Pentecost: Holy Spirit is in our
"The Holy Spirit is working in the Church and in the world. We have, especially in
past judgments, limited the work of the Spirit to the Church. One of our challenges, as Secular Franciscans, is to connect the two," wrote William Wicks, OFS, National Minister, in TAU-USA, Issue
37 (Winter 2002).
Mr. Wicks, continues, "This is what Francis did in his time. He offered Gospel living to all that would embrace it, not just the certified religious. He proved that you did not have to leave the world to be holy. Please know this. You do not have to leave the world to be holy. Holiness is attainable in the way we live our life in the world. The "about time" wonderful message of the Second Vatican Council is that we are all called to the same holiness."
There is, in this world, a wonderful body of people who love the Holy Spirit. They are those who are Charismatic. The "rest of the Church" in some areas of the world look upon people who are devoted to the Charismatic movement as the lunatic fringe. They are not. In fact, Saint John Paul II strong endorses the charismatic element in the Church. How does all this tie in with that challenge of all Secular Franciscans, to connect the Holy Spirit with the Church?
First of all, like Saint Francis, our call as Franciscans is also to "Rebuild My Church." That Saint Francis first believed that this meant taking stones to mortar to physically rebuild churches in the days that churches in the Umbrian Valley were in great states of disrepair, is understandable. But now in the 21st Century after 800-900 years of Franciscan history, we, as Franciscans realize that we are to "Rebuild My Church" in a different way. Who is Church? WE are Church. In any congregation, either singly or collectively, there are people who've not progressed at all. They have not yet expanded their love for Jesus into action for Jesus.
If any Parish calls for parishioners to step forward to join Ministries and Apostolates as members of the laity, if we're blessed 10% of the people will come forward. Usually, it is far fewer. Why? Many people have not yet come to realize that, as Mr. Wicks states, "You do not have to leave the world to be holy." People attend Sunday Mass and for the rest do not seem interested to move their love for God and the Church into personal action. Parishioners who have a strong personal spiritual relationship with Jesus, are also those who come forward when help is needed.
Secular Franciscans through their very Franciscan charism are fully open to the Holy Spirit and His love (the love of God) just as Saint Francis was. And Francis put that love into action and founded the three branches of the Franciscan Orders. He created, by the Holy Spirit, a marvelous corps of holy people, priests, brothers and sisters, and the laity, who by profession to the Rule of Saint Francis, have a very personal relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters whom we are privileged to serve.
In essence when we're involved in parish renewal we don't tell anyone we're Franciscans, but by putting the Franciscan charism forward, we hope the Franciscan example becomes a means of evangelization. We quietly go about our tasks, we speak to people about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God. We try to live an exemplary life as a Franciscan but we know we often fail. Then we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and, as Saint Francis said on his deathbed, "Let us begin again because until now, we have done nothing."
Many people in our parishes have the habit of "pigeon-holing" others. It usually comes forth in gossip, which can be sinful. I've heard it many times before: "He's with that Charismatic group, I don't want that kind of person on my committee," or some other thing like that, because some of us still haven't made it past the Second Vatican Council. Some still have one foot in the Council of Trent. That's fine, but we should all be open to the Holy Spirit. There's room for all sorts of people in our Church, and as a result, we form the mainstream of Catholicism in a well-defined way. So let's all be a little more tolerant of each other.
Tolerance is a good thing anyway. If people are tolerant and forgiving, they don't make war! It's as simple as that. When different groups in Church can't get along we must conclude that it is no wonder that whole religions or ethnic groups cannot get along. We must change that. First the changes must occur in the family, then in our churches. Once we ARE able to tolerate everyone we'll discover that happy thought, that we love our brothers and sisters as Christ would have us do, without reservations. And what happens then? If we all evangelize our Faith, and pray a lot, particularly the Holy Rosary, there will be less of everything that is wrong in the world.
So, Franciscans have a special task. Through our Franciscan charism, let us continue to live our lives as an example of the peacemaker Jesus was. Let us live a holy life and let us do it well. Let us frequently invoke the Holy Spirit in all that we do. We love the Holy Spirit because He is the love of God!
First written in 2003, revised May 2015
Fred S. Schaeffer, OFS
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS