Finding Saint Francis

I was looking into the Secular Franciscan Order. I was pretty happy about it and was reading all about Saint Francis. His life and his writings. I still am. But then I read this in this thread post forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=7507301&postcount=16 by Br JR:

The problem is not the rule nor the absence of a habit. The problem are the constitutions of the SFO. Those were not dictated by the pope. Those were written by the delegates to the General Chatper of 2000 and voted on by the membership of the order. In my opinion, those constitutions fail to apply the rule correctly. They confuse secularity with secularism and include an excessive enphasis on secular life of the brothers and sisters and fail to say enough about fidelity to Franciscan tradition and spirituality.

In my ignorance, I had not read the Constitution because I thought it would all be about how to organize and run things and I am not ever going to be running anything, and besides, I was reading Francis. But I went from BrJR's post to the Constitutions and my heart sank. Wait. Where was Francis?

BrJR also said this:

If you read the consitutions of any of the branches of friars, they are very spiritual and very theological. They have very few references to what to do when to do it and why do it. They speak about the spirit of St. Francis and provide an explanation for each point. For example, it speaks about fraternity and then explains what constitutes fraternity and why it was important to our Holy Father.

But...that's what I want...

That post was in the thread about Lay orders having habits. (My thought was, we have Francis as our guide if we want a habit, we just go to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or poke around under a few bridges until we find a homeless person about our size and gender. Trade with them for one of our good outfits, appropriate to the weather during whatever time of year, maybe with a few bucks we might have accidentally left in a pocket. Take whatever they are wearing, wash and wear that. Every day. I think Francis let people have two outfits.)

Anyway, the SFO seemed, it made me feel sad. Then I found out there are other ways for pursuing the spirit of Saint Francis. Like Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist (up the road from the Franciscan Brothers who came later.) They a have "affiliates." Maybe someday they'll have Franciscan Third Order of the Eucharist.

So I'm feeling a bit lost. Like I was invited to a pot luck and got there and it was a catered dinner with white tie and tails. I just wanted to figure out how to do more of this

· Indeed, I counsel, warn and exhort my friars in the Lord Jesus Christ, that when they go about through the world, they not quarrel nor contend in words (cf. 2 Tim 2:14), nor judge others, · but be mild, peaceable and modest, meek and humble, speaking uprightly to all, as is fitting. ·

and less of everything else. I wanted a more structured prayer practice and some spiritual guidance. I really don't under any circumstances want a habit.

What do we really think as lay people, if our Seraphic Father was posting here, would he want for/of us?

Don't confuse a lay calling with a religious calling. Lay (Secular) Franciscans have no "habit" as commonly understood. The Tau is their "habit".

I was in the SFO for over 10 years. I finally had to leave. Meetings with very little content. Mainly "socials" . Very little prayer. The Divine Office is supposed to be encouraged. Only 3 of us prayed it.

I don't mean to sound bitter, but I love St Francis (and Padre Pio). It hurts me that no fraternity in my area follows the Rule (much).

NB: I speak only for norCal. I know that there are many wonderful fraternities in other areas.

NB2: Another thing that I found distasteful was National assessing the fraternity $50 per professed member (I am not sure of the amount, these days, though). The fraternity was composed of many members who contributed nothing (some because they were poor; some because....well, I leave it there). National didn't care if they were contributing zero, we were still assessed $50 per. Really bothered me.

Sorry for the rant, but you asked ;)

I feel I should add: I have been blessed to have been in Assisi a number of times. It is one of the two or 3 places on earth where I feel "home". Absolutely love it there. Haven't been in over 10 years. I miss it very much. I miss Francis very much, too.:(

[quote="Luigi_Daniele, post:2, topic:266102"]

Sorry for the rant, but you asked ;)

[/quote]

Don't be sorry, that's exactly what I thought would be the situation considering how the constitutions were written.

I just wonder, what would you think Francis would hope for in a Lay community of ... adherents? I guess?

[quote="Luigi_Daniele, post:3, topic:266102"]
I miss Francis very much, too.:(

[/quote]

It's okay. He's right here, leading us back.

[quote="Julia_Mae, post:1, topic:266102"]
I was looking into the Secular Franciscan Order. I was pretty happy about it and was reading all about Saint Francis. His life and his writings. I still am. But then I read this in this thread post forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=7507301&postcount=16 by Br JR:

[/quote]

This is so interesting.I read Br Jay's post and had the same reaction. I meant to pm him about it.

You see, I loveeeeeeee St. Francis. I am currently reading "Such is the Power of Love" which is a book about St Francis from the viewpoint of St. Bonaventure and it is awesome.

