franciscan - May 2002
© The Society of Saint Francis, 2002
Brother Damian SSF, Minister Provincial of the First Order Brothers, European Province, writes:
In writing this, my last letter as the Brother’s Minister Provincial, allow me one sentence to express my thanks for all the prayers, support and encouragement that have undergirded my two terms of Office. And with that, just a thought about the very term ‘Minister’, which we draw from our Franciscan heritage, pointing as it has for me to the pastoral works of listening, of answering letters, of journeying, of the need to be still, and to give attention, encouragement, to consult, to read reflectively, to trust, to be let down, to live with my own inadequacies and to forgive others theirs.
Looking over my shoulder, the Roman Catholic friars are doubly fortunate to inherit within their nomenclature their Order’s title of ‘lesser brothers’. It is as lesser sisters and brothers that we are called to be. In the ecumenical dimension of my work I have met many examples to that attractive, self-effacing witness of life; within our own family too. However, I find it is not always easy to desire to maintain the full spirit of that descriptive title. Yet if we are not lesser, then what are we?
The Franciscan Association of Great Britain, of which the Anglican Orders are associate members, provides the opportunity for the Ministers to meet together regularly. Through the friendships that are built up, we have been able to establish good links with the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, to produce a series of calendars over the Millennium and, in the autumn of this year, a Franciscan Companion handbook is to be published by Canterbury Press, the joint work of Roman Catholic and Anglican Franciscans. Watch this space!
One of the challenging tasks when compiling this Companion handbook has been to identify what are the modern Franciscan attitudes which count. Of course, we have noted the concern and care of creation, peace issues and inter-faith dialogue, but also very basic matters about enhancing human dignity, of sharing our own woundedness with other wounded people, about creating places of hospitality for those otherwise excluded from the circle of belonging.
Splendid stuff, but how aware we are in the First Order that we can hardly scratch the surface of need. How important, therefore, that in order to function effectively it must be through the widest network possible. Recognising how popular are the thirteenth-century characters of Francis and Clare, how do we help to make the connection so that today’s wounded and outcast are similarly touched by their spirit? Tackling the issues thrown up by poverty and degradation remain overwhelming, in spite of increased political initiatives. While Gordon Brown and Clare Short are (in my opinion) welcome to become part of the Franciscan family, we are constantly reminded that the poor are with us always.
Christian Aid – with whom the SSF First and Third Orders have been having close talks recently, for our mutual benefit – serve the churches in Great Britain and Ireland by trying to help us keep in touch with the poor. Their current campaign, following on from Jubilee 2000, is being aimed at reforming the international trade laws. They tell us that ,by amending the existing trade laws, poor and vulnerable communities will be helped to an even greater degree than by the cancelling of un-repayable debt. Effective action to bring about fundamental changes to the way our world lives together is desperately urgent. Communication is weak. In spite of its wealth, or because of it, both America and Europe are betraying huge signs of insecurity. Into that vacuum we should offer to share our convictions concerning all these Gospel attitudes that Francis worked for in his day.
A native American grandfather was talking to his grandson, following the air attacks last September. He admitted, ‘I feel two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, angry and violent; the other is loving and compassionate.’
The boy said, ‘Which wolf is going to win the fight in your heart?’
His grandfather replied: ‘The one that I feed.’ f
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