Towards the final document following in the Footsteps of Jesus … The Area of Formation

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Following in the Footsteps of Jesus …

The Area of Formation

Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you, before you saw the light, I had consecrated you; I have established you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5)
“I, Brother Francis, little one, want to follow the life and the poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of his most holy mother, and to persevere in it to the end” (Testament, 1)

  1. Reading the “Signs of the Times”

General premise: we are convinced that each period of history is God’s time. We Friars Minor trust in the fact that the Spirit of God is active in our society also. We firmly believe in the relevance of our Franciscan charism. In our post-modern time there are also concrete possibilities and points of support for the proclamation of the Gospel and to invite others to share our life.
In the different cultural contexts, the possibilities of a vocational proposal and accompaniment are influenced by the most disparate reasons for hope and for preoccupation whether they be in the social environment or in that of the Church or Order. Here we will draw up the outstanding lines:
1. We will first consider the reasons for hope that come from the world of the young.

  1. Many among them show a desire for freedom and authenticity; an ability for autonomy in projecting their lives and of nourishing desires and ‘dreams’ for the future; an aesthetic sense, nostalgia for a life gifted with meaning; a search for authentic relationships.

  2. From a religious point of view many young people show an openness to the transcendent and a sincere spiritual seeking. In the Church sphere we find in many of them a love for the Word of God, a desire for prayer, a penitential spirit and a seeking for radicality.

  3. There exists a drive to be generous and for commitment in favour of the less fortunate in society.

  4. The collapse of ideologies has allowed many young capable people to assess more critically the proposals that come to them from whatever side.

  5. Openness and tolerance to values such as fraternity and peace in a world marked by cultural and religious pluralism.

2. Reasons for preoccupation:

  1. The dominant culture of today, marked by secularism, by individualism and neo-liberalism, already widely diffused “globally”, does not favour a vocational dimension of life, that is to say, a definitive option for life.

  2. The situation of the family, in the different contexts, makes the promotion of a vocation difficult, in particular because of a certain pedagogical abdication, of the various situations of disintegration of the traditional model of family, of the difficulty to transmit in a living way the patrimony of faith.

  3. The level of psychological, affective, social and sexual maturity of the young is a vital question for the PCV. The situation of the young in this field is very fragmented and complex.

  4. The broad world of the new “religiosity” involves the young a lot: the new cults, the esoteric, the sects, the expressions of fundamentalism, etc., find in them their first addressees.

  5. In the reading of the youth reality there is also present in our environments the tendency to see the young as victims of society: the fact is that the young remain autonomous subjects, capable of making choices and fundamental orientations for their lives.

3. A reading of the reality has been carried out with particular attention to the typology of the

candidates who are in the phase of vocational proposal and accompaniment:

  1. Generally the candidates are in search of a fraternity, showing an openness and the docility to adapt to the other, a spirit of renunciation, vitality and energy, a disposition towards an authentic journey of deepening the faith.

  2. Others wish to confront a journey of faith that they have never before done in any regular way, even after a time of conversion.

  3. Some arrive to seek a greater sense or style of alternative and radical life.

  4. Many come from the world of solidarity with the poor and of social commitment.

  5. Many are fascinated by the personality and message of Francis and Clare.

  6. Some come with a prevailing desire to be priests and therefore barely open to a possible lay vocation; others are attracted by external elements of our structures.

  7. Some seek a way of auto realization or seek to set themselves up socially.

  8. Many are marked by suffering, delusion and events of life and are not always integrated.

  9. The family from which they come is for many a resource but in many cases and in different geographical and cultural contexts it is also an element of suffering.

  10. The affective maturity and sexual orientation of the candidates are situations that present a wide range of cases in the Entities.

  11. The cultural level is very diversified. Where the cultural level is somewhat low this, in some contexts, can be embarrassing for the serene insertion in the Fraternity.

  12. The age of the candidates changes in the different geographical areas. It is difficult to draw up precise statistics but it is shown that the average age of those who knock on our doors is about 20-30 years.

