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franciscan - January 2000

© The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

Minister's Letter

Sister Joyce CSF, Minister of the First Order Sisters of the European Province, writes:

I am conscious that this is the first issue of franciscan for the new Millennium. Here in London, we have been very aware of the building of the Dome at Greenwich, changing the shape of the skyline, and all the discussion about the contents of its various zones; also the London Eye ( a giant Ferris wheel) now dominates the Thames South Bank at Westminster. Both structures have consumed vast financial resources to erect, but will also attract many to view and ride.

However there is yet another London millennium project that has hardly rated much media attention but which provides for me a more appropriate message for the new era. That is the sculpture that has been placed in Trafalgar Square on the fourth plinth, vacant for so many years.

It is an apparently small figure (though life size) of Christ standing on one edge of the pillar, a crown of thorns on his head, his hands tied behind his back. It is by Mark Wallinger and titled Ecce Homo. The contrast of this figure of Christ in pale-coloured material with the rest of the Square may be imagined easily; the triumphalism of Nelsonís column, the enormous black horses with their riders on the other pillars. Any comparison with either the Dome or the Eye pales into insignificance. However, it proclaims the power of a very different kind of victory, the message of the Cross, largely ignored by most of the thousands of people who visit or pass by the Square each day, but for those who have eyes to see, it cannot be disregarded. If you havenít seen it yet, do make a pilgrimage there, if possible, to see for yourself. Nevertheless, the miracle is that this sculpture is there at all, albeit not permanently as yet, to proclaim in its smallness the magnitude of the gospel message of Christís triumph over death and the new life on offer for those who follow in his footsteps.

In September we held our First Order Chapters in Brisbane, Australia. I want to share with you some excerpts from the letter sent from the Chapter to all brothers and sisters, as we tried to capture something of what our smallness might mean for us:
ďAs we approach the new millennium and begin to think about how we can observe and celebrate this event, we Franciscans have one really important thing to offer: ourselves! Our individual stories and our common life rooted in the Franciscan story cohere around the fact of our minority. Littleness is our greatest gift and challenge to the new millennium . . .

ďThe Franciscan charism of trying things out and considering new ways holds out the possibility of Jubilee: release from routine thinking, redemption from debt and the hope of rebuilding human communities.

ďAs we try to recognise the truth about ourselves and God, that we are the little brothers and sisters of Jesus in the way of Francis, then God can build us into a community of grace and love. Our victories and failures bear witness, to those we would help, of Godís power, love and the Gospel way of life.Ē

May God bless you all as we journey together into the new millennium. §


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CSF European Province First Order Sisters: Registered Charity Number 286615
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