(This article originally appeared in the Summer/Fall 2019 issue of the TAU-USA)
Pope Francis on “Fraternity”
Address of Pope Francis to the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual
June 17, 2019
The Gospel is for you, dear brothers, “rule and life” (Saint Francis, Regula Bullata, I, 1) and your mission is none other than that of being a living Gospel, “a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word” as Benedict XVI said (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 83). The Gospel must be your handbook. Always listen to it carefully; pray with it; and following the example of Mary, “Virgin made Church” (see Saint Francis, Greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1), meditate assiduously, so that, by assimilating it, you may conform your life to the life of Christ.
This way of following is characterized, first of all, by fraternity, which Francis considered a gift: “The Lord gave me brothers” (Testament, 14). Fraternity is a gift to be received with gratitude. It is a reality that is always “on the move”, under construction, and therefore asks for the contribution of all, without anyone excluding himself or being excluded; in which there are no “consumers” but only builders (see General Constitution OFMConv, 55, 5). A reality in which we can live out paths of continuous apprenticeship, of openness to the other, of mutual interchange; a welcoming reality, ready and willing to accompany; a reality in which it is possible to take a break from everyday life, to cultivate silence and the contemplative gaze and thus recognize in it the imprint of God; a reality in which you all consider yourself brothers, both ministers and other members of the fraternity; an experience in which everyone is called to love and nurture his brother, just as a mother loves and nurtures her own child (see Saint Francis, Regula non Bullata, IX, 11). I urge you to nurture your fraternity with the spirit of holy prayer and devotion “to which all other temporal things must serve” (Id., Regula Bullata, V, 2). In this way, your fraternal life in community becomes a form of prophecy in the Church and in the world; and it becomes a school of communion, to be exercised always, following the example of Francis, in a relationship of love and obedience with the Pastors.
1) Pope Francis is addressing First Order friars, but his thoughts on fraternity are also relevant to Secular Franciscans. He observes that Francis considered fraternity a gift. How is fraternity a gift to you?
2) The Holy Father lists a series of attributes which characterize the reality of fraternity. Which of these attributes apply to your local fraternity? What are some practical ways you could nurture them?
3) Pope Francis suggests that the outcome of fraternal life is community is a “form of prophecy in the Church and in the world, and a school of communion”. Which articles of the OFS Rule call us to a prophetic stance? To living in communion?
4) How visible is your fraternity in your local parish? Your community?