The day began with Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the Friar Elias Chapel. The presider was Friar Carlos Alberto TROVARELLI, the Assistant General for the Federación América Latina Conventuales (FALC) Friar Jude Martin WINKLER, the Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF) delivered the homily, as usual.
Friar Jude spoke about Jesus’ promise to remain with us forever through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John refers to the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete—the consoler, the one who assists. These days, the Capitulars need to listen clearly to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, in order to make decisions from the heart and to look past unavoidable difficulties.
Today is the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena. The Capitulars began work at 9:30 a.m., with some festivity aimed at the Province of St. Bernardine and St. Angelo in Italy (Abruzzo) and Friar Bernhardin M. SEITHER, the Minister Provincial of the Province of Saint Elizabeth in Germany.
The timetable and calendar of the Chapter were then voted on and approved. Next, the Capitulars discussed the Directory for the Celebration of the Ordinary General Chapter and some changes proposed for it by the FEMO and CFF Federations. In short, they decided to pay greater attention to the iuxta modum, so that they can be more widely discussed in the Chapter auditorium. Since this issue also concerned voting to be done on the General Statutes, Franciscan Discipleship and Ratio Studiorum, the Capitulars decided to vote on these particular changes once the Jurists’ Committee clarified their precise terminology. The Capitulars approved the Directory, but left the requested changes to be made at a later date.
Friar Tomasz SZYMCZAK was elected Secretary General of the Chapter and Friars Jan MACIEJOWSKI, Colin Charles SAMMUT and Friar Maurizio BRIDIO were elected Moderators. Afterwards, members of the Steering Committee, the Central Commission, the Finance Committee and the Grievance Committee were elected.
Before moving on to the reading of the reports, the Capitulars heard some messages expressing best wishes for the Chapter. These came from the Most Reverend José Rodríguez CARBALLO, OFM, Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; the Most Reverend Giuseppe PIEMONTESE, Bishop of Terni; the Most Reverend Roberto CARBONI, OFM Conv., Archbishop of Oristano; the Most Reverend Gianfranco Agostino GARDIN, Archbishop of Treviso; and the Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculate.
After praying Mid Afternoon Prayer, the Capitulars began the day’s second session. At that time, the Minister General, Friar Marco Tasca, read his report. After thanking God and his collaborators, the outgoing Minister General centered his reflection on the Gospel of the “rich young man” (Mk 10: 17–27). The passage teaches us that our good intentions to follow the Lord Jesus are not enough; we need to abandon ourselves to his will and admit that we cannot save ourselves by our own strength alone. The rich young man is unable to accept Jesus’ advice and becomes disappointed and embittered. To avoid this fate, we must die to ourselves and allow ourselves to be deeply loved by Jesus.
Next, the Capitulars were told about some of the more significant situations in the Order. Many negative aspects were covered, especially regarding the undeniable aging of the friars in some of our more ancient Jurisdictions. However, the Lord had some positive aspects to show us as well, in particular the vitality of our friars in the southern hemisphere, who play an enthusiastic part in an ever-young Church.
Friar Marco notably concluded his report with a prophetic outlook on the prospects for our Order. He considered the uniqueness of each of our presences around the world and saw that in these the Lord still offers us many opportunities for evangelization, so long as we keep bearing witness to our charism and do not abandon the works that have always distinguished us.
Friar Aurelio ERCOLI, Chronicler
As we begin our first day of work at our General Chapter, we hear the promise that Jesus makes in today’s Gospel that he will send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who will teach us and remind us of what he said.
The word used for the Spirit is Paracletos. That word has a number of different meanings. It could mean an advocate or intermediary, a consoler, a helper, a counselor.
We need the Spirit to mediate between us and God so that during this chapter we walk in God’s ways. We need the Spirit to mediate between us and each other so that we treat each other with Godly charity.
We need the Spirit to be a consoler as we mourn our failures in living the life to which we are called as well as the departure of friars with whom we lived.
We need the Spirit to be a helper to evaluate this past mandate and guide us into the future.
We need the counsel of the Spirit in the deepest parts of our hearts, for that is where the Spirit dwells. All throughout this chapter we have to listen to the voice of the Spirit in our hearts. Too often at chapters we listen to our gut feelings, thinking of what we want individually or for our jurisdiction. The Spirit in our hearts, that dove which teaches us how to love God and each other, wants to teach us and remind us of what is most important. Come, Holy Spirit!