Francis is the first person to found a religious trilogy that provided for living a religious life regardless a person's of the state of life."
This whole concept of St. Francis is rather unique. Maybe Francis was thinking of the Trinity (One God-Three Persons), e.g. One Rule-Three Orders, because we know that St. Francis was devoted to the Holy Trinity in his ideas, beliefs and prayer. Permanent conversion to the Gospel, i.e. metanoia, inner conversion - again has an element of penance. If we are to become perfect, there is suffering involved. To live the Rule of St. Francis one must be willing to say YES to concepts that are difficult, that are counter-cultural, and that absolutely do not fit in the 21st Century, but it can be done. There is a whole roster of Franciscan Saints and Blesseds and they have done it! They have lived the Rule, and with the Grace of God, and the help of our Founder, so shall we. It comes down to a willingness to love God unconditionally.
This family tree is found on page 5 of 18 and clearly indicates our relationship to the other parts of the Franciscan Family.
Even though the Three Orders are autonomous and independent, we rely very much on each other, and that goes both ways, and has been so clearly shown in "Profession, A gift of the Spirit." by Fr. Felice Cangelosi, OFM Cap [General Chapter, 2008].
I'll stop here for today. In these reflections, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I hope to cover the most important aspects in the F.U.N. Manual. As I read further, each day, all of it is important. This new formation program is exactly what the Order needs to bring everyone to the same page, so to speak.
Peace and Good,
Fred Schaeffer, OFS