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Come and See – The Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis.

Participating in the Franciscan life of the OFS brings rich and abundant blessings; blessings that come from being part of a community dedicated to following the Gospel of Christ in the footsteps of our spiritual father, Saint Francis of Assisi.  The local Fraternity can be likened to the early Christian communities who “…remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” [Acts 2:42].

Our Spiritual Father Saint Francis of Assisi

Detail of St Francis from Madonna Enthroned with the Child, St Francis and four Angels by Cimabue
Spiritual Community : Franciscan Family : Personal and Spiritual Growth

We don’t live together, nor hold everything in common as in a monastic community, but we do meet regularly and share the talents we have been given for the common good. Being part of a spiritual family means benefiting from the support and guidance that springs from natural family life. Likewise it also means that we owe our brothers and sisters our time and support whenever they need it. As with any family, there will differences of opinion and times of conflict, which have to be faced and resolved; we don’t choose the family we are born into and we don’t get to choose our brothers and sisters in fraternity. Often it is these challenges and even ruptures in relationships that bring about personal and spiritual growth.

Life to Gospel and Gospel to Life

If you are serious about your faith and seek to deepen your spiritual life; if you have a Franciscan heart for those who are poor and marginalised; if you care for God’s Creation and want to do something about the injustices in the world around us, then joining our Order is one way of pursuing these ideals within an international family of like-minded individuals, who are loyal to the authority and teaching of the Catholic Church and seek to express their faith in authentic Christian witness, going from ‘Life to Gospel and Gospel to Life.’

Giving Ourselves : Commitment – Body, Mind, Soul and Time

The commitment you make when you profess the rule is permanent, in other words 24/7 for the rest of your life! However, the commitment of time in many ways will be the same as for any practising Catholic; including attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and regular confession.  In addition there is a commitment to pray the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer, daily examination of conscience and associated penitential acts, attendance at monthly fraternity meetings, and engaging in ongoing spiritual formation. Beyond this the commitment will vary according to whether one holds office at local, regional or national fraternity and whether one is involved in a project initiated by the fraternity.

“Secular Franciscans, you live by vocation your belonging to the Church and to society as inseparable realities. For this reason, you are asked first of all to bear a personal witness in the place where you live: “before all: in family life; in work; in joys and sufferings; in associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same Father; in presence and participation in the life of society; in fraternal relationship with all creatures”. Perhaps, you will not be required to pour out your blood as a martyr, but you will certainly be asked to give a coherent and steadfast witness in fulfilling the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation, which you renewed and confirmed with your profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. By virtue of this profession, the Rule and the General Constitutions must represent for each of you the point of reference for daily living, based on your explicit vocation and special identity.”
Address of Pope Saint John Paul II to the Secular Franciscan Order Friday, 22 November 2002

Praying from the Divine Office
Praying the Daily Office – Growing with Christ through Prayer

The Mission of the Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis

The mission of the OFS is the mission of the Church, which is the mission of Christ namely to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” [Mk 16:16]. The oft quoted words (mis)attributed to Francis, “Go and preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words” seem to capture the Franciscan approach to Jesus’s commission. It is principally by our lives that we bring others to Christ; not only our individual behaviour but how we live in relationship to one another “By this love you have for one another everyone will know that you are my disciples.” [Jn 13:35].

Gospel [in] Life : Franciscan Life

Franciscan spirituality is radically incarnational and Christocentric. “The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all … who recognise that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis … they intend to make present the charism [of Saint Francis] in the life and mission of the Church.” [OFS Rule Ch 1:1]. Francis’ charism was to radically humble himself in imitation of God’s own Humility in becoming human in Jesus. This means that like Francis, Secular Franciscans, aim to imitate Christ and by cooperating with the working of the Holy Spirit dwelling within, so as to become more Christ like and to recognise and respond to Christ in all persons.

God who made man was made man

What does the OFS do?

Someone once said in response to a similar question “Secular Franciscans DO the Gospel!” “Led by the Holy Spirit [they] pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by the means of this Rule approved by the Church.” [OFS Rule Ch 1:2]. There are many ways this is done according to the gifts and dispositions of individuals and fraternities. Most obviously we aim to live the Gospel in our secular state as husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and fellow workers. In this sense we aim by the grace of God to BE the Gospel in whatever situation we find ourselves in day by day. Beyond this we are likely to be actively involved in Christian and other groups whose values are in accord with Franciscan values; groups such as CAFOD, Saint Vincent de Paul Society , Aid to the Church in Need, Fairtrade, Mary’s Meals, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Care Not Killing.

“Gospel living for Secular Franciscans is this: To know the Lord Jesus, to seek his presence in every sphere of life and to share his mission in the Church. Such a life-style is achieved through an on-going change of heart and a life of worship. This Gospel living takes on a natural expression through simple living, building community and selfless service and spurs us on to special ways of evangelisation: social justice, attitudes towards work, Christian family living, ecology and peacemaking”
Benet A Fonck OFM : Called To Follow Christ

The OFS Experience

It is true that book knowledge, scripture reading and going to Mass are all good, essential and spiritually nourishing. The OFS adds another dimension which is the lived experience of being personally in relationship with a close knit family of Christians inspired by the charism and person of St Francis and other Franciscan saints down through the ages to the present day. The OFS also provides a rule which helps us lead a disciplined Christian life as ‘followers of the Way.’

“Motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls ‘conversion’. Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.”
OFS Rule 7

This gospel-focus is the heart of our lives. In community, in fraternity, we work together to achieve these ideals. We learn to share insights and failures, dreams and frustrations, excitements and disappointments, and visions and actions.

Canticle of Fraternity

Praise be You, My Lord, through Sister Brokenness
who reveals to us your healing and your wholeness.
She is tender and fragile and invites us to share our
poverty with one another.

Praised be You, My Lord, through Sister Forgiveness
who reveals your unconditional love and tender mercy.
She is gentle and asks for poverty of spirit as she seeks
to be both freely given and freely received in fraternity.

Praise be You, My Lord, through Brother Conversion
who reveals your radical Gospel call and the heart of the paschal mystery.
He is violent and requires uprooting, letting go, emptying and comes
to us through self emptying fraternal experiences.
He is a mirror of true Eucharist.

Praise be You, My Lord, through Sister Joy
who reveals your fullness and the life of your Trinitarian love.
She is carefree. She is loving. She is genuine. She is Beatitude.
She is gift coming from you through sharing Your presence with one another.

Most High, all powerful and good Lord,
Yours are brokenness, forgiveness, conversion and joy.
We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks for fraternity.
All praise be yours, O Lord

Poem : Renita Brunner OFS

Simon is a secular Franciscan living and working on the Isle of Wight. He and his wife Lorraine have three adult children.