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.