The Secular Franciscan Order
1. The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God -- laity, religious, and priests - who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.
In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.
The Code of Canon Law says, "All the Christian faithful must make an effort, in accord with their own condition, to live a holy life and to promote the growth of the Church and its continual sanctification." (210) "The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church, and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church." (214)
Lumen Gentium teaches us, "It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society." (40)
Our own General Constitutions explain, "All the faithful are called to holiness and have a right to follow their own spiritual way in communion with the Church. (1) "There are many spiritual families in the Church with different charisms. Among these families, the Franciscan Family, which in its various branches recognizes St. Francis of Assisi as its father, inspiration, and mode., must be included." (2)
From the outset, we see clearly that the Church asks all of its members to seek holiness. We see that each Christian is called to follow their own "form of spiritual life" to reach this goal. We see that those who do follow the prescript of love will convert all of human society. We see that our order, the Franciscan Family, is rightfully a legitimate part of the Church. Then, our Rule further illuminates these concepts with more detail:
· We are "raised up by the Holy Spirit". This is not just some human idea for a party. No, this order, this Family, is created by the Holy Spirit for the purpose reaching toward this goal of holiness and leading others to do the same.
· We are joined together as a family with all the folks who have chosen St. Francis of Assisi - laity, religious, and priests - as their model. We are equally working together to bring Francis' charism into the world.
· We are a spiritual family. We are joined together by the Holy Spirit in a common purpose. We are no less family than the one we were born into, but we rise above that human familial relationship to one of higher and greater purpose.
· We all come from different backgrounds and associate with each other in different ways: Friars, Poor Clares, Third Order Religious, and Seculars; but nonetheless, we join together as a unified Institute of the Church that seeks to provide the life-giving charisms exemplified by St. Francis.
· As we join together we intend to permeate the life and the mission of the Church with St. Francis' charism.
· All of this together is our way of following more closely our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the most important part of our reason for being!
So, as we look at the first paragraph of our Rule, we find a lot to consider as we try to walk this path of "becoming Franciscan." We see that this road is a definite journey that will lead to a very satisfying ending, but the challenges will be great, because we are following Francis to better follow Jesus. By following Francis we recognize that we are sinners and have a long way to go. But we know that the trip will be worth it.