In this podcast we hear about how the Franciscans (OFM) see their future as their General Chapter comes to a close in Assisi Italy. Also read full text of closing homily from Minister General.

Podcast
This podcast made available from Vatican Radio

Bolton Morris was a remarkable Catholic artist who lived most of his life working in the Philadelphia area. This is one of a series of 20 or so painted panels, the above showing St Francis preaching to the birds, the series devoted to the lives of St Francis and St Clare. These were executed in acrylic paint on plywood panels for the refectory of the Monastery of St Clare in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. (boltonmorris.wordpress.com)

source – www.ofm.org

Bearers of the gift of the Gospel

This morning, Saturday 20th June, the 187th Chapter of the Franciscan Friars came to an end with the solemn Eucharistic concelebration in the Basilica of the Portiuncola, St. Mary of the Angels – Assisi. In his homily Br. Jos Rodriguez Carballo, the newly re-elected Minister General of the Order, again commemorated the 800 years of the Franciscan movement. He emphasized the fact that the diversity of language and culture, which have always characterized the Order, even in this experience of chapter, are a wealth in order to comprise in depth the will of God

During the four working weeks (which began on May 24th) the 152 delegates, representing the about 15,000 friars present in all the world, have examined the state of the Order and together outlined the way for the coming six years.

The final document, entitled Bearers of the Gift of the Gospel illustrates some ways with which todays world, so much different from that at the time of St. Francis, the Friars Minor want to preach the Gospel. The document states that our mission is among todays peoples, having the others and not oneself at centre stage, in an attitude of sympathy towards the world, trying to understand and be understood by all peoples and cultures. Such engagement many a time translates in leaving to go to other countries to live among people of other languages and cultures and render present to all the gift of the Gospel. Evangelization thus assumes a spirituality that even pays attention to the values of justice, peace, integrity of creation and makes of the brothers bridges of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation.

The Chapter approved over 100 suggestions with almost half of them regarding the revision of the legislation of the Order (General Statutes). The others indicate the path to follow for a renewed personal and fraternal formation of friars which keeps in mind todays time in view of a missionary and social engagement capable of understanding the problems of todays society.

The chapter added or re-enforced missionary projects in different areas of the planet all to be undertaken between 2009 and 2015. There is a strong emphasis on themes of justice, peace and ecology (see the Message to the G8 of the 12th of June).

Full text of Closing Homily from Minister General

Br. Jos Rodriguez Carballo

Dear Brothers, May the Lord give you peace!

Through the grace of the Lord we have come to the end of our 187th General Chapter. We have been gathered for four weeks here at the Porziuncola where, 800 years ago, the great franciscan adventure began under the maternal gaze of St. Mary of the Angels. They have been days lived in an intense attitude of prayer in which we invoked the presence of the Risen Lord and of His Spirit among us. They have been days of joyful fraternal meeting which allowed us to embrace brothers of different races and cultures representing all the continents and more than 110 countries. In the diversity which characterises us, we recognised the good news of an ever fruitful God. They have been days of profound reflection, which allowed us to made a pause on our journey moratorium- in order to see where we are and where we wish and must go. They have been days of planning the future which allows us to look to the future with hope. How could we avoid thinking, then, of that first Pentecost, which saw the disciples gathered around Mary in the cenacle, awaiting the coming of the Spirit? How could we avoid thinking of a new Pentecost for our Order which, this year, celebrates 800 years since its foundation? How could we avoid thinking of the early Chapters of the Order in which all related to the life and mission of the Friars was dealt with? Therefore, we make our own the words of the responsorial psalm: I exult in the Lord, my Saviour, and, at the same time we confess, full of joy, The Lord has clothed us with the garments of salvation.

During these days we have looked at our past and present, remembering the grace of our origins. Through the sanctity and joyful fidelity of many Friars of yesterday and today, we, with hearts overflowing with joy, say to the Most High, Almighty and good Lord: May You be praised my Lord for the gift of brothers. This positive and thankful look at our past and present does not impede us in seeing the shadows and infidelities, the tiredness and routines which often accompany our journey. Therefore, while we ask pardon, we take on, with renewed commitment, the call to be born again (Jn 3, 3) in order to accept, personally and institutionally, the Gospel as our form of life without giving way to the constant temptation to domesticate its most radical demands in order to adapt them to a comfortable style of life.

Now that the Chapter has ended, the present/future is presented to us as a time of the Spirit. And we ask ourselves: What have we to do, Brothers? (Acts 2, 37)

The Lord, during these days of Chapter, has said in a thousand ways: Go and preach the Gospel to all nations (Mt 28, 19-20) and, making Himself present in our midst, urges us to go and announce to my brothers that they should go to Galilee, for there they will see me (Mt 28, 10). From the icon of the Christ of San Damiano, the Lord says to us, as He said to Francis, Go and repair my Church. The Risen Christ awaits us in the spacious cloister which is the world, there where humanity lives, there where it is met in its diversity, there where it suffers, works and hopes. Once again the Risen One says to us: Do not cling to me (cf. Jn 20, 17). Our condition is that of being witnesses to the Risen One in the Galilee of the nations (Is 8, 23), in the midst of peoples, inter gentes, in any country or nation whatsoever, to those far away and to those close-by (Eph 2, 17). Whoever has met the Risen Christ cannot but announce Him, like Mary Magdalene (cf. Mk 16, 10). Whoever has found the precious pearl cannot avoid communicating such an event to those he/she meets on the road (cf. Mt 13,46). Christ is our pearl, we cannot keep it for ourselves. Go, go out to the entire world. The evangelising mission is not just another activity for us, but is our definition because, in fact, we are Missionaries at the heart of the world, as brothers and minors, with our hearts turned to the Lord.

