We talk a lot about Evangelization. Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Mt.28:19) So the Holy Church asks us to evangelize because Jesus asks this of the Church and the Church is the Body of Christ. We who love Him are the Body of Christ. The Church, headed by Pope Francis I, needs our help. She needs our help in passing the Word of Christ, the Holy Gospels, so that more people will fall into unity with the Church to find everlasting Salvation.
That's what Christian Evangelization is all about, bringing Christ's love to those who not yet know and have it, because only through Jesus Christ do we have the option of Everlasting Life. The Secular Franciscan way of life is “a program for evangelization’: how we ourselves are evangelized after the manner of Francis and secondly how we evangelize others.†”
To evangelize anyone you need a plan. Some courageous souls go stand on a street corner and begin to spread the Word in a crowd. That works for some but not for most. Sacred Scripture as a guide, and some notion where to begin forms a plan. We ask the Holy Spirit for help and it is given. Franciscan fraternities begin teaching applicants through a plan called "For Up to Now" (based on St. Francis of Assisi's words 'Let us begin again, for up to now we have done nothing.' The plan is also known as the FUN manual.
At the beginning of this year I was elected "Formation Director" of my fraternity and now find myself studying this material, this plan, from the perspective of instructing others. It's a challenge, that will take about two years per applicant. Time well invested when done right! And, at the same time, it is a thorough review for the teacher (a professed Secular Franciscan), a review many Franciscans can get something out of that they may have missed the first time. This is particularly true because FUN is very new. It was devised by the International Fraternity (CIOFS) beginning in 2008, maybe even earlier. But it wasn't until 2012 that the FUN Manual was distributed to officers and formation directors of OFS fraternities in the Florida area of Five Franciscan Martyrs Region. Each fraternity has several copies of which we are allowed to make copies for others (principally for those whom we are instructing) - bearing in mind that it 'just' fits in a 3-inch binder. That's a lot of paper to copy.
To teach or evangelize, we need to be prepared in yet another way. We need to be a devout Catholic, attending Holy Mass as required, and attending also when it is not required such as on Weekdays, if at all possible. We need not only to know our Faith, but also to Live our Faith.
Of course we know that non-Catholic Christians also evangelize. We respect that. We are all Christians. But Franciscan Formation teaching is for a specific group of people seeking to go through life following the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi, and those people need to discern eventually that they have been given a Call or Vocation by the Lord to become Franciscans. Incidentally, some non-Catholic Christian faiths communities are also associated with lay Franciscans. St. Francis of Assisi is a very popular saint, known throughout the entire world.
May your heart be aflame with love for Jesus and St. Francis, our Seraphic Father. Let us also frequently ask Jesus' Mother, Mary, for guidance and intercession. Amen.
Peace and Good,
Fred S. Schaeffer, OFS
Recommended Reading: Disciples Called to Witness, The New Envangelization.
Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, 2012 United states Conference of Catholic bishops, Washington, DC
† Finding Identity as a Secular Franciscan. Edward M. Zablocki, SFO (NAFRA Document)
[Reprinted in modified form in The Cord (November, 1993, 317-320). Used with
permission of the Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, NY]