Vocation, Charism, and Mission

This Reflection is based on material found in the Vocation, Charism, and Mission section of the F.U.N. Manual

"Vocation, Charism, and Mission of Secular Franciscans" written by Benedetto Lino, OFS, Coordinator of the Formation Commission International Presidency contains some information that should be read by all Secular Franciscans even though some of it was covered in previous reflections. Ben Lino did an outstanding job with the whole FUN Manual.

In a Foreword to this section, he recalls that too often, especially in the past, candidates were admitted into the Order simply "because they were good and pious people." How well I recall similar situations in my own fraternity when it got started in 1992/1993, where people were allowed to join because they wanted to deepen their spiritual lives. That's a very nice reason for a Vocation, but it is not enough. Then I recall a person who felt called to join because he really loved the Franciscans. Again, a wonderful thing, but in itself not a sound reason for joining the SFO. And Ben Lino, in his foreword cites another example: "Often, until today, people ask to enter the Order because they feel lonely or because they need to feel part of a group or simply out of devotion." Again, not a good reason to join the SFO, and had these people been admitted (and some have), that is why they tend to fall away some time after having been professed.

"It is not possible to speak of vocation without reference to Communion. Communion is the aim of the call of God (the vocation); the foundation of our hope, the object of our faith (communion with God), and the immediate and ultimate accomplishment of the sense of life (love with God and with each other)."

"St Paul exhorts us strongly in this direction:
"May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, how rich is the glory of the heritage he offers among his holy people..." because "there is only one hope to which you are called, the one of your vocation" (Eph 1: 18-19; 4:4)

"Through Revelation we know that God is Love.

"But in order for the love of God to reach his goal (the vital sharing of His life with his creature [the Other, each of us], it is necessary that we exist; (ex-sistere = to be outside) and also for us to realize our complete "otherness" from God. Once we accept our "otherness," then free will and our specific choice comes into focus. Each of us needs to choose for or against entering into and developing a deepening relationship with the God who is our loving Father.

"This is, therefore, the PLAN OF TIiE FATHER-the inconceivable, the Eternal, the Infinite, who "thinks" of us from the beginning as the focus of his love and calls us to life to exist and to share eternally in His Life, His Divinity! It is unparalleled, hard to grasp and understand that God loves and desires us!

"In the Son, God creates us, and in Jesus He "assumes" the fullness of our Humanity, individually and collectively, so that all human beings, individually and collectively, may, by His Grace, "be made God-like", that is, become, by Grace, what we are not by nature."

"This is what we are radically "called" to be, to enter into relationship with God and to transform ourselves to be God-like [St. Francis exhorts us to become imitators of Jesus and to conform ourselves to Him].

"But it is only through our free acceptance of this relationship of receiving and reciprocating God's love and his grace, can He introduce us into the sharing of his own life. This is living in imitation of the divine mutual relationship shared between the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus.

This is our VOCATION–the irrevocable call to sanctity, the sharing in the life of God.

(Note all paragraphs starting with a quote mark are in the FUN text)

So far we have not specifically discussed (in this reflection) a Vocation to the Secular Franciscan Order, but the quotations above pertain to all vocations. In short, someone desiring to live this life (the goal of a vocation) needs to already have an intimate relationship with Jesus in prayer, possibly adoration, and most of all, with the help of a Spiritual Adviser.

For those who have seen my previous (and ongoing) reflection series "Franciscan Reflections" will easily recognize that those are all about intimate friendship with the Lord. It is the basis of any serious vocation. Most of those reflections are written for Franciscans.

Now lets talk about the Specific Franciscan Vocation. "In order to answer the question of vocation, you must first understand the essential elements of the Charism of St. Francis and how they grew into Franciscan Spirituality.

Skipping some original text (in this reflection) let's review what the Franciscan Way of life requires:

  • following Jesus without reservations in the footsteps of Saint Francis. In other words, to be ready, in our specific state of life, to follow Jesus just as Francis did.
  • to discover, accept and develop within ourselves the same Charism received by Saint Francis, make it present and bring it to fruition in the world.

This spiritual "style" entails:

  • a very intense Eucharistic spirituality (kenosis=self-emptying).
  • a very strong fraternal communion – mutual equality.
  • simplicity
  • love of poverty
  • humility
  • a genuine sense of minority, or littleness – seeking to serve and not be served
  • a complete and active abandonment to God, which is demonstrated by obedience, particularly to the Church.

"To have an Authentic Franciscan Vocation means to desire to embrace these attitudes and behaviors that characterize our form of life; this charism-mission, this spirituality.

"Those who, through proper discernment, recognize that their life's call and desire is to embrace this way of life, may express their commitment through a public, solemn and perpetual commitment (Profession) before God and the Church.

"This is the case of all Franciscans of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Order.

"Secular Franciscans, should refer particularly to:

  • The whole chapter two of the Rule.
  • The articles 37:2-3; 38:1; 40:1-2; of the CCGG (General Constitutions)
  • Title I of Chapter 2 of the CCGG.

In the next FUN Reflection I'll reflect on Charism. As previously noted, I've only copied those paragraphs pertaining to this reflection and formators should use the original text of the FUN Manual, not these reflections. That's because the original material is so well written by brothers and sisters who spent much time doing so.

Peace and Good,

Fred Schaeffer, OFS
June 22, 2012