2. Enlightened by faith…

We recognise that the reading of the signs of the times requires an exercise of intelligence and wisdom proper to faith. The believer, in fact, gradually learns to recognise and to listen, in the events of history, to the history of salvation that God does without rest in favour of man and the world. Therefore, there follows on the reading of the signs of the times that part that considers the reality of mankind in a unique way in the light of Scripture and theological reflection, attentive to the Franciscan vision.

The young people are immersed in a conception of the human person that is typical of postmodernism, centred on the individual, that affirms personal freedom in the sense of absolute autonomy. Today it is rare to take into account the fundamentally Christian root of these three dimensions.

In biblical reflection, in fact, through the event of creation man appears as created in the “image of God” and as such has received, in so far as he is a person, the gift of irrevocable freedom and original beauty. His very identity consists of being called to a relationship with God, with others and with all creation. This triple relationship belongs to the original design of creation. In these relationships man receives his authentic dignity much more than in the affirmation of an absolutist autonomy.

In the perspectives of the Franciscan School, this design carries the traces of the face of God, Predestination. In Him, through Him and in sight of Him all things have been created and, in the end, man. Christ is, therefore, at the beginning of the love project of the father and is at its conclusion. Christ is the project of man!

In the Gospel the vocation takes on a concrete form in the following of Christ. The Gospels and the Christian traditions express with this category the call of the disciples to believe in Jesus, sharing to the end his destiny. This provokes the believers to a faith solidly rooted in the person of Jesus and in his mystery.

The call to follow is a gratuitous selection, fruit of the love of the Lord for him called. This selection has an absolute and urgent character. The imperative character is irresistible to the one called, yet it does not nullify freedom and, thereby, the responsibility of him who is called.

Calling his disciples to follow, Christ reveals through the Spirit the mystery of the father and reveals man fully to man also.

Scripture leads us to recognise in our Trinitarian mystery the source and the model of each call and in the Incarnation of the Son the very possibility of this following.

The Holy Spirit forms and accompanies the believer along the way through an action that touches the person in all his dimensions. From the day of Baptism the Spirit forms in us the Christ and he accompanies us on the paths of time so that the following of the Son becomes possible. The call to follow Jesus is uncovered in the gradual growth of the person in his different stages. Confirmation is the sacrament that seals the fullness of Baptism, it accompanies this growth that brings about in time the full maturity of Christ, in order to bloom in the explicit witness in faith.

This journey is marked by the power of grace, the strength of the love of the Father who calls the creature from nothing and leads it to the point of arrival of history and creation: The Holy Trinity. In the Eucharist, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we hurry along his return and give to the father “every honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

St. Francis can guide us in accepting this Trinitarian scan of the course of the following through a re-reading of the prayer at the end of the Letter to the whole Order: ‘aflame with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we can follow the footsteps of your beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the aid of your grace alone go to you, Oh Almighty’ (FF 233)
3. To accept the challenges…

  1. We recognise the particular service given by many of us to the young in this complex world in a process of rapid change. The sense of autonomy and freedom that the young show, together with the search for authentic relationships, is rich in challenges for our formative activity. Our principal role is that of accompanying them in understanding and experiencing how they can find their authentic freedom in living the relational dimension proper to the human person. This calls for an openness to a relationship with the world and God, be it with one’s own history just as it is, or with others, On the basis of this it is possible to found the proposal and accompaniment towards a discernment of vocation..

  2. The importance of the style of Ongoing Formation in the Province, because it helps the friars to grow in their witness to our joyous and passionate response to God’s call. The need to sensitise and to form the Guardians in particular to promote this dimension in the ordinary life of the Fraternity. A mentality of welcome for the young should be better developed in all Fraternities.

  3. We are challenged also to sharpen the profile of the Animator in the more ample sense of vocational formator. The Animator walks at the side of the young in a mutual responsibility. In the person of he responsible for the PCV we recognise as present at the same time, the animator, the formator and the pastoral minister. The ministry of the vocations Animator that is truly formative is, above all, that of personally accompanying the candidates.

