Friar Jerzy Norel, the Vicar General, presided over today’s Mass. During the Mass, he expressed his best wishes to the Minister Provincial of Germany, Friar Bernhardin M. SEITHER, on the 8th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
Friar Jude delivered the homily and spoke about the gift of peace that comes from the Lord. With the Lord’s gift of grace, we can overcome all uncertainty and fears in order to face the future that awaits us. Some Capitulars “will not be returning home” after the Chapter; in the sense, of course, that they may be elected to a post in the General Curia in Rome. Yet despite this, we must be assured of the presence of the Lord who guides us and who gives us his courage. We must not fear. Indeed, we must be strong in accepting any obedience, as the greatest blessing.
The meeting in the Chapter auditorium began with a video by the General Delegate for Communications, Friar Ryszard WRÓBEL. The video showed the beginning of the Chapter and the smiling faces of the Capitulars.
Then, the Minister General was asked questions about his report. In particular, the Capitulars focused on the relationship of dialogue and collaboration with the Ministers General of the other Franciscan families. Friar Marco replied that relations are excellent now, but no new structures have been created. However, this dialogue as already produced results, such as the new, inter-obediential community of Emmaus, which we founded jointly with the Friars Minor. It has been placed under the care of their Custody of the Holy Land.
At the same time, the Capitulars took great interest in the mission ad gentes. Although it may be true that our more ancient Jurisdictions lack the missionary fervor they once had, Friar Marco reminded us that it is equally true that our younger Jurisdictions are enthusiastic about bringing our charism to neighboring countries.
The Minister General then presented some ideas about how we can better program our communities in the future, which are often engulfed by too many commitments. We need friaries that provide an opportunity for an authentic fraternal life, which provide a witness of family. If we do good works only as individuals, but not together, we have derogated from our Franciscan identity. In the new evangelization we must also strengthen our relationship with the laity in order to give them a real role in the Church’s mission.
In the afternoon, Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO, the Procurator General, presented his report. His office concerns the relationship between our Order and the Holy See. Unfortunately, much of his work is about resolving problems with confreres who wish, or who are obliged, to depart their vocation. The number of defections is high, both in terms of friars who incardinate into dioceses and those who return to the lay state. Therefore, Friar Maurizio hopes we will foster greater discernment in the friars’ formation process.
Finally a discussion was held between the Capitulars and the Procurator General. Naturally, everyone was interested in the different situations that led to friars abandoning their vocations. Unfortunately it is difficult to read what the particular social or personal motivations might have been. We must therefore regard these situations with the eyes of faith, because the author of any vocation is always the Lord.
Friar Aurelio ERCOLI, Chronicler
In our Gospel this morning we hear the promise that Jesus will bring us his peace, his Shalom. This is not an artificial peace in which there is an absence of open violence and aggression. This is a peace that is so profound that even nature will sense it for the lion will lie down with the lamb.
The source of that peace is trust in the message and mission of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, we hear that Jesus came into the world to teach us who God is and what he wants of us.
Chapter times are always times of tension and anxiety for the friars. What will happen to the Order? Where will I be after the chapter? What sort of decisions will be made for the future?
This past month I have been reading the saying of Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher from the end of the first and beginning of the second century AD. He reminds his listeners over and over again to trust in God’s plans.
Yes, we have to think of the future, but we have to remember that God will lead us into that future. God has a plan for us as an Order and as individuals. If we embrace God’s plan, and not our own, we will find his peace.
May God’s peace be with you!