I am looking at Lay Franciscan, Dominican and Carmelite orders, but when I read that post, it struck me that the lay order is probably not what I think it is as well. And now I am mostly researching the Dominicans and Discalced Carmelites.

If you are called to the Secular Franciscan Order then you are called, and seeking something else in another spirituality, Rule, and charism will never be a good fit for you. You will likely never know peace in your decision as you will not be living the way of life that God was calling you to.

With that in mind, I would respectfully encourage people to stop and think a bit, and to pray alot, about whether or not you wish to allow the manner in which others live their vocation, to potentially rob you of yours.

Just a friendly thought. :)

Peace,

[quote="jwinch2, post:7, topic:266102"]
If you are called to the Secular Franciscan Order then you are called, and seeking something else in another spirituality, Rule, and charism will never be a good fit for you. You will likely never know peace in your decision as you will not be living the way of life that God was calling you to.

With that in mind, I would respectfully encourage people to stop and think a bit, and to pray alot, about whether or not you wish to allow the manner in which others live their vocation, to potentially rob you of yours.

Just a friendly thought. :)

Peace,

[/quote]

But at the same time, if you are going to be part of a community, it's important to see what the community is like. Otherwise one can have a strong devotion to a Saint but never become part of a lay order.

:eek:

But...I was looking into the SFO too!

:eek:

But wait! Can't we join and just take over? :knight2: :highprayer: :slapfight:

[quote="TrueLight, post:8, topic:266102"]
But at the same time, if you are going to be part of a community, it's important to see what the community is like. Otherwise one can have a strong devotion to a Saint but never become part of a lay order.

[/quote]

Agreed. My understanding is that the SFO, in having a new formation program is tidying things up a bit. I could be wrong. I just hate to see someone miss out on what they are really called to do because someone else isn't doing what they should be.

[quote="TrueLight, post:6, topic:266102"]
I am looking at Lay Franciscan, Dominican and Carmelite orders, but when I read that post, it struck me that the lay order is probably not what I think it is as well. And now I am mostly researching the Dominicans and Discalced Carmelites.

[/quote]

I guess it depends on how you are called. I mean, if what you want is a structured prayer life and that's really what you need, there are probably several orders that could work depending on the way that's evidenced in the orders near you.

I feel very specifically called to Saint Francis. It was Br JR's posts, frankly. Every time he talked about Francis I felt the peace. It's him I am pursuing because this is what I need. I also need community for guidance and support. But I don't need a social club or the floor-length sky-blue "scapular habits" I saw in photos of one group. See this that Francis said:

· Indeed, I counsel, warn and exhort my friars in the Lord Jesus Christ, that when they go about through the world, they not quarrel nor contend in words (cf. 2 Tim 2:14), nor judge others, · but be mild, peaceable and modest, meek and humble, speaking uprightly to all, as is fitting. ·

No one who knows me would apply a single one of those adjectives to me. My daughter laughed out loud at the idea. I have no choice, I have a very long road to travel before I die and that's coming up fairly quickly on my horizon. (Just age, I have no illnesses of note.) . I have a lot to divest myself from.

But you aren't me. If you are looking for more structured devotion and community and friendship in the Spirit, then maybe it doesn't matter so much. It's like how Saint Dominic and Francis were such fans of one another, like the Martha and Mary of saving the Church. I think all the spiritualities can inform one another. They must, I suppose.

I'll be very interested in how your search goes and thanks for mentioning that book. I am devouring Franciscan books right now. I'm reading Celano's book right this minute.

I believe that my post is being read out of context . . . not that anyone is doing so to be mean. It's just that the question on the other thread was a little different from the topic of this thread.

Let's take this in baby parts.

  1. The constitutions of the SFO were written by a committee. However, they were also approved by the Holy See. At the end of the day, if the Holy See approves them, that's the way the Church wants you to go. Part of being Franciscan is to follow the guidance of the Church.

  2. The SFO is so huge that there is going to be great diversity between one fraternity and another. If you look carefully, you will find a fraternity that fits your spiritual needs.

  3. To the best of my knowledge, they are releasing a new formation program of studies this year (2012). From what I've seen, it's very promising. If new members go through it and apply it, they should be on the right track. This means that one has to put something into this.