  4. We accept the challenge of the need to be formed and trained for listening, for personal accompaniment, for the spiritual and human discernment (that includes the psychological dimension) of the young people. The principal aspects are:

- The need for the accompanier to be accompanied, preferably by one who is

experienced in the PCV.

    • The need for a great involvement of friars who collaborate in the PCV.

    • The need for an itinerary of personalized accompaniment.

5. The varied search for spirituality that the young follow today challenge us to decisively

make our priority of “the spirit of prayer and devotion” central to our form of life

and therefore of the PCV.

  1. The young in us and with us are in search of an experience of God lived and felt by them and with others. We are, therefore, invited to permit ourselves (ex n.2) be educated as friars and fraternity to the constant search for God, to a personal and community prayer that is not just routine but lived, attentive and creative, where the Word of God occupies the central place. In that way our Fraternities can become places in which the encounter with God and the taking of important decisions are encouraged.

  2. In this context, there can be inserted a commitment as friars and fraternity to prayer for vocations, which only becomes efficient when it promotes coherence of life in him who prays, and when he is associated with the rest of the praying community with an explicit announcement and adequate catechesis, so that a free, immediate and generous response to the call of God can be encouraged.

  1. The freshness and the rapid transformation of the actual historical situation, in which the young people are an indicative sign, challenge us to seek out new options and creative forms that will lead us to make the Franciscan charism visible. In particular it is necessary to propose in the PCV the identity of the Franciscan life as a possibility of meeting Jesus in a Fraternity of friars minor in the service of the Kingdom of God. Our vocation is realised without any distinction through the lay and ministerial options. The preferential option for the poor, the contribution to the promotion of justice, peace and the integrity of creation, the dialogue between cultures and different religions, are other challenges that await our more visible selection, and in which the young can offer a valid contribution and also be evangelised.

  2. From the profile of the candidates we gather the following challenges:

    1. The very diverse origins:

      • In some Entities they find together candidates who come from very different social groups; some come either from our own groups or from certain Church movements, or after having been at university.

      • Candidates who have adhered to the faith in culturally difficult horizons (e.g. secularism).

      • Those who come from other Congregations or from other entities of our Order: in general the written references are not always transparent, so that it is necessary to have a personalized and prudent accompaniment, also because an absence of perseverance has been noted in these vocations.

      • Often priests arrive already having a notable experience of ministry.

    2. The question of age challenges us to have a journey of personalized accompaniment.

4… and make proposals

  1. Answering the challenges put to the friars, to the Fraternities and to the Animators of vocations, it is proposed that (ex n.6) each year the question of the PCV be faced up to in the local Chapter of each local Fraternity of the Entity, nominating a local vocations animator and inserting the formation for and the initiatives of the PCV into the local projects. In this way the friars can be made more sensitive to the issue.

  2. The Provincial Secretariate for Formation and Study, of which the vocations Animator is a member with full powers, is the organism that should encourage unity in the whole of formation. It is proposed that within this organism the strategies for the involvement of the ongoing and initial Formations should be worked out.

  3. (ex n.6) With the purpose of clarifying the profile of the PCV and thereby of the vocational Animators, through the different approaches to the PCV, it is proposed to make this general picture of reference ours:

    • The PCV begins with a clear and valid announcement, to mature in a proposal made as a fraternity of brothers that are not chosen, with the purpose of becoming an accompaniment through an accurate discernment that respects the person of the young.

  1. In this picture, to respond to the challenge of the formation of the vocations Animator, the

General Secretariate for Formation and Study should propose a course for vocations

animators (strongly oriented towards the newly nominated but open to other friars and also

to the laity). It could have three levels:

    • National

    • Conference (with attention to cultural areas)

    • Such a course could be held in a single Conference, it could take into account the particular socio-cultural reality and facilitate a more widespread participation by friars. Ways of collaborating with neighbouring Conferences are to be encouraged.

    • Order (international)

    • Twinned Provinces

    • Courses promoted y the General Secretariate for Formation and Study.

    • A frequency of every three years is proposed.

    • In regard to content it is proposed that guidelines be laid out (Cf. Appendix 2).

