Article #5 of the Secular Franciscan Rule provides much food for thought. It invites us to encounter Christ in our Brothers and Sisters:
It is difficult to see Jesus in our brothers and sisters because we usually see the worst in people before seeing the best. We can see imperfection in ourselves but often see imperfection in others before judging ourselves. All this must change if we want to try to see Jesus in our brothers and sisters.
The faults of others do not concern me unless these faults are an immediate threat to my well-being. For the most part, people who meet with me are pleasant or cordial, and thus it is easy to see God’s goodness in them. Where this is not the case, I have two choices, I can try to put them at ease or I can just walk away. It is not written anywhere that I must talk to them, but when I do, I try to be gentle and pleasant.
I probably should have begun by hoping all Franciscans have a deep prayer life and relationship with Jesus. Unless we know Jesus well, it is difficult to see Him in other people. If we can see Jesus in all we meet, this world would be kinder and gentler all around.
In Sacred Scripture
Franciscans pray in various forms, reading, studying Holy Scripture, or praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Prayer is important. Prayer is our Conversation with God. In Sacred Scripture we are never just reading words, we pray as we study the Word of Christ and the important lessons of the epistles.
Looking for guidance in Scriptures: “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken." (Psalm 34:17-20)
According to the above Scripture, 'crying for help' is to pray for relief - not just for oneself, but for all who ask for prayer. When we do this, the Lord hears. He is always with us and saves those who are feeling isolated, sick, brokenhearted in spirit." Here we see an example of guidance in Scripture which for us is also a fervent prayer.
In the Church
Encountering the living and active presence of Christ in the Church happens when we have a steady and frequent Church-life. That means attending Holy Mass on Sundays and Holidays, as every Catholic is expected to do. It also means a level of activity in the life of the parish we are associated with. As a Secular Franciscan, I belong to Divine Mercy Fraternity, a group of 15 Franciscans who gather at St. Helen Catholic Church in Vero Beach, Florida. Almost all of us, health permitting, are active in church ministry. I sing with the Adult Choir, an activity I enjoy and have done for more than 18 years. Other Franciscans are involved as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Lectors at Holy Mass, and several other ministries that are available to lay persons.
It is easy to encounter the presence of Christ in those we meet in fraternity, but we must try to do this with everyone we meet. I pray we may be successful in that endeavor. The growth of our fraternity depends on this, as we grow through example.
In liturgical activity
Our liturgical activity consists of Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours Franciscans pray daily (not mandatory but greatly desired), and our monthly gatherings. As established fraternities, formed under Canon Law, our monthly meetings are liturgical. It is a privilege to attend these monthly functions and I wish they were longer and more often rather than shorter. Our meetings (we call them Gatherings) are two hours in which we have a very short business meeting, a formation program, a social gathering (about 20 minutes; could be longer if our meeting was longer). Conversation and fellowship is very important. All this is followed by prayer: the Liturgy of the Hours and, time permitting, the Franciscan Crown Rosary.
All people, Franciscan or not, should really try to encounter the living and active person of Christ in all they meet. It is the Christian thing to do.
With these thoughts in mind, I wish you a Blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2019.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Dec. 17, 2018
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS