National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order – USA
VISIONING TO HOLY NEWNESS
By JAN PARKER, OFS, & MARY BITTNER, OFS
In consultation with the National Executive Council
THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES leads to A SEASON OF VISIONING
The signs of the times became a catalyst that has characterized our national efforts in the last three years.
The National ExecutiveCouncil (NEC) had been reflecting on the work of our Franciscan Youth and Young Adult (FYYA) Commission and had come to the conclusion that we needed to find a new direction for this effort.
Early in 2017 we decided to bring together a group of OFS members who were interested in working with youth for what we called a visioning gathering.
Recalling what is needed for the hope of renewal, we looked to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the signs of the times. We simply asked, “What is God’s vision for our Order in the area of youth?” We found the direction we were looking for.
We were suddenly set in motion and began a season of Visioning. This was truly the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Visioning on Youth gathering was followed by Formation Visioning in 2018, and JPIC Visioning in 2019.
For each visioning we prepared in the same way. We invited Secular Franciscan leaders and members at large, Spiritual Assistants and members of the wider Franciscan family, all with various levels of experience who had an interest in the topic. We took care to have representation from different regions and cultures. We asked everyone to reflect on readings that were assigned ahead of time.
The key question at each gathering was, “What is God’s vision for our Order?” We invoked the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds. We read the signs of the times. We were ready for holy newness.
The result of each visioning has been amazing. What we saw and heard and felt was the outpouring of the Spirit. We sat in awe at what God was doing in our midst. Many of us witnessed this. This painting by Pat Serotkin, was one of the images that came forth from the Formation Visioning.
It captures the experience we had at each visioning; the fire of the Holy Spirit spreading across our National Fraternity.
We came away with a renewed understanding of the place of the three commissions in our way of life – the commissions are not add-ons. Youth, Formation, and Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) are firmly anchored in our way of life, our secular way of holiness. Sacred secularity. This is the way we live the Gospel life we are called to by God for the life of the Church.
The vision is clear, and the truth of it is as undeniable as the Lord’s intervention in Francis’ life in February of 1208. While at Mass in the Portiuncula, Francis heard the Gospel read in a way he had never experienced. These words spoke directly to Francis’s heart.
“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.” (Matthew 10:7-13)
Francis was so struck by this passage that his life was turned upside down. The words of the Gospel—the Gospel life—defined his mission. He was filled with unexpected joy.
Just as hearing this message was a pivotal moment for Francis’s conversion – so were the messages we received at each of our three visioning gatherings. I cannot overestimate the importance of these visioning events. We have been granted a renewed understanding of our call and mission. For each commission, a vision was given. In response to each vision, we set out in a new direction.
Next blog continues with OUR HISTORY FORMS A TRAJECTORY