Life in Fraternity and COVID-19 Vaccinations
Doug Clorey, ofs, National Minister
Since October 1, 2021, a national directive has been in place within the National Fraternity of Canada regarding the participation of vaccinated and unvaccinated sisters and brothers in fraternity meetings, chapters and events. This directive was a response to requests from both regional and local fraternities to provide direction in this area.
As expected, this directive has been welcomed by some and criticized by others. In this regard, I would like to emphasize that no judgments are being made on the choices made by individual Secular Franciscans to remain unvaccinated. I would encourage all of us to be patient and kind with our sisters and brothers who have made this choice and to continue to love and reach out to them as best we can during these challenging times. And, to those who have chosen to remain unvaccinated, I would encourage you to also be patient and kind with your sisters and brothers who have chosen to be vaccinated. Please respect the choices that they have made. It is most disheartening to read some of the material being circulated by Secular Franciscans that is clearly disrespectful and offensive to the members of our family.
Finally, let us remember that we are an Order within the Catholic Church, called to be a
“community of love”, as Saint Pope John Paul II exhorted us to be at the OFS General Chapter in 2009. As individuals, we may not have qualms about taking and expressing strong positions on certain issues; however, as members of the Secular Franciscan Order, there are boundaries that must be respected if we are to maintain unity and live in full communion within the Church (OFS Rule, 6). Clearly, we don’t have to agree with everything, but we do need to think long and hard before we decide to break the bonds of unity and follow our own path.
At the end of the day, it is my hope that all will understand that the primary objective of this time-limited directive is the safety of all the sisters and brothers, as well as the safety of those with whom they come in contact.
Where to Begin?
The book, Climate Generation, Awakening to Our Children’s Future by Lorna Gold, 2019 focuses on the climate crisis we are currently facing. This article takes several passages from the chapter titled Embracing the Earth. We pass on these thoughts, now in the light of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. Over the next several months Franciscan Voice Canada will endeavor to highlight the Laudato Si’ Action Platform and help Secular Franciscans focus on “Calling for a new way of thinking, feeling, understanding and living.” This has been the message of Pope Francis that was particularly poignant in Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti encyclicals.
It is with this image that could hold the power to heal the deep fracture we feel between ourselves and the beautiful earth we live on. We have forgotten the utter dependence we all have on the earth often living with the myth that we are its masters. But we remain dependent on our one small planet made of the same elements we are made of. If we continue to destroy its life support system in our quest to master our fate, then in the end we also lose.
We need to allow ourselves the time and space to rediscover ourselves as part of this earth and to be deeply grateful for it. We are less likely to destroy something we love deeply, something we see as part of ourselves. We can look to St Francis of Assisi who had a deep bond with all of creation. We need only look at his Canticle of the Creatures to see the right relationship we should have with creation. The parts of creation are our sisters and brothers! There is far greater happiness in being than in having, to free ourselves from excess and to realize what is ‘enough’. It is in cultivating that deep gratitude for all life especially the natural world, a precious gift in itself. As Pope Francis tells us, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise, Laudato Si’.
Where to Begin? We begin where Laudato Si’ tells us that we must repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, to acknowledge our contribution to the disfigurement and destruction of creation. Only then can we begin our ecological conversion to ask the earth, my mother for forgiveness where we neglected to protect her and forgotten to notice and appreciate her beauty.