Forsaken

As we enter into Holy Week my thoughts turn to Good Friday and the words of Jesus as he was dying on the cross.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mt. 27: 46

What does it mean to be “Forsaken”? Can we even imagine how this feels?

In the time of Francis one group of “Forsaken”  were the lepers. A group of people whose very identity was officially erased. They were the “disappeared” of their day. The very act to remove them from society was an official act of the Church with a proper Ritual.

The Mass of Separation

The mass, spoken by a priest, was performed at the site of the leper’s hut. The whole parish accompanied a newly identified leper to his/her new home [outside the city walls] as the priest performed the mass.

I forbid you to ever enter a church, a monastery, a fair, a mill, a market or an     assembly of people.

I forbid you to leave your house unless dressed in your recognizable garb and also shod.

I forbid you to wash your hands or to launder anything or to drink at any stream or fountain, unless using your own barrel or dipper.

I forbid you to touch anything you buy or barter for, until it becomes your own.

I forbid you to enter any tavern; and if you wish for wine, whether you buy it or it is given to you,  have it funneled into your keg.

I forbid you to share house with any woman but your wife.

I command you, if accosted by anyone while travelling on a road, to set yourself down-wind of them before you answer.

I forbid you to enter any narrow passage, lest a passerby bump into you.

I forbid you, wherever you go, to touch the rim or the rope of a well without donning our gloves.

I forbid you to touch any child or give them anything.

I forbid you to drink or eat from any vessel but your own.

Martene’s DeAntiquis Ecclesiae Ritibus, “Ordo I” , quoted. in Martinus cawley, “The Life of Alice the Leper and the Silver Age of Villers,” Cistercian Scholars Quarterly

It was from this lived experience of the removal of society of the “forsaken” that we read from the Testament of Francis:

The Lord gave me, brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed excessively bitter to me to see lepers.  And the Lord himself led me among them and I did mercy with them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me had been changed into sweetness of spirit and the body; and afterward I lingered a little and left the world. [of Assisi]

Who are the “Forsaken” of today? Who do we not want to look at or not want to see? Who are we keeping outside of the walls of our communities? How are we as Secular (Lay) Franciscans  responding?

An invitation to look anew at the Office of Minister

 

In October we will be participating in the Fraternity’s “Chapter of Elections”.  It is a time of Joy and Grace for the sisters and brothers of the Troubadours of “St. Clare Fraternity” and for the entire Order as well.

During the Election process there are two specific types of office within the one Council that nominations are received and persons are elected too.

  1. The office of Minister
  2. The office of Councilor

The specific tasks that are filled such as Secretary, Treasurer and even in our Fraternity’s case Formation Master/Minister all are given their expression through the office of Councilor.

The “Office of Minister” is a unique position that is distinct in its character.  Within the “Office of Minister” there are two positions that members are elected to.

  1. The Office of Minister
  2. The Office of Vice-Minister

For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on these two unique and distinct offices Minister and Vice –  Ministerwithin the council at all levels.

There is no position that holds more misunderstanding within the OFS than the office of Minister.

It is seen by most (at all levels) to be a position of power and authority.  The Office of Vice-Minister is used today (at all levels) as a somewhat ceremonial position where the person elected is viewed as less than the Minister and as someone behind the scenes waiting for delegation of responsibility’s from, or the absence of the (true) Minister. In other words to fill in when needed. Nothing could be further from the truth or the intention of our Rule and Constitutions.

To quote our Minister General, Tibor Kauser In a presentation to the assembled gathering in Assisi during the OFS General Chapter, November 2014.

5. SOME CONCRETE PROBLEMS

  1. Lack of collegiality and misunderstanding of the role of ministers.

This is the most frequent problem in the order. The problem exists not only because there are ministers who think they are entitled to have absolute powers but also because there are counselors who are convinced that the minister is responsible and empowered to do everything, or who simply have no intention to get involved to serve.

The solution of this problem entirely resides on the full compliance with our Rule and General Constitutions.

Particular misunderstanding can be experienced regarding the role of the vice-ministers. They are very often considered to be ‘substitute ministers’, saying that they do not have anything to do until the minister is in charge.  I strongly recommend to read the General Constitutions for this:

   The vice minister has the following duties: (G.C. 52.1)

  • To collaborate in a fraternal spirit and to support the minister in carrying out his or her specific duties;
  • To exercise the functions entrusted by the council and/or by the assembly or chapter;
  • To take the place of the minister in both duties and responsibilities in case of absence or temporary impediment;
  • To assume the functions of the minister when the office remains vacant.

These duties – particularly the first two – are way fare more than to wait until the minister ‘disappears’. This needs a