  1. (ex n. 2) It is proposed that the friar chosen as Provincial Animator for the PCV should have

been solemnly professed for 3 to 5 years, that he be capable of working in a team, that he will have had some specific training, be truly free and available full-time for this service. These requisites can encourage maturity in promoting our vocation and a realism in accepting some situations of our Fraternity.

  1. (ex n. 7) It is asked that some way be studied so that the sole responsibility for the PCV is

passed from the vocations Animator to the vocational Fraternity. This could be the PCV

team that lives in the same House selected as a centre for PCV. It is proposed that the

laity should also be part of this team.

  1. Organise a day of prayer for Franciscan vocations to be celebrated at the same time

throughout the Order.

  1. Put an intention for vocations into the prayer leaflets of lauds and vespers.

  2. Propose a week of prayer for vocations to make the groups of young people aware and also presenting it as a time of formation and of making the friars themselves aware.

  3. Set up a Provincial and interprovincial Fraternity of Welcome (e.g. for neighbouring Provinces) wherever it is possible. In this Fraternity new ways of living the fundamental options of the Franciscan life should be actively sought.

  4. Recognising the complexity of affective maturation and of sexual orientation of the candidates, it is proposed to the Minister General and his Definitory that they give formative indications for accompaniment and discernment in this regard.

  5. On the question of age, the Vocations Animator should normally be the one who accompanies

  6. On the criteria for discernment the following grid is proposed:

13.1 A disposition to being accompanied

- on the part of the candidate:

  1. in view of a concrete option for the Franciscan life;

  2. openness to a personal/personalizing accompaniment.

- on the part of the person who accompanies:

  1. A deep knowledge of self, of his problem areas and of the resources available to him;

  2. A wise knowledge of the Word of God and of Franciscan spirituality;

  3. The sense of belonging to the Franciscan fraternity and the idealistic step forward in order to pass to others a form of life that already gives meaning to his existence;

  4. Respect the following stages: listen, accompany, form, discern.

    1. Capacity to know oneself:

  1. Recognise the limits that his own project of life opens up to the proposal of God;

  2. Acceptance of the situation of suffering and sickness as important occasions for knowing himself and for maturing;

  3. A good ability to live family relationships with sufficient autonomy

  4. Affective, sexual and relational maturity;

  5. Ability to live in chastity for the Kingdom;

  6. Recover the dimension of social relationships through the clarification of one’s own vocation;

  7. The ability to live with a certain autonomy, to make stable choices and maintain commitments;

  8. The capacity to tells one’s own story as unitary and positive memory;

- Christian maturity

  1. Verify the beginnings of faith and the assimilation of its essential contents;

  2. Initiation into liturgical and personal prayer;

  3. Church and sacramental life;

  4. Knowledge and acceptance of the essential contents of morality;

  5. Prolonged periods of reception in the Fraternity (with attention to silence and solitude in a greater listening to oneself and to others);

  6. Christian maturity open to the values of Franciscanism.

    1. Openness to the Word of God, following the process: listen, understand, memorize, carry out.

  1. Knowledge of the Gospel and the desire to put the Word of God into practice;

  2. Knowledge of the Psalms and of the biblical world.

    1. The progressive control of self, the progressive abandonment of the superfluous and a sincere search for interior freedom that is expressed in the :rejection: of material goods.

  1. Go out of self and overcome one’s own egocentrism;

  2. A disposition to freedom from material goods;

  3. The capacity to control one’s impulses;

  4. Capacity to live in and for a group.

    1. An openness to those in need, especially the most poor, recognising in them a sacrament of

the presence of God:

  1. An openness to others and to service is an unavoidable criterion of the authenticity of a vocation;

  2. Stimulate generosity, offering of self and the capacity for sharing;

  3. This capacity must be verified within the fraternity.

    1. The criteria of discernment are integrated under the general principle of being gradual, based

on the innate capacity of the human person to grow and develop. Account is taken in such a

way that there is a place for the people who are carrying with them some weakness on

different levels, but called to be integral and assumed into the dynamism of the whole person

so that they do not become an insurmountable obstacle to the Franciscan Fraternity.

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