SFO Dossier July 2010




JULY 2010 – YEAR 1 – No. 7


Topic II-1: Sense of Belonging to the Secular Franciscan Order

Belonging to the SFO, by Emanuela De Nunzio, SFO (n. 1, 6, 2, 4, 3)

Summary and comments by Ewald Kreuzer, SFO and Patrizia Morelli

Premise: The sense of belonging is the basis of true brother/sisterhood. In an age of individualism, we need to rediscover the meaning and value of the SFO as a Franciscan family, where we all belong to each other as brothers and sisters and where everyone takes care of the other. The sense of fraternal belonging will help us to construct our sense of identity, to be aware of whom we are, and to assume our proper place and our specific vocation in the Church. In practice, it will help us to live the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis, in fraternal communion (Const. 1.3; 3.3), bringing trust where is distrust, collaboration instead of competition, acceptance and love instead of hostility and refusal.

Introduction. The Crisis of the sense of belonging in post modern times

1.  The general picture. In the present time, those certainties that used to provide solid structures have become scarcer: the national state, institutions, the family, and work.  Nothing is fixed or guaranteed any longer.  Even interpersonal relations have become more superficial.

6.  The Main Connection. Every talk on belonging is connected closely to identity and presupposes it.  There is no identity without belonging and there is no belonging without identity.

2.  Belonging to the family. The family is the greatest resource for the person and for society. It provides generosity, unconditional welcome, and solidarity in different life circumstances. Besieged today by many challenges of the modern world, the family becomes weakened and is attacked by proposals that equate it to cohabitation under the same roof. As result we see the progressive losing of its specific identity and role.

4.  Belonging to a nation. The sense of belonging to a specific territory is profoundly changed, not only because of mobility, but also because the national reality, which at one time made one feel deeply rooted and with a personal identity (I am Italian, Spanish, English. ..), is being replaced with a “supranational” entity. On the contrary, attention grows toward regional realities, to a restricted environment where one’s interests lie, with other social consequences:

  1. The fragmentation of society: deprivation of the culture of solidarity, that makes individuals live “near” or “opposite”, and not “together”;
  2. The little-appreciated sense of the social: highly guarded privacy, which creates a permanent conflict between the good of the individual and the good of the community;
  3. The culture of suspicion: Suspicion and distrust undermine the base of civil society.

3.  Belonging in professional life. The effects of precariousness are also heavily seen in the working life. Many accept the type of work for which they do not feel drawn. For this reason they feel like strangers without roots in their profession.

Questions for reflection and discussion in fraternity

  1. How do you experience “the crisis of the sense of belonging in post-modern times” in which you are living?  Why is the connection between belonging and identity so important?
  2. How can Secular Franciscans address the challenges around belonging to a family, to a nation and to a professional life?
  3. Do you think this is a time of crisis or an opportunity for Secular Franciscans to exercise their particular mission in the world?
Topic VII: Saint Bonaventure: Searching for true wisdom and creative fidelity in times of change.

Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR

In this article, we focus our attention on one of the major players in the history of Franciscan thought and institutional organization whose liturgical feast is celebrated by the Church on July 15: Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.  Through his life and legacy, we can learn many things of great value for our Franciscan journey at the present time.

A central figure in Franciscan identity development

In his introduction to the edition of Bonaventure’s works: The Soul’s Journey into God, The Tree of Life, and The Life of St. Francis, Ewert Cousins – a renown specialist on our author, summarizes the relevant role of this saint’s contribution to the development of the Western spirituality and, in particular, of the Franciscan spirituality, as follows:

In the history of Western spirituality, Bonaventure holds a central and pivotal position. The 13th-century friar, professor at the University of Paris, minister general of the Franciscan Order, cardinal and adviser to popes, played a major role in the spiritual ferment of the high Middle Ages. Viewed within the religious context of the Middle Ages as a whole – when Islamic Jewish and Christian spirituality were flourishing – he produced one of the richest syntheses of Christian spirituality. (p.1)

Where true wisdom lies

Bonaventure was known by his wisdom and simplicity and, before receiving the title of Seraphic Doctor by John Gerson (+1429), Bonaventure was widely known in Church circles as the Doctor Devotus, the Devout Teacher, since one can find in his sermons and other writings a true sense of devotion and unction which are signs of the presence and action of the Spirit. His work, The Soul’s Journey into God invites us to search the Lord not only with the mind but also with our heart and God’s grace:

