“The English word ‘heresy’ comes from the Greek verb hairein, which means ‘to choose’. A hairesis originally meant, quite simply, the taking of a choice.” However in the context of religious authority and tradition, a “heretic” is someone who denies this authority and instead “picks and chooses” from the content of that tradition, and again, according to Berger “from these pickings and choosings” constructs his or her own deviant opinion.
Today, however, deviance is the rule-there is no common standard from which one would deviate.
The point is that, in the modern context, far from being an anomaly, heresy becomes the norm- a necessity, even, as “modernity creates a new situation in which picking and choosing becomes an imperative.” [Ecumenical Trends Magazine – January 2015]
What I quoted from the Ecumenical Trends Magazine was not written about the OFS (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis). In fact it has nothing to do directly with the OFS. It did get me thinking. In many ways it describes my own personal journey and experience serving on the local, regional, and national levels of fraternity within the OFS. First thoughts? We are a people that like to “pick and choose.” In fact, for some of us, the very process of becoming a Franciscan is an act of discernment, of “picking and choosing”.
Within Catholicism, there are two main theologies that have been passed onto us from the middle ages:
The primary Theology adopted by the Church (i.e. The Work of the Dominican School) and the Alternate Theology in the Church, (i.e. The Franciscan School)
I am not speaking here of Spiritualities, of which there are many fine paths that can lead us to experience God. I am speaking only of the foundations in theology that give rise to the many varied and equally excellent approaches to God (spiritualities). [OFS For Up to Now Manual (FUN); Understanding Franciscan Theology Tradition and Spirituality pg 3]
For decades now, I have personally experienced brokenness within the order both locally, regionally, and internationally. We are in need of healing. One of the areas of brokenness that we need to heal is our lack of a cohesive and consistent understanding of who we are as a people and what our Franciscan charism is. There seems still to be a rejection of our theology or at least a major lack of understanding across a wide spectrum of individuals that make up the OFS. Not only are we not yet able to share a “common standard” of understanding about what it means to be a secular Franciscan in the world today, we seem to struggle to recognize a “common standard” of understanding of what it means to be Catholic. The tension this creates within fraternal life keeps us from truly being brother and sister, one to another. All of this is exacerbated by our individual participation in the political culture wars that permeate our religious experience and the seeming tribal effect of our participation in digital/social media.
Recently I had the honor and privilege serving NAFRA (OFS-National Fraternity-USA) on a couple of committees. It was a great joy for me, yet there was often present a dynamic of tension. How can we as a people possibly support and become active participants in the OFS, let alone any of the Committees (i.e. ‘Ecumenical and Interfaith’ and the ‘Joint Committee for Franciscan Unity’) if even a little part of what I have experienced is true? I can see why many would not even believe these committees are necessary given the lack of a “common standard” of understanding of our faith and our Franciscan charism?
Yes, I just might be a “heretic”. Yes, in the “picking and choosing” involved in the process of discerning my vocation, I have realized and intentionally chosen the Franciscan path. However, rather than “constructing my own deviant opinion” as a Professed Franciscan, I accept and live my life following an “Alternate Theology” within Catholicism. Because of my choices and especially as I navigate my own brokenness as well as the brokenness of my sisters and brothers, I experience a certain tension and lack of acceptance sometimes outright rejection within my OFS family.
The only solution before me is love. I do recognize my own brokenness as part of the problem and as I reflect, I take upon myself the thoughts and words of Benedetto Lino, OFS, who authored a study on Secular Franciscan Formation titled “What is Christian Formation and in particular Formation For Us Secular Franciscans.” (Benedetto served for years as the CIOFS [Council International of the Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis] International Formation Minister)
I must “Start Afresh From Christ”
I must “open my soul to Christ”
I must “encounter the living person of Jesus Christ”
I must enter into “a true conversion-transformation towards a Christ-shaped existence”
I must seek out and enter into “a true personal relationship with Jesus Christ”
I must be “transformed into a new creature”
I must “Experience the ‘vibrant excitement’ and the ’emotion’ to stand before the mystery of such a wonderful condescendence’, to the point of giving myself up and to adhere totally to the Lord.”…..
“The first element in the vocational process of Saint Francis ……is the PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST, a relationship which is characterized by radicality, totality and permanence. …..”
“The flame and this warmth can be received only by those who want them and render themselves open to the action of the Spirit and to the living transmission of authentic and credible witnesses….”
“Francis, like a new Christ, inflamed his companions, his fellow-citizens, the people of his time and he continues to set the world on fire, just like Jesus’ first disciples.”
“We, too, must “set the world on fire”, dear brothers and sisters, and to do so we need ‘true faith, certain hope, perfect love, deep humility, sense and knowledge, that we may carry out the Lord’s holy and true command’, exactly as Francis asked the Crucifix, after He had revealed to him his mission.”
“We must multiply and, by living contact, we must transmit, form, and inflame.”
United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance,” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily…… [Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order; article VII]
Let me begin again for up to now I have done nothing.
Pax et bonum