National Secular Franciscan
All Commissions Conference - June 17-20, 2004
Regis University - Denver, Colorado
Keynote 3, Theme: "Turning Up The Flame: The Body - ACTION"
Presented by Mary and Anthony Mazotti, SFO
My Sisters and Brothers:
Anthony and I are honored to present to you the last of the three keynotes on "Turning up the Flame" of the Commissions. The first two keynotes were on "Spirit" by Fr. Richard Trezza. O.F.M., and the second on "Mind" by Deacon David and Therese Ream, S.F.O. These talks clearly laid the foundation upon which we should base the ACTION of our Commissions. Our presentation will be on the "Body" ----the ACTION that should follow!
Proverbs 19:2 says: "Without knowledge, even zeal is not good." That is why we need to have the knowledge of the two previous talks. They give authenticity to our action! It is through "Spirit" and "Mind" that consciousness and awareness surface and action---Apostolic Action, results with the purpose of God as its focus.
But, what about some of our members who aren't happy with the "Commissions" part of our Rule? ...who haven't made the connection yet, that the Commissions reflect God's eternal plan of moving forward the full development and dignity of all of humanity and creation in Christ... using "us" as His Co-Creators. We need to work on showing this "connection" when talking about the ultimate purpose of the Commissions. (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World - Gaudium et Spes, Articles 9-20)
It was for the reasons outlined in this Vatican II document, and Article 6 of Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, that I encouraged our fraternity to study and discuss all of its 93 articles as their "On-Going Formation." I prepared 15 sessions of study questions, relating them to Article 6 of the Rule, in which is stated, "Therefore they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words." The Vatican II document expands on this "mission" of the church, which is our mission, too.
It wasn't an easy challenge for our fraternity considering the document's long rambling paragraphs! In spite of the moans and groans of our 12 members, the entire document was studied. With some humor along the way, I would say, "Just think of yourselves as being the only fraternity in the United States to have gone through this orienting document on the mission of the church in the world - meaning us.
Think about it! What has been our response as an Order regarding the Commissions of the Rule? How have we measured up as disciples of Christ? Which are we: HOT? - COLD? - UNLIT? - DYING?
Anthony and I have developed this folded pamphlet to help you and your fraternities make LIVING THE COMMISSIONS more diversified - with more imagination - and enthusiasm. We asked each of the National Apostolic and Franciscan Youth/Young Adult chairs to send us a list of 25 "Ways to Live Their Commissions." The Chairs included: Jaime and Sonia Bernardo, SFO (Family); Sarah and Dan Mulholland, SFO (Peace and Justice); Pauline Cahalan, SFO, (Work); Bill Fontenot and Jane DeRose-Bamman, SFO (Ecology); and Kathy Taormina, and Jeanne McLees, SFO (Franciscan Youth/Young Adult). We URGE you to MAKE COPIES FOR YOUR FRATERNITY MINISTERS - AND THAT they, in turn, make these inexpensive copies for every member, candidate and inquirer. (Use legal-size paper.) The PURPOSE for this pamphlet is to help give Seculars a picture - AN OVERVIEW of what ACTIONS can be included under each of these Commissions. They include little ways, medium ways, and bold forefront ways.
We discovered that the National Family Commission calendars have daily ways to live the Family Commission. We asked the National Co-chairs, Jaime and Sonia Bernardo, SFO, for permission to take 25 of their daily ways from their calendars to add to the pamphlet. (Available through Franciscan Resources) What a Bonanza! Each calendar shows 365 ways to live this Commission daily.
I will share with you two examples listed under each of the Commissions. These are suggestions. We are sure you will think of more apostolic works once you see the entire pamphlet:
Congratulations to those of you who are already living many of these ACTIONS.
Remember - these are just "starters." You can "turn up the flame" of action by:
IN ALL OF THESE---BE NEITHER COLD NOR LUKEWARM!
BE ON FIRE!
