(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Fall Issue #104)
By Mary Stronach, OFS
National Formation Commission
The following formation project can be experienced individually, perhaps even in Eucharistic Adoration, or in small groups at a fraternity gathering. It will take you back in time–to our roots and our early family. The materials needed for this activity: the accompanying chart, a copy of Memoriale Propositi (https://franciscan-archive.org/documenta.html), a copy of our present rule (the Rule of 1978).
Step One: Preliminary Questions
At the beginning of the session, consider the following questions. (If this activity is done individually, you may want to write your thoughts in your journal. If it is done with a group, you may want to discuss these questions at the beginning of the session):
Have you ever had the experience of finding old letters in the attic that our grandparents wrote? What treasures! To peek into the lives of those whose DNA we carry is a wonderful gift. Did you try to see yourself in that old picture of your great-grandmother or great-grandfather? How did you feel when you discovered them? Why did it mean so much when you found them?
Step Two: Background
As Secular Franciscans, our forefathers also left us some amazing treasures. Among them is the Memoriale Propositi, our inspirational document, which dates back to 1221. It was written by Cardinal Hugolino dei Conti di Segni at the request of St. Francis of Assisi. Cardinal Hugolino later became Pope Gregory IX, who canonized Francis of Assisi in 1228, two years after his death.
A quick review of the Memoriale Propositi of 1221 may give us a better perspective of who our early brothers and sisters were and how they lived. As importantly, it will connect us with them and, perhaps, even strengthen our focus on how we can live more completely in the footsteps of St. Francis.
Activity: Read Memoriale Propositi and reflect on its message. How does it speak to us? What does it tell us about our forefathers? How is it different and how is it similar to our present Rule? Are there some parts of it on which we too can act? (Note: You may want to use the chart at the end of this article to help organize your thoughts and to compare our present Rule with Memoriale Propositi.)
(Note for Formation Leaders: This activity can also be used at your Fraternity Gathering–in small groups or the large group. You may want to give each group about 30 minutes to discuss two or three topics and then invite each group to summarize its discussion in the large group):
Summary statement: While our brothers and sisters of 1221 lived different lives, the essence of who we are as Secular Franciscans has never changed. We follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis… from Gospel to life and life to Gospel. The Rule of 1978 reflects our foundational and inspirational document and reminds us of the gift and treasure Francis gave us when he asked Cardinal Hugolino to write the first Franciscan guide for the “Brothers and Sisters of Penance.”