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franciscan - September 2000

© The Society of Saint Francis, 2000

Minister’s Letter

Sister Teresa CSF, Minister General of the First Order Sisters, writes:

To say that human beings are made up of body, mind and spirit is a truism (defined in my dictionary as ‘a statement too obviously true or too hackneyed to be worth making’) yet our present-day society frequently extols one aspect of personhood to the detriment of the others. One has only to spend an hour in front of a television set to be made fully aware of this.

The Christian gospel, by contrast, is a gospel for the whole person. Jesus himself was not an ascetic in the commonly accepted use of the term. He did not mortify his body or treat it excessively harshly but disciplined it to become the perfect instrument for his purpose – ‘Behold, a glutton and a wine-bibber’ was the taunt of his enemies. He was able to spend whole nights in prayer that his spirit might be in constant communion with his Father, and he enjoyed eating with his friends. He was clearly well versed in the law and the scriptures, and was invited to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth, his home town. Some of his responses to the Pharisees show the agility of his mind, for example ‘Render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God.’ (Luke 20.25)

The theme of this edition of franciscan is Prayer, Study and Work which, together, make up an integrated whole, touching the heart of ourselves as persons of spirit, mind and body.

The Principles of the First Order bid us recognize prayer, study and work as the heart of our Franciscan life, reminding us that ‘without the constant renewal of divine grace [in prayer] the will is weakened, the conscience grows dull, the mind loses its freshness and even the bodily vigour is impaired’. The balance will be different for each of us but, if we are to be fulfilled and effective in our ministry, we need to be deeply-rooted in prayer and informed by our study that both these may be expressed in our active work.

I was recently privileged to be asked to preach at a service of ordination to the priesthood. As I prepared the sermon, I was aware of the fundamental importance of prayer and the necessity of keeping it alive and fresh by regular study, in order to maintain a balance in an often lonely ministry.

It is a temptation for many of us to be over active and to allow our personal ministry to over-ride both our prayer and our study, especially when that ministry is largely a response to the demands that others make on us.
We who live in community are fortunate in having a time-table, which ensures that time is set apart for each of these activities of prayer, study and work; and also having brothers and sisters to whom we are accountable. Far harder, often, for those who do not have this privilege.

An edition of franciscan on this theme gives us the opportunity and the impetus to look again at our own lives, to ensure the balance for us is as we would wish it to be in order that all that we have and all that we are might be used to the glory of God. f


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