The word "COMMISSIONS" (Apostolic Articles in the Rule) came into being in the SFO in United States around the mid 1980's. It was given to the National Franciscan Youth/ Young Adult Commission in 1995, when established in the United States. The words "Commission or Commissioning," are powerful words! They are action words signifying "Sacred Calling - to act in God's behalf - for His special purpose: Acts such as performed by angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, the church - including all of us. Commissioning" has holy roots in sacred history, in the Old and New Testament - and theological significance in the Gospels, church documents, and Franciscan Movement. Still, many Seculars have been slow to warm up to the Apostolic Commissions. Some excuses have been: "We are too old to change," or, "I don't like the word," or I'm too busy!" What many seculars don't realize is that they are ALREADY doing many of the works of the Commissions - but don't see them as connected to the Commissions listed in articles of the Rule. (Check out the Rule and pamphlet.)
All Secular Leaders, be comforted! We haven't been the only ones to have problems convincing people to do "Good Works." James, the Apostle, in preaching the Good News had his struggles with the early Christian Church. He wrote: "Faith that does nothing in practice is thoroughly lifeless." (Jas 2:14-26) To those who argued with him, he sharply wrote, "Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that without works faith is idle?" A tough rebuke to early Christians who thought that all they needed to do was to have faith in Christ - without works. We are not sure how he did Christ's teachings to convert. It must have been mostly by word of mouth- with the help of other disciples - not having the advantages of copy machines, workshops and e-mail. But he did have the help of the "promised Holy Spirit! In his New Testatment letter, James wrote:
"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, "Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed," but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice."
When you read the lists of suggested Apostolic Actions in the pamphlet, you will see that some of the suggestions are very simple - St. Therese, "the Little Flower," wanted to do great things for Christ, such as missionary work, but she was dying of tuberculosis. She could only do "little acts" of love. She wondered often if her "little way" was pleasing to God. She received a sign that it was pleasing, and she became at peace. God sees the love in our hearts, our good will, and our limitations.
In checking out the pamphlet, you will be happy to find that you are already doing many of the suggested ACTIONS. You might even say, "I never thought that these were Apostolic Actions - they are such little acts!"
We should not look at the APOSTOLIC COMMISSIONS AS JUST ADDING ANOTHER BURDEN TO OUR LIVES. Try adding a little more enthusiasm and a little more love, when you live the individual Commissions. It will make a big difference in its positive outcome.
Finally, I would like to say a few words to those Secular Franciscans called to BOLDER ACTION - being at the forefront. These actions can take place suddenly or planned. In our case, it happened after our National Executive Council took a field trip into Juarez, Mexico, to see some of the conditions in which the poor lived. After that visit, and seeing the parish in which Fr. Larry Bernard, OFM, was Pastor, I was determined that we should return to see if we could help him in any way. Brushing up on my Spanish, I volunteered to teach in his Summer and Spring program for children. I even gave two courses in "Methods of Teaching Catechism" and three days of spiritual meditations on the "Lord's Prayer" in Spanish. The fruits of those three years were deeply rewarding to me and Anthony.
Being at "the forefront" can take place in almost any area of the social arena for the good of humanity and God's environment. A few years ago in Northern California Redwood tree country, a young woman by the name of Julia "Butterfly" Hill, in order to prevent an ancient Redwood tree and nearby ancient grove from being destroyed in clear-cutting, had a platform built high into the branches of a giant Redwood (Luna). She lived 2 years in the tree without coming down (12-10-97 to 12-18-99). She brought world-wide attention to indiscriminate logging. Through her efforts and much publicity, she saved both her tree and the magnificent 1000 year-old small grove of Redwoods for the admiration of thousands of people who visit them. (http://www.google.com - Julia "Butterfly" Hill - Ecology Hall of Fame)
Many of you are doing works equally heroic by:
The list is endless. You have been given a special Call. Those who do these "actions" are blessed with an abundance of courage, and are catalysts for positive changes in the on-going development of humanity, and the rest of creation in Jesus Christ.
My brothers and Sisters, Anthony and I wish to say: The most important ACTION taken this week was your coming to this very inspiring Conference, and attending your special workshops. We pray that you received a lot of new ideas---that you will pass these on to others through workshops. When you hand out copies of the pamphlet, encourage members to add other apostolates. Have them place a reminder at the top of their pamphlet saying: "I am a Co-Creator with the Blessed Trinity." GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU BRING FORTH THE KINGDOM OF GOD!