We cannot live or share our Faith until we know what we believe. Those of you who were "born into the Faith," that is, baptised into the Roman Catholic Faith because your parents arranged it, when you were just a baby, probably have a pretty sound background in the tenets of the Faith. In your younger years you may have attended CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) lesson in the Catholic Faith for elementary and/or high school students. But if you are 72, like myself, it is pretty hard to recall what I was taught some 55 years ago! Fortunately, I have kept up, attended Holy Mass every Sunday, listened to fairly good to excellent homilies over the years, and read a lot. I hope you have too, otherwise you may have forgotten the basics. I suggest you do some reading in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a fine book published by the Vatican, which tells about all there is to know about the practice of the Catholic Faith. In addition, please get to know the Bible, especially the New Testament.
People, like myself and others, who are Secular Franciscans are always learning, every Fraternity meeting we have the opportunity to learn something we may have forgotten or even something new. The Secular Franciscan Order now, for the first time (as of 2011) has published a worldwide formation text, for all its professed and candidate members, so that the basics of the teaching of Franciscan spirituality is the same all throughout the Order. And,on April 18th, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Franciscan Family during the Mat Chapter saying: "Dear friends, the last word I wish to leave you with is the same word that the Risen Jesus consigned to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28: 19; Mk 16: 15) …and continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. … Like Francis, always begin with yourselves.”
We begin with ourselves, always, by living our Faith with joy and enthusiasm, with knowing exactly what we believe, and then we GO, and share God's gift of Love to all we reach with our words, or put another way, with HIS Word! Yes, that used to be something only bishops and priests did. And lately, bishops, priests, deacons, and people of the laity are involved in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Certainly, as the Pope asked us to do, we, members of the Secular Franciscan Order, are expected to share God's Word with the world.
This is a great challenge, because there are people in this big world who do not value His Word, and in fact, who do everything possible to contradict it. I have no wish to be melodramatic about it, but there may come a time when our intention is publicly and openly challenged, so we must have courage. Courage to defend Jesus Christ. I shall do my best to do this, and I pray He will keep me from harm, and all of you, too.
Let us join our beloved Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi. The mandate he was given by the Lord, was to go "repair my house." Francis initially believed God asked him to repair a church building with mortar and bricks, but as we now know, we are to repair the "Body of Christ." The "Body of Christ" is the Church. Our task is not to use mortal and bricks, but to spread the love of Jesus Christ to those who need it the most. Those who need spiritual healing, and those who are away, for whatever reason, from the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. I am willing to talk to anyone who needs help. Jesus will probably send me someone who needs help, that is how it usually goes.
Although I have not recently visited with an inmate in "Jail Ministry," in which I am involved, because those who have fallen away from Catholicism aren't inviting us to talk to them, a message I received today via the local chaplain said that a certain individual has read the book (a Bible given him), and he felt that was enough. That's sad. If I were an inmate, I would be glad someone is there, volunteering his or her time, to talk with me about Jesus, and to pray with me. Let us pray for all those who have closed the door behind them, separating themselves from Jesus, the Healer. There are so many people suffering because they are living in sin. They need His help, but are too proud (perhaps) to ask for it. May God have mercy on them.
Be open to people who ask you to help, at least see what you can do. Or, if you feel you cannot do much, then refer them to someone who can. Pray about it, pray for the individual who asked assistance. For his or her well being, and that soon, he be restored to the body of Christ!
GO, and build My Church! (as Jesus told St. Francis to do!). As Franciscans, that is our job!
God bless you!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
October 23, 2012