General News from the Province

2009 - the year of many graces

“Christ is the Love of God made flesh, the Only Son and Savior of all. For you, to proclaim Christ is not to impose something foreign on anyone but to communicate to all what each one basically longs for: the eternal love that every human heart is secretly awaiting”

(“Let God’s Light Shine Forth”, The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI).

Grace and peace in abundance to all of you at the beginning of the Year 2009!

The Year 2008 that was very special for our Province has just ended. It was special because we were celebrating the Silver Jubilee of our presence in this part of Africa. We were celebrating 25 years of the “Africa Project”.

We still remember our joyful gathering in Nairobi where we celebrated the Chapter of Mats, with our Special Guest, Br. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, the Minister General of our Order. It was really great to be together and to remember the past time, to celebrate the present and to look with confidence and hope into the future. Let the spirit of unity and fraternity that was among us during those few days of the Chapter of Mats continue to be present in our Province.

The year 2008 is now over, but the celebrations will continue, because we have just entered another year that will be filled with many graces. 800 years ago the simple Rule of Life of the Friars Minor was approved by Pope Innocent III.

Thomas of Celano in “The Life of St. Francis”, in Chapter XIII, described this event in the following words: “When blessed Francis saw that the Lord God was daily increasing their numbers, he wrote for himself and his brothers present and future, simply and in few words, a form of life and a rule. He used primarily words of the holy gospel, longing only for its perfection. He inserted a few other things necessary for the practice of a holy way of life. Then he went to Rome with all his brothers, since he greatly desired that the Lord Pope Innocent the Third confirm for him what he had written.

Presiding over God’s Church at that time was the lord Pope Innocent the Third, a glorious man, prolific in learning, brilliant in speech, burning with zeal for justice in matters which the cause of the Christian faith demanded. When he recognized the wish of the men of God, he first considered the matter and then gave his assent to their request, something he completed by a subsequent action.

Exhorting and then warning them about many things, he blessed Saint Francis and his brothers and said to them: ‘Go with the Lord, brothers, and as the Lord will see fit to inspire you, preach penance to all. When the almighty Lord increases you in numbers and grace, come back to me with joy, and I will grant you more things than these and, with greater confidence, I will entrust you with greater things.’” Thus Pope Innocent III gave oral approval to the document or propositum vitae that Francis and his brothers brought him.

To commemorate this event, the four families of the first Order of St. Francis will be celebrating an International Chapter of Mats from 15 – 18 April in Assisi. Our human weakness divided us, but the spirit of St. Francis will bring us together again and unite us in a common celebration.

During the year 2009 there will be also other important events for us, Friars Minor. In the Order we will be celebrating the General Chapter that will take place in May/June in Assisi and, in the Province we will be celebrating the Provincial Chapter, in July in Nairobi. From all these events we expect to receive an abundance of graces and a clear direction for the future.

To celebrate is important, but it should not end there. After the celebrations we will be expected to go into action with renewed vigor and apostolic zeal and to continue to spread the Good News and the Franciscan Charism to the whole world.

This is the line of the Order that will be discussed in earnest during the next year’s General Chapter. All of us, who fell in love with Jesus Christ and follow him, can’t be silent and keep the Good News only for ourselves.

It is the same with all of us, who fell in love with St. Francis and his way of life. We must spread the Good News and the Franciscan Charism around us by different, available and suitable, means: prayer and contemplation, pastoral ministry, working in hospitals and schools, running retreat centers, preaching the Word of God, teaching in universities, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, promoting justice and peace, etc.

However, aware of the truth that we can’t offer what we don’t have, let us continue to reflect and meditate on the Word of God that gives us strength, courage, wisdom and clear direction in our lives. Only when we absorb it and live according to it, as St. Francis did, we will become true missionaries.

The missionary spirit has always been present among the Franciscans and it should continue to be present and give us courage to go the ends of the world. We are after all “Franciscans without Borders”, as Fr. Vincenzo Brocanelli OFM suggests in his new book “Francescani Senza Frontiere”. It means, I guess, that we should not be afraid to enter any territory. Courage!