At this moment in history, when many have felt a shift in their place in the country, and in the world, we are each called to examine our highest and best values, and answer their call. “Some people of faith feel that they need to show up because their faith calls them to it,” says […]
Assalamu Alaikum is the traditional Muslim greeting which is not something most of our sisters and brothers hear every day. Nor do we often hear positive comments when the name Allah is used in reference to God. There are in today’s world, certain buzz words that catch our attention and give us pause that makes our anxiety rise. What is the conditioned response to our angst? Fear. Keep people out. We must “build a wall”.
My wife Kathy and I work and serve the poor on the streets of Detroit, a stone’s throw from the city of Dearborn. Dearborn is home to the largest population of Muslims in the United States. If I have learned anything serving the poor on the streets of Detroit (which is so close to Dearborn), it is that poverty, misery, hunger, and fear know neither jurisdictional boundaries, nor recognition of or honor religious affiliations.
This past month, a young man volunteered with us as we served the poor. He is 19, a Muslim, and his family has sent him here from Turkey to escape the current political turmoil and violence in his homeland. He is a senior in high school learning our language and experiencing our culture. For this young adult’s parents, the United States is viewed and used as “sanctuary”. Coming to downtown Detroit and serving the homeless and poor was not anything that was on this young person’s radar when his parents sent him here for an education. Yet here he was. How did he come to us? He was brought by another 19 year old high school senior who is here in Michigan from Poland. They both are looking to serve, and at the same time, experience a place of peace and community. Imagine! A 19-year-old Catholic high school senior works side by side, hand in hand with a 19-year-old Muslim high school senior, serving those in need regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation, serving with volunteers who are Secular Franciscans, Southern Baptists, Romanian Orthodox, Lutheran, and agnostic.
Our Rule, Constitutions, and National Statutes call for us in our Ecumenical and Interfaith efforts to move beyond talk. We are called to follow the example of the young adults I have mentioned above and fearlessly move out into our communities
From our Rule, we read-
therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters. – Article 5
are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children. – Article 9
should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters. – Article 12
with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ. – Article 13
place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly – Article 13
seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue – Article 14
trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone- Article 14
strive to bring joy and hope to others – Article 14
We are called to set ourselves free to love God and our brothers and sisters – all of them.
It is my honor as the Ecumenical and Interfaith Chair to assist each of you to fulfill the plea of the National Fraternity.
O Breath of God, unite us in action!
2016-2017 Theme of the National Secular Franciscan Fraternity – USA
The Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee is here to help you in your journey, to encourage you to action, and then to help you tell your stories.
To empower you to “live the gospel of our Lord” and “make present the charism of our common Seraphic Father”.
To that end we have created a new Ecumenical and Interfaith website, http://www.ofsusaecumenicalinterfaith.org
The web site is active; the list below is our beginning.
- A page for each Committee component
- Ecumenical and Interfaith
- Joint Community on Franciscan Unity
- Calendar of events
- Photo gallery for your Ecumenical and Interfaith photos
- Interfaith prayer services for your use, and
- Links with related information.
Yes – O Breath of God, unite us in action!
Assalamu alaikum / Peace be upon you
Mike Carsten OFS
Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee Chair
Our e-mail address – NAFRA@ofsusaecumenicalinterfaith.org
Share with us your Ecumenical and Interfaith experiences, photos and stories.
Please let us know how we can help you.
“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
OFS General Constitutions
Remaining faithful to their own identity, the fraternities will take care to make the most of each occasion for prayer, formation, and active collaboration with other ecclesial groups. They should welcome with pleasure those who, without belonging to the SFO, wish to share its experiences and activities. (Art. 103.1) The fraternities will promote wherever possible, fraternal relations with non-Roman Catholic associations inspired by Francis. (Art. 103.2)
The 30th Anniversary Celebration Convocation & Chapter Order of Ecumenical Franciscans convened on July 18, 2013, and we would be together at the Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, Michigan until the 21st. It was a time of excitement for me! After arriving, when all our brothers and sisters were present and before the start of any business, the community gathered in the chapel and entered into silent prayer and meditation.
On the following day, introductions were made, and I was honored to extend fraternal greetings (in the absence of Tom Bello OFS, National Minister, Anne Mulqueen, OFS, Interfaith/Ecumenical chairperson for NAFRA, and James Howard, OFS, Divine Mercy Region Regional Minister) to the brothers and sisters of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF).
The gathering was a delight to attend. It was a celebration of 30 years of shared history, business, the election and installation of two servant leadership positions, and prayer (of course a fair share of Franciscan foolishness). Ed Shirley, OFS was remembered throughout our time together in fun and prayerful ways—he is surely missed!
The final day was highlighted by a wonderful presentation by Patrick Carolan of the Franciscan Action Network (F.A.N.). The evening Communion Service included a “Service of Profession and Renewal of Vows”, followed by celebration, conversation, laughter and Franciscan partying that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
The following day, as all were getting ready to depart, I offered to our brother Craig Robert Miller, OEF Minister General, our support and our love. I requested that the OEF consider to allow the brothers and sisters of the OFS of Divine Mercy Region’s neighboring fraternities to serve them at next year’s gathering (e.g. possibly handling transportation).
Our similarities (OEF and OFS) are many. As you know, the OFS’ guiding document is the Rule; the OEF follow the Principles. I offer to you the following excerpts from each others’ essential writings. After you consider these writings, read Pope John Paul II writing “Ut Unum Sint” also given to you here.
Principles of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans
Principle 1. We covenant together, as the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.
Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Article 4. The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.
Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly. Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.
Ut Unum Sint
Encyclical of Pope John Paul II
…Thus it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian unity, is not just some sort of “appendix” which is added to the Church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work. And consequently must pervade all that she is and does; 20.1
…What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Pope John XXIII; 20.2
It is very difficult to describe this joyful encounter. We all were welcomed completely—brothers and sisters giving of themselves! OEF brothers and sisters were pilgrims, traveling by bus, train and some by airplane—mostly absorbing the cost of their travel and spending up to 20 hours coming to the meeting and 20 hours going back home.
They inspire me through their love and dedication.