BECOMING A FRANCISCAN
Becoming a Franciscan entails several things, but it begins with the initial realization that you will be embarking on a new life, a closer following of Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. Becoming a Franciscan will foster your continued conversion, form you to a greater likeness of Christ as an instrument of God’s peace. Becoming a Franciscan is the embracing of the charism of St. Francis of living the Gospel life, with a greater focus on Scripture to understand God's will and guidance. Becoming a Franciscan is a commitment to know St. Francis and his life and how you too can respond positively to what ever God is calling you to do. Becoming a Franciscan is a vocation to live in fraternity with others, who God has called to be single minded in the goal to know, love and serve Him.
The Charism of St. Francis
Becoming a Franciscan means embracing the charism of St. Francis. Charism is a term that indicates a personal gift of the Spirit used for the good of all the Church. When a charism is approved by the Pope, the charism is said to participate in the official mission of the Church in making Christ present in the world. The charism of St. Francis of Assisi is simply to live the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone called by grace of God to do likewise and admitted by the proper authority into any of the three Orders of St. Francis belongs to the Franciscan family.
Scripture: The Gospel Way of Life
In the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II The Way of Life states, “The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” Scripture for Franciscans is not something we refer to only as an act of the intellect, but an implementation into our daily lives.
As Franciscans it does not suffice for us to only refer to scripture, but to study it. In the General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order, Form of Life and Apostolic Activity, Article 9.2 states, “The secular Franciscan, committed to following the example and the teachings of Christ, must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture...” We make use of modern scriptural study to deepen our understanding of God’s word and to acquire a greater sense of who God is. We compare scripture to our life experiences and allow God to guide us in individually and collectively in fraternity. Like our Seraphic Father St. Francis, we recognized the Word of God as the preeminent source for knowing and following the Will of God, and refer to Scriptures in our decision making process.
Becoming a Franciscan requires a certain level of commitment. Specifically a commitment to understand who St. Francis of Assisi was, how his entire life was a response to God’s call to “...repair my house...” and to discern what will be your response in your life. Although life in fraternity and going through the process of becoming a Franciscan certainly helps to acquire this understanding, it is not enough. To complete this endeavor, one must embark on study and reading.
Anyone who is becoming a Franciscan should feel inspired to read and study, to grow in one’s understanding of Franciscan spirituality, the Franciscan charism, who the Secular Franciscans are, and in general to discern what is God calling you to do. We would like to encourage all those who are interested in becoming a Franciscan to read articles and books on St. Francis of Assisi. A good place to begin would be with an article written by Paschal Robinson, OFM entitled, St. Francis of Assisi. For further readings, we recommend the following:
- St. Francis of Assisi A Biography by Omer Englebert
- God’s Fool, The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Julien Green
- The First Life of Saint Francis of Assisi by Thomas of Celano
- The Little Flowers of St. Francis by Raphael Brown
- The Way of St. Francis, The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality For Everyone by Murray Bodo, OFM
Becoming a Franciscan means a greater prayer life, specifically the recital of the Divine Office, privately and in common with other fraternity members. A prayer specific to the Franciscan tradition is the Franciscan Crown Rosary, which invites us to celebrate the joys of God’s power at work in Mary. Regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II The Way of Life states, "The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to his every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love of her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.” St. Francis had a great love for Mary and as Queen of the Franciscan Order, Mary has done great things through many Franciscans such as Maximillian Kolbe, Pope Pius X, Blessed John Duns Scotus, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II and many more.
An Instrument of God's Peace
Becoming a Franciscan means becoming a peace maker, recognizing those opportunities that God brings to us as a call to action. As the Secular Franciscan Rule Chapter II The Way Of Life, states, “Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” As the first group of Secular Franciscans responded to St. Francis way of life by positively impacting their war torn and violent society by refusing to bear arms and in so doing, put a crimp in the war machines, we too must meet those challenges facing our society of today and like our brothers and sisters of the past, reject violence and seek ways of reconciliation and peace.
Opportunities to be instruments of God's peace arise at times from our monthly meetings with commissioned projects that take on new initiatives directly addressing current issues. This may translate into many different forms of action, one of which is the organization of an awareness effort such as that on the evil of abortion, euthanasia, same sex “marriage,” and others. We, like St. Francis, must take on courageous initiatives, trusting fully in God with a non-violent attitude and with a strong desire for peace and reconciliation, working for peace that flows from God.
One of the most well demonstrated examples of Franciscan peacemaking was by St. Francis himself with his response to God's call to resolve the problem of the wolf of Gubbio. We encourage all to visit our Wolf of Gubbio page to learn more about St. Francis' response and the lessons to be learned from it.
Becoming a Franciscan means that your Christian life will change not only on an individual level, but together in a group with others who are like minded and called like you, to journey through this life in fraternity. Fraternity, one of the four pillars of Franciscan spirituality, creates an environment conducive to the Franciscan journey as it is easier for each member to live a Christian life with others who are doing likewise. For St. Francis, having the brothers live and work together strengthened each other and the Church. Everyone in fraternity is called to be single minded in the goal to know, love and serve God. In fraternity, Franciscans do what Christ meant for them to do and that is to share the fruits he has blessed each individual with, making a positive difference in their homes, at work, within the local community, in Canada and throughout the world. Each member with his/her gifts comprises what is referred to as the Perfect Friar.