After the Manner of St. Francis

 

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

The second element that distinguishes Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order is its necessary reference to St Francis.  What is promised is to live the gospel after the manner of St Francis, following in his footsteps and according to his example and the instructions given by him, which today are gathered together in the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order.

The constant concern to underline the fact that Secular Franciscans intend to live the gospel after the manner of St Francis and by means of this Rule authenticated by the Church (Rule 2; Const 1,3; 8,1), is by no means fortuitous.

Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order therefore has this essential structure: the life of Secular Franciscans depends on the gospel, mediated by the inspiration and experience of Francis of Assisi, who from the beginning of his conversion took it as his rule of life and action.

However, we still need to make the point that Francis’ intention was simply to return to the Gospel of Jesus. Every Franciscan vocation is therefore an evangelical-Franciscan vocation, not because Francis’ experience is intended as a substitute for the gospel, but because the gospel is rendered transparent through the mediation of Francis.   So, for Franciscans it is a question of learning from Francis and, like him, of knowing no other rule or life except that of the gospel of Jesus. This mediation by Francis lies at the origin of our vocation.

The Franciscan mediation of the gospel extends to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, to “this Rule” (and to no other), as “authenticated by the Church”. Through its approval at the highest level, the Church takes “ownership” of the SFO Rule (the Rule belongs to the Church) and by its authority proposes it to the Secular Franciscans. In this way the Church simply transmits to Secular Franciscans the gospel message of salvation, which is spirit and life for all believers.

Therefore, for those who make profession in the Secular Franciscan Order in order to “attain the perfection of charity in their secular state” (Rule 2), the reference to Francis, the Rule and the Constitutions is not an optional matter: it sets the standard, it is the norm.  Obviously everything depends on how one understands and lives the Franciscan vocation. A true vocation is one that takes hold of a person’s whole being, becomes the very substance of one’s being as a person, to such an extent that the individual is unable to think of or define himself except as one who is called to the evangelical-Franciscan life. Rule and Constitutions, are not extrinsic realities to the life of a Secular Franciscan, but are themselves his/her life, on the basis of the gospel.  In fact, we ought to speak of a” life” rather than a Rule, thus accepting all the fullness of St Francis’ concept. For him, life was to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He never intended to issue rules for his companions or followers, whether religious or secular; he simply put forward a style of life, one that flowed from the gospel.. Consequently, in his writings, Francis speaks more of “life” than of a Rule  (“This is the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Brother Francis asked the Lord Pope Innocent to grant and confirm for him”: Rnb) and when he says Rule, he sometimes puts Rule and life together (cfr Rb). For Francis the Rule is only the gospel, to be lived and observed literally and in its entirety. The saying of the SFO Rule derives from this: “The Rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, following the example of Francis of Assisi» (Rule 4).

In conclusion, Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order, as a promise to live the gospel in the manner of St Francis, aims to put before us the radical, light-filled and joyful style in which Francis listens to the gospel and commits himself to live it.

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The Promise to Live the Gospel Life

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

Our discussion of the meaning of the terminology up to this point brings out the personal aspect:  Profession is an action involving the whole person and every human faculty. The immediate reference is necessarily to the human will, because the profession or promise implies determination, a firm decision and commitment. Therefore a first definition of Profession might be this: it is a personal commitment. The Rule, Constitutions and Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order are full of references to this commitment. Continue reading “The Promise to Live the Gospel Life”

The Value of Profession

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

Let us repeat once more that promise, purpose and, most of all, profession are commonly used to indicate the commitment of those members of Christ’s faithful who oblige themselves before God and the Church with vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, normally taken in an Institute of consecrated life, canonically erected by the competent authority of the Church (CIC, can. 573,1-2). Therefore the significance they assume in the context of the religious life is closest to that which the same terms have     in the current canonical and liturgical sources of the Secular Franciscan Order.   Continue reading “The Value of Profession”

Profession, Purpose, and Promise

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

Now we come to the meaning of the terms profession and purpose, or intention, and of the expression promise to live the gospel life, found in the Rule, the Constitutions and the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order. They indicate the effort and commitment Secular Franciscan take on when they make profession. Continue reading “Profession, Purpose, and Promise”

The Commitment of Profession

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

The formula of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order reads:

I, N.N., by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his kingdom(Ritual II,31).

Prior to that, the Preface to the Ritual states:

The nature of commitment to the gospel life is: the renewal of one’s consecration and promises made at baptism and confirmation. This means dedicating oneself to God through his People with all the consequences flowing from it, up to the present moment, in order to live in union with God and to hold firm to his plan of salvation, by means of a consecration that is to be lived in the world” (14a).

With reference to the texts just quoted, we should note that the concept of consecration has many meanings, of which the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order has chosen one, intending to highlight most of all the human effort to dedicate oneself to God. The Ritual uses the verb to consecrate, giving it the meaning of to devote, in other words to dedicate, reserve and destine a thing or a person for God and His exclusive service. It goes without saying that in the specific context of the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order it is persons who are involved; consequently, they are the ones who must offer themselves to God with full freedom and awareness.

From this point of view profession is the act by which a person places him/herself into the hands (mancipare = manus capere) of God, enabling God to take hold of him, with the result that from the precise moment of profession, the person no longer belongs to him/herself, but is considered as totally “expropriated” and at God’s entire disposal. By virtue of profession, the person becomes God’s property, and therefore “sacred”

In reality however, the verb consecrate and its corresponding noun consecration, properly indicate the act by which God takes possession of the person (who is enabled to give him/herself totally by the gift of the Spirit who draws him/her), placing His seal upon the person and making him/her His own exclusive property.

In itself the value of consecration lies in its descending dimension: the person is consecrated, receives consecration from God, who draws him/her to Himself and transforms him inwardly so that he/she is able to live the demands of a superior world.

In the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order this aspect is hardly absent (we met it in part I when we spoke of Profession as a gift of the Spirit), but, using the words consecrate and consecration in the sense of  “to devote”, the Ritual wants to underline the fact that Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order means to consecrate oneself (reflexive) to a particular task or project, allowing oneself to be totally absorbed by it. .

Obviously, the project to which one dedicates oneself totally by profession in the Secular Franciscan Order, is God’s project, and the consequences deriving from consecration are precisely concerned with union with God, adhering to His saving plan and serving the Kingdom by living in and for the world.

Profession and the Church

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

The Christian’s fundamental relationship with the Church is established by Baptism, since Baptism incorporates into the People of God, which is the Body of Christ, the sons and daughters engendered by water and the Holy Spirit. Profession gives rise to a new relationship with the Church, or rather, the basic baptismal relationship, renewed and perfected in confirmation, is made “stronger” and “closer”. As is said in the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order:

“They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession…” (Rule  6).

Continue reading “Profession and the Church”

Profession and Baptism

Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap continues his discussion on profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.

As an action of the Church, la Profession of the gospel life in the Secular Franciscan Order produces ecclesial effects. This is explicitly stated by the Rule in one of its most densely packed theological sections:

“They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words” (n.6).

Continue reading “Profession and Baptism”