  4. Finally, the spirit of St. Francis is something that you have to cultivate. No one is going to hand it to you. Even in the most well organized fraternity, if you don't embrace the spirit of the founder, you're not going to find the nourishment that you need. Never shy away from what may look difficult. Look at St. Francis. He had no clue where he was going, but he let God lead him. The truth is that the SFO members are very good men and women who want to live the Gospel. Unfortunately, they too have been struck by the typhoon of the late 20th century. Now, it's time to catch our breadth and recover. As St. Francis said, "Let us being; up to now we have done nothing." We can shy away or we can take God's bait.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)

[quote="Nom_the_Wise, post:9, topic:266102"]
:eek:

But...I was looking into the SFO too!

:eek:

[/quote]

Hey, keep looking! Your local group or one fairly near you might be one that has the charism of Franciscan charism! Please look, and tell us what you find.

[quote="JReducation, post:12, topic:266102"]

  1. The constitutions of the SFO were written by a committee. However, they were also approved by the Holy See. At the end of the day, if the Holy See approves them, that's the way the Church wants you to go. Part of being Franciscan is to follow the guidance of the Church.

  2. The SFO is so huge that there is going to be great diversity between one fraternity and another. If you look carefully, you will find a fraternity that fits your spiritual needs.

[/quote]

I'm sure that's true. The problem is that we are constrained by geography. Or, I am. There is no such thing as a long-distance membership. You don't really join the SFO, as I understand it. You join a local fraternity. If you move, you have to request to withdraw from one and find another. I am also quite happy to embrace obedience. After I find something I want to be obedient to. Right now, I'm not in anything, so, I am not disobedient by backing up a few steps.

My own sadness was not meant to be critical (well, okay, the floor length blue scapulars kinda shocked me) but meant to convey that I found something to be not what I assumed.

  1. To the best of my knowledge, they are releasing a new formation program of studies this year (2012). From what I've seen, it's very promising. If new members go through it and apply it, they should be on the right track. This means that one has to put something into this.

This sounds very interesting, do you have a link to anything we can look at?

  1. Finally, the spirit of St. Francis is something that you have to cultivate. No one is going to hand it to you. Even in the most well organized fraternity, if you don't embrace the spirit of the founder, you're not going to find the nourishment that you need. Never shy away from what may look difficult.

I guess for myself, the problem is, it doesn't look difficult. It doesn't look like anything, really, but a support system for the local Friary with which these local groups are associated. Looks like they do a lot of very good work in the community. But I see nothing about the personal development of a Franciscan-inspired spirituality for personal practice. No penance that can be identified with Saint Francis. But I just got started, so what do I know? It's why I started the thread.

I don't trust me that much.

[quote="Julia_Mae, post:14, topic:266102"]
I'm sure that's true. The problem is that we are constrained by geography. Or, I am. There is no such thing as a long-distance membership. You don't really join the SFO, as I understand it. You join a local fraternity.

[/quote]

Not at all. You join the order. When you make profession, you profess to observe the rule and constitutions of the order, not the fraternity. The fraternity is to the SFO what a friary is to the Friars or a convent to the sisters. It's the local community, not the whole.

If you move, you have to request to withdraw from one and find another.

You request a transfer, just as the friars and sisters do. You don't withdraw.

My own sadness was not meant to be critical (well, okay, the floor length blue scapulars kinda shocked me) but meant to convey that I found something to be not what I assumed.

"floor length blue scapulars"????

This sounds very interesting, do you have a link to anything we can look at?

I've seen a hard copy, because I work with their formation director. There may be something on their national or international site.

I guess for myself, the problem is, it doesn't look difficult. It doesn't look like anything, really, but a support system for the local Friary with which these local groups are associated.

There not supposed to be any connection between the Secular Order and the Friars. They are two distinct orders with their own rule, constitutions, mission and commitment.

But I see nothing about the personal development of a Franciscan-inspired spirituality for personal practice.

I believe this is what the new formation program is addressing.

No penance that can be identified with Saint Francis.

That's because there is no such thing. Francis' four rules are very simple, "To live the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

When he founded the secular order, his vision was a fraternity of men and women who live a life of penance and brotherhood in the secular world. It welcomed married, singles, deacons, priests, bishops and even popes.

But Francis had not particular form of penance that was different from the rest of the Church. You have to remember that Francis was avoiding monasticism at all costs. Monks had very specific ways of celebrating mass, praying the Divine Office, doing penance, rituals and customs. Francis wanted his sons and daughters to be free of these things in order to live the Gospel without the structures. This is what made him so attractive to others. When he laid aside all of the monastic customs and rules and he laid aside his place in society, he was like a bright light in the dark. No one ever knew that living the Gospel, without the structures was so refreshing and attractive.

