The Secular Franciscan Identity
General Minister Emanuela DeNunzio
From a speech to International Gathering 7
Who are the Secular Franciscans scattered all over the world? What is their identity? ...There were in the past very many groups. Mostly their members used to wear characteristic clothing, … In some places there were different fraternities for men and women and, even when they were mixed, the men sat on one side and the women on the other. .. For some time some Fraternities presented themselves still composed of laity with a certain nostalgia for the life of the friars and of religious, although having the persistent call to be valid tools of action of the Church in the world. But the attitude of the brothers and of the sisters was changing into a new way to be Franciscan,..The Franciscan Third Order had assumed the new Franciscan name of The Secular Franciscan Order, exactly because it wanted to underscore the presence of Franciscan laity in the world; it wanted to distinguish itself in its "secular" state, the most significant feature of the Third Order.
Later, in the Christifideles Laïci, Pope John Paul II, recalling the doctrine of the Council, wrote: "The vocation of the laity to holiness carries with it that life according to the Spirit be expressed in a particular way by their insertion in temporal reality and in their participation in earthly activity" And so, to update the discussion, we have to ask ourselves: What does it mean today to be a Secular Franciscan? To be Franciscan belongs to the most intimate part of our personal identity, to the marrow of our being …
The updated legislation of the SFO (Rule and General Constitutions) states that the identity of the Secular Franciscan is expressed in a triple dimension: personal (the inner life), fraternal (co-responsibility) and universal (the mission).
The Inner Life: Our contribution in overcoming the problems that clutch the world and the Church is not realized by transforming us into "activists", but into disciples of prayer. It is certain that for Secular Franciscans, like other citizens, we are called to political commitment, professional competence, promotion of solidarity and of liberty, of rights and of justice. Nevertheless what is specifically ours is prayer to the living God. The contemplative dimension allows us to go through the world with eyes enlightened by hope and compassion. There is no true Christian commitment in the world without prayer… This is why it is very important that Fraternities be eloquent schools of prayer, places of harmony, mirrors of charity and sources of hope, so that their members feel the joy of being loved by their brothers and sisters, and at the same time to communicate to those around them the fullness of joy of being disciples of Christ…
To be continued…Pax et bonum