Dear Friars, May the Lord grant you peace!
Last month I was privileged to attend my first
conference of Provincial and Regional Spiritual Assistants at the
Marytown Retreat Center in Libertyville, Illinois. The center is staffed
and operated by the Conventual Franciscans; assistants from the four
obediences came from all parts of the country. Allow me this opportunity
to share my experience with you.
I say "privileged" for several reasons: first, that
it's an opportunity for me to assist you in strengthening that vital
link between ourselves and our Secular sisters and brothers; second,
that the Secular Franciscan Order has a role to play in the
revitalization of the Church; third, our image of the Church is helped
by the faith of the Seculars; and last, we have to remember that the
Lord has called and chosen our Secular brothers and sisters to follow
Him, just as He has called us. All Franciscan life and prayer is rooted
in this following of Christ - listening to Him and learning from Him.
This is the way Francis and Clare did it; this is what they invite us to
Our work with and for the Secular Franciscan Order is,
I believe, one of the most important apostolates in which we can be
engaged. It is an obligation which comes from our own Third Order
history. It is also an answer to the needs of the Church today.
What really is historical is that when Francis was
rebuilding San Damiano, he called out for people to help him. This
involvement was the symbol, and perhaps a certain beginning, of what
would become a great movement which we today know as the Secular
Franciscan Order - called now, as then - to help rebuild the Church, not
just with stones but with Gospel lives.
The way Francis rebuilt the Church, historically and
symbolically, was by working with the laity - "Christ's Faithful" - and
by learning from them. What draws people to associate with religious
communities is not only a chance to serve, but a desire for holiness, by
sharing in the life and spirituality of the religious community. Our TOR
beginnings is from such lay involvement.
Allow me to assist you in strengthening the vital link
between the TOR and SFO, and to appreciate the vitality and enthusiasm
which they bring to our own fraternal life. Their generosity in living
out the spirit of our Founders in the world is a great challenge and
encouragement for us to live this spirit as religious. The SFO have
given to the Church examples of gospel holiness lived in the -midst of
Fr Christopher Panagoplos TOR Provincial Spiritual
Assistant - SFO 806 11th Street Altoona, PA 16602