All May be One”
and Jaime Bernardo, SFO
Chairs, National Family Commission
less than one month, the third millennium will be upon us.
Many await the arrival with great hope and much joy, while an equal
number are filled with caution and dread. Still
others are certain that “Y2K” will be the beginning of the end of the world,
when computers will crash and everything will cease to function.
us Catholics, this is the time to lead all Christians in joyful celebration of
the 2000th anniversary of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We look at this event as an opportunity to restore unity and cooperation
among all the Christian denominations. Pope
John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, expressed his desire to
renew Christ’s call for unity to His disciples.
“That all may be one” is, after all, what Christ wants.
The separation of Christians is not supposed to be permanent.
in peace and harmony with all people, which is the basis for ecumenism, is not
new to the Franciscans. Our
Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi, by his life and example, was a witness
to ecumenism. His deep love for Jesus and for all God’s creation, his
enduring commitment to peace and reconciliation, and his respect for human and
animal life has made him a saint not only to Catholics, but also to other
Christians and non-Christians. The
life of Saint Francis can be the common ground upon which dialogue among
Christians can start. The Rule of
the SFO, the way of life we follow, is in perfect harmony with the Holy
Father’s desire for communion, for unity among Christians, and for openness to
conversion – the root of all ecumenism. Conversion is the most significant
event in the life of Saint Francis. For
him, without interior conversion, without newness of mind and viewpoint, there
cannot be reconciliation and peace among all peoples of the world.
As Francis told us, we must be instruments of peace.
are we, as Secular Franciscans, supposed to do? We turn to our Rule of
12 tells us “…obliged to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have
embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and
sisters.” In Way of Life,
Father Portasik said that Secular Franciscans must “recognize the equality
of all men and women, regardless of race, color or creed, as brothers and
sisters of Jesus Christ… they must respect them.”
Secular Franciscans must seek ways to sow peace and harmony by showing
genuine concern for the plight of minorities, immigrants, the poor, the
homeless, the refugees; to look into their needs and find ways to meet them.
As in the case of the immigrants, do they need to be tutored so that they
can communicate well in English? Can
you spend an hour a day to sit down and help them learn to read or speak the
language? The other virtues
necessary to accomplish this goal of peace and harmony are humility, forgiveness
and charity. Father Benet
Fonck, OFM, in Called to Proclaim Christ, reminds us that everything we
are and do comes from the Lord and flows back to Him. As we practice humility,
forgiveness, and charity to our poor brothers and sisters, we become witnesses
to others that Christ is the focus of our lives.
SFO Rule, Article 13 says:
As the Father sees in every person the features of His Son, the first-born
of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and
courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves
on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall
strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.
Article gives the basis of all ecumenical initiatives. All of us whom God
created are “gifts” from God. We
are created in His own image and likeness, but some persons decide not to follow
His image. They want to be on their
own. Secular Franciscans are called
to accept them as they are, with understanding and kindness. We are called not to be judgmental, not to focus on their
failings, nor to criticize them for their faults. Instead, we should build community with them and accept them
as they are. Once Secular
Franciscans accept someone as their brother or sister, a sense of community is
developed. This includes the lowly, the abandoned, children, prisoners,
divorced, and poor starving families.
the SFO Rule, Article 19, we find this directive to all Secular
Franciscans: “Mindful that they
are bearers of peace which must built unceasingly, they should seek out ways of
unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the
divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.”
in this troubled society, full of incidences of crime, death, cruelty, and
individual and family tragedies, Secular Franciscans are called nevertheless to
be “bearers of peace”. The Rule suggests the promotion of dialogue.
This is not an easy task. Dialogue
gives people the courage to be open, to be truthful to one another, and to show
faith in one another. Father Benet
points out that “Secular Franciscan ministry begins with justice and ends with
peace”. We can evangelize others by communicating to them our own
peace and joy. But we cannot give
what we do not have. Before one can
be a peacemaker, one must have peace within oneself.
Questions for Discussion:
In your own little way, how can
you bring joy and peace to others?
How can you promote unity and
harmony in your own family? In your neighborhood?