As Franciscans, we are all partners in grace, partners for the gospel. And for this, we should be grateful!
Franciscans all over the world continue to celebrate the “Grace of Our Origins.” St. Francis of Assisi received papal approval in 1209 for this way of living the gospel. Years ago, during our 800th anniversary year, Franciscans actively worked to recapture the grace that moved powerfully within Francis.
In this season of gratitude, we recommit ourselves to working with the amazing grace that moved in Francis. The Franciscan charism is so rich that no one group captures it all.
The Franciscan family is made up of many different groups. (We joke that one of the things that God does not know is how many different kinds of Franciscans there are!) We are Friars Minor, Conventuals, Capuchins, Poor Clares, Secular Franciscans, Third Order men and women religious. And there are many people who are not officially Franciscan but who love Francis and live in his spirit.
The Franciscan life is not something that one person can do alone; it is about being in relationship, being a brother or sister, all because of the gospel!
As St. Paul says, we are in “partnership for the gospel” (verse 5). At the core of the charism, for all of us, is a sense of fraternity, a sense of being related to and connected with everyone and everything. In his Canticle of the Creatures, Francis celebrates that:
The sun is our brother; the moon is our sister; even death is a sister! In an early Franciscan writing, Francis was asked to describe the “perfect friar.” He couldn’t do it. No one friar had all the gifts; the perfect friar was a combination of the love of poverty of Bernard, the simplicity of Leo, the prayer of Rufino, the patience of Juniper and so on. It was not just one brother alone; it takes a community, with each sharing himself and his gifts, and sharing life together. And that makes us very grateful people!
Friar Roger Lopez comments on what the future of religious orders and religious life in America will be, especially for Franciscans, the Order of Friars Minor.
St. Paul had the same sense of connection as Francis did. And it is something for which Paul was immensely grateful. It isn’t simply all about him and what he did, all by himself.
At the beginning of the Letter to the Philippians (1:3-11), Paul expresses profound gratitude to God for those with whom he shared a “partnership for the gospel” (verse 5). Writing from prison, he prays for his friends and co-workers.
Remembering them and all that they shared in proclaiming the gospel brings Paul a deep joy. He senses that these brothers and sisters have been “partners with [him] in grace” (verse 7).
Thus, Paul prays that the Philippians may learn to discern what is of real value (verse 10), namely, that their love, that sense of working together to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, may continue to grow in them. I was recently at a meeting of friars who are the local ministers in our various communities, and this passage was the reading for the daily Eucharist. I had the privilege of preaching.
I acknowledged the various gifts I had experienced during the meeting: the courage of Robert, the vulnerability of Jerry, the creativity of Don, the wisdom of Nick. I was proud, and grateful, to be partnered with these men, for the sake of the gospel.
This is not just a Franciscan thing; it is a gospel thing! We are all partners in grace, partners for the gospel. For this, we should be grateful!