First, therefore, I invite the reader to the groans of prayer through Christ crucified, through whose blood we are cleansed from the filth of vice – so that he not believe that reading is sufficient without unction, speculation without devotion, investigation without wonder, observation without joy, work without piety, knowledge without love, understanding without humility, endeavor without grace, reflection as a mirror without divinely inspired wisdom. (Prologue 4)

Fidelity to the Franciscan charism and adaptation to the new realities

In his recent book Saint Francis, Grado Giovanni Merlo recalls the role of Bonaventure as minister general at a time when the Order had grown and dramatically changed, some friars were assuming unprecedented roles in the Church and society, while others had fallen into vices or adopted Joachimite positions:

In his program of restructuring the Order, brother Bonaventure looked in two directions: one was juridical-institutional and the other, theological-hagiographical. (p. 203)

Bonaventure can be seen as a model for acting with determination, dedication and wisdom to maintain the Franciscan charism alive and, at the same time, favoring its creative adaptation and implementation in new circumstances, always in communion with the Church and dialogue with the world. It only seems fitting to conclude this brief commentary with some more words from The Souls’ Journey into God:

Therefore, open your eyes, alert the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God lest the whole world rise against you. For because of this the whole world would rise against the foolish. On the contrary, it will be a matter of glory for the wise, who can say with the Prophet: You have gladdened me, Lord, by your deeds and in the works of your hands I will rejoice. How great are your works, Lord! You have made all things in wisdom; the earth is filled with your creatures. (1, 15)

Questions for reflection and discussion in fraternity

  1. What has been your experience in searching God, not only with your mind, but also with your heart?
  2. Describe how your life as a Secular Franciscan can favor creative adaptation and implementation of our charism in new circumstances, always in communion with the Church and dialogue with the world?
Block II: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Part 4 of 9: The universal destination of goods

Excerpts and questions by Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR

A. Origin and meaning

171. Among the numerous implications of the common good, immediate significance is taken on by the principle of the universal destination of goods […] God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone […] The human person cannot do without the material goods that correspond to his primary needs and constitute the basic conditions for his existence…. 172. The right to the common use of goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order” and “the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine”[…] It is first of all a natural right, inscribed in human nature and not merely a positive right connected with changing historical circumstances; moreover it is an “inherent” right. […] All other rights, whatever they are, including property rights and the right of free trade must be subordinated to this norm…173. […] in order to ensure that this right is exercised in an equitable and orderly fashion, regulated interventions are necessary, interventions that are the result of national and international agreements, and a juridical order that adjudicates and specifies the exercise of this right. 175. The universal destination of goods requires a common effort to obtain for every person and for all peoples the conditions necessary for integral development, so that everyone can contribute to making a more humane world

B. The universal destination of goods and private property

176. …Private property is an essential element of an authentically social and democratic economic policy, and it is the guarantee of a correct social order. The Church’s social doctrine requires that ownership of goods be equally accessible to all177. …the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone… 178. Individual persons may not use their resources without considering the effects that this use will have, rather they must act in a way that benefits not only themselves and their family but also the common good… 179. New technological and scientific knowledge must be placed at the service of mankind’s primary needs, gradually increasing humanity’s common patrimony […] “It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies which leave so many countries on the margins of development… 180. …Individual property is not the only legitimate form of ownership. The ancient form of community property also has a particular importance […] An equitable distribution of land remains ever critical, especially in developing countries and in countries that have recently changed from systems based on collectivities or colonization181. Owners who heedlessly idolize their goods (cf. Mt 6:24, 19:21-26; Lk 16:13) become owned and enslaved by them…

c. The universal destination of goods and the preferential option for the poor

182. The principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force… 183. Human misery is a clear sign of man’s natural condition of frailty and of his need for salvation […] “Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren” …184. The Church’s love for the poor is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, by the poverty of Jesus and by his attention to the poor. This love concerns material poverty and also the numerous forms of cultural and religious poverty […] the Church teaches that one should assist one’s fellow man in his various needs and fills the human community with countless works of corporal and spiritual mercy […] the practice of charity is not limited to alms-giving but implies addressing the social and political dimensions of the problem of poverty […] The Council Fathers strongly recommended that this duty be fulfilled correctly, remembering that “what is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”. Love for the poor is certainly “incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use” (cf. Jas 5:1-6).

Questions for reflection and discussion in fraternity

  1. How can my SFO fraternity be part of the common effort to obtain for every person and for all peoples the conditions necessary for integral development?
  2. How are critical goods such as new technological and scientific knowledge and land being distributed in your region, country and continent? Why so?
  3. How can my SFO fraternity be involved in works of corporal and spiritual mercy and in addressing the social and political dimensions of the problem of poverty?
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