We are very aware that the mission which awaits us is arduous. The ground in which we have to sow the seed of the Gospel, the heart of mankind, is full of obstacles, as the parable of the sower reminds us (cf. Mt 13, 3). But we are equally aware that the germinating power of the seed of the Word of God has not diminished. We live at a time of crisis, which, for some, possibly implies a mortal threat and for others a trial of faith in the Lord of history and in His unfailing presence. The time that it has been our fate to live is delicate and decisive. But we have to be very aware that this is the time of God and, as such, reveals new opportunities, purifies, awakens potentialities, unveils signs of the future and of resurrection. We must not be, however, ingenious. The sower, each one of us, has to know well the field to be sown, know its positive elements and evaluate, with precision, the obstacles (cf. Mt 13, 18-23). We need to know well the hearts of the people to whom we go, their way of thinking and of situating themselves. It becomes necessary to enter into a constant attitude of discernment, of examining everything and holding on to what is good (cf. 1Thes 5, 21). It also becomes necessary to live in close relationships with all men and women, our contemporaries. We are, and we must continue to be, Friars of the people. With the people, particularly with the poorest, we are called to feel we are mendicants of meaning, making their searches ours, allowing ourselves to be questioned by the many negative situations of the contexts in which we live.

It is also necessary to be well prepared intellectually for a careful reading of the signs of the times and places and to be, in this way, capable of giving an evangelical response to them. This response includes, on our part, drawing up and carrying out new projects of evangelisation for the present situations (VC 73). This is our great responsibility of the moment. The world expects us, the sons of Francis of Assisi, and has every right to do so, to work as instruments of peace and reconciliation in a society profoundly marked by violence and division, as well as for the integrity of creation when it is seriously threatened. The world expects us, sons of the Poverello, and has every right to do so, to be men who encourage dialogue between cultures, generations, religions and currents of thought in order to give rise to mutual knowledge and recognition and to search for common ways to establish a world made brotherly in its rich and healthy differences. The world expects us, Friars Minor, and has every right to do so, to be minors among minors and in solidarity with all, to be men who work so that the market economy may pass and become an economy of solidarity which creates networks of communication which benefit the inter-dependence of goods and resources with a view to a dignified life for all. Our evangelising mission includes all this, as it includes going wherever we are not yet reached, opening up new missionary projects in order to collaborate with the Church in the establishment of the Kingdom of God; at times simply through silent presence alone, always fruitful, and in the establishment of the Order wherever possible. Our evangelising mission, to which we dedicated our reflections during this Chapter of Pentecost 2009, passes through all of this. The creative and joyful fidelity to which we are called to give witness (cf. VC 37) in these delicate and difficult times, not exempt from tensions and trials, but full also of great possibilities (cf. VC 13), passes through all of this. All this is necessary if we wish to reproduce with audacity and creativity the sanctity of Francis (cf. VC 37) and of the many Friars who preceded us during the 800 years of the journey of our fraternity.

During the Chapter, we felt that we were strongly called to a profound renewal in order to be faithful to the grace of our origins, but we know very well that the guarantee of such a renewal lies in the search for an evermore complete conformation to the Lord (cf. VC 37). Only He can maintain the constant freshness and authenticity of our origins and, at the same time, instil the courage of audacity and creativity to respond to the signs of the times (SAFC 20). Only by finding again our first love will we be strong and audacious, because only that love can give us courage and daring in times like ours. From there, then, the most urgent call that comes to us from the Gospel and our condition as disciples and missionaries is for a profound change of heart and a constant turning to the Lord. We cannot forget that it is God who makes the land of the evangelising mission fruitful and fertile. It is He, and He alone, who makes the seed grow (cf. Mk 4, 27). Evangelisation is, above all, the work of the power from on high. In the Cenacle, the disciples received the Spirit. It was He who, on the day of Pentecost, gave Peter the strength to proclaim the Gospel. In the same way, whoever wishes to announce with force the Gospel in the Galilee of the nations has to find himself in the Cenacle, with Mary, and receive the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can move our hearts and feet to go the ends of the earth and there, in the most diverse and at times adverse conditions, preach Jesus Christ as the Good News of the Father of mercies to humanity. He is the only one who can open the hearts of the men and women of our times to accept the said Good News. It is the power of the Spirit which will make us truly free. On the other hand, only he/she who, like Mary, allows him/herself to be indwelt by the Word will be capable of communicating it to others (cf. Lk 1, 39-44). Only he/she who, like Francis, allows him/herself to be found by the Gospel will be able to be a living Gospel.

Mary, attentive Virgin, procure from the Lord, for us,
the capacity to preserve in our heart the mystery of God and of humanity.
Mary, believer open to the Spirit, procure from the Lord,
for us, an unconditional docility to His inspirations.
Mary, the first evangeliser, procure from the Lord, for us,
the audacity to bring the Good News to our contemporaries.
Mary, woman made service, procure from the Lord, for us,
the capacity to serve the Gospel and its primary addressees, the poor.
Mary, blessed among women, procure from the Lord, for us,
the grace of knowing how to be always at the side of whoever needs us.
Mary, the handmaid of Nazareth, procure from the Lord, for us,
the courage to always say YES, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.