But if one is going to look for one single thing that is Franciscan, you won't find it. Franciscan is a collective of values and customs that when lived together create something very special.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)

I don't trust me that much.

This is my area: ilsfo.org/

This is the big map: franciscan-sfo.org/51/nframap.htm

What spooked me is that several of these meetings are said to happen in people's houses. That's cool, but I don't want to belong to a glorified bridge club. :o The Fraternities I'm gravitating towards meet at Old St. Pat's, downtown Chicago. I could do that. I'm not worried about habits; I feel called to community, prayer and the Franciscan spirit. A little tree hugging works for me, too; singing to birds, hanging out with coyotes (Chicago has a coyote problem lately), et. al. There are a lot of trees downtown, birds and coyotes, so I think this could happen. Frankly, St. Francis is my patron, and I think they might just need me. Who knows? (God--but he's being coy as usual).

Thank you JReducation for clearing this up (we've met in the threads years ago, though I doubt you remember. You've said some very kind things my way. Thank you). After the holidays I can make this happen, best case scenario. There's no use pensating in the vacuum. I have fingers and my phone has finger-sized buttons with numbers on it.

I "accidently" found this thread, so this just might be a sign. I was hesitant to call and yet this has leant some validity. Thank you Julie Mae for posting this! It might have been providence.

...not Old St. Pat's but St. Peter's. :o

I have read through this thread pretty quickly so forgive me if I missed something. Several people have mentioned the new SFO formation program. I read about it in the latest Tau magazine (the quarterly magazine that goes to all professed SFO members.)

It is called "For Up to Now", sadly the Tau magazine didn't really include many specifics but everyone sounds excited about it except for those people that don't like change.

In looking for more details I found the following page:
nafraformation.org/

You can click on "Various documents" to get some of the new documents. The seem to be gradually adding new documents to that page.

I would like to echo what Brother JR said. There is much variation with SFO. Every fraternity has a different "flavor". Some are better then others at reflecting the charism. There is even variation within the fraternities. Different members within each fraternity will treat their calling differently. Do some treat it as a social club? Yeah, probably. For some of the elderly members of the order these people are the only people they may see all month. Do all members? No (at least in the fraternities I have seen.)

When judging a fraternity as to whether you want to join a particular one make sure you see several meetings. If you just happen to see a meeting in the middle of the summer, it may have a totally different feel then one not when a majority of the council may be on vacation. You may just happen to come to a meeting where the topic of the month is of no interest to you, but the next one would be great for you. This month my fraternities primary topic is the Christmas "party", so if you only saw that one you would think the fraternity is primarily a social club, but you would miss the next meetings that aren't.

Discernment is a long process, make sure you are judging your calling based on how God is calling you, not by the actions of others. If you are truly called to be a Secular Franciscan you will feel it and really want to be one, not allowing the outward actions of a few influence your decision. As I said before in another thread. The minister that you see leading the group in your opinion may not reflect St. Francis' ideals, but what you might not see is that minister putting on a different "face" to get the job done and then afterwards going before the Eucharist for hours and then to a local AIDS charity and providing service. Or that same minister may have just had a close death in their family. This actually happened to me. I thought the minister when I was doing my initial visits to my current fraternity was being very rude to me. It turned out her husband had just died.

I also wanted to address comments about the Constitution. Yes, the constitutions may be a little dry but honestly the are just a list of rules that clarify the Rule. They don't have to be the most awe inspiring thing in the world. They seem to be a bridge between the spiritual Rule and the modern world (especially Americans) that seem to want to have rules written about everything. The Rule and the constitutions provide a basic frame work that a member of SFO and their fraternity should live by. It is up to the individual member in conjunction with their spiritual director to figure out how to pattern themselves in living the Gospel life in the manner of St. Francis as best they can.

The constitution for SFO may be a little drier then those of other Franciscan branches but like Brother JR said, it was approved by the Holy See and it is also a lot newer then most of the other ones. I wonder what the Rules and constitutions of the OFM and Poor Clares would look like if the Pope tasked them to create new ones like a previous Pope did with the SFO. Hopefully they would be better, but who knows. Committees like to mess things up ;)

[quote="JReducation, post:15, topic:266102"]

"floor length blue scapulars"????

[/quote]

Well, I didn't think they were tunics because they don't close, but then, they have hoods and so I don't know what else to call them. I assume they are only worn at meetings:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hXEEG-i2k1k/Tud804Y1FmI/AAAAAAAAAUc/p80gGur76wA/s1600/bluescapulars.JPG

I'll be back with a real response in a bit... Thanks for bringing up all the stuff I wanted to talk about, BTW.

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