Embracing the Franciscan Future - October 1, 2021
riving from the Quebec City airport on the way to a retreat in the French Canadian village of Cacouna, Carol, a Secular Franciscan, asked: "How will we attract young people to the Secular Franciscan life? What does it say about our charism, when it doesn't seem to speak to young people?" Friar Benny, an amiable Capuchin, originally from India and now a member of the Canadian Capuchin community was also with us. Those questions, he said, apply equally to the First Order. In Canada many friaries have closed because of a shortage of vocations. "I am not the only friar from a missionary country," he added, "friars are coming from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Eurpoe to support community life and the ministries of the Franciscans here." There is, of course, no institutional guarantee of the future; yet members of all three branches rely on God's assurance to St. Francis that "though the Order be reduced to three, it will remain by My grace unshaken (2 Celano, 158)." But what might the future look like and how do we get there?
The Future: Gift of the Present
St. Francis' embrace of the Gospel was neither a nostalgic journey into the past nor an attempt to adjust to the status quo of the Church of his time. It was a decisive act that changed how he saw the world and understood himself. It was a conversion in the sense of Jesus' announcement: "The time has come, repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1)" The future Jesus' contemporaries so ardently desires was now. These words also shed liight on St. Francis' conversion.
For Francis the "time" was there before his eyes: the dilapidated Church, the leper on the road, the disparity between the merchant class (to which he belonged) and the beggars and migrants (who were left behind in the emergence of towns and cities). Francis was prepared, whatever the cost, to repent (to place into question what he expected from life); and to believe (to entrust his future to a God who would lovingly show him what do do next. In this way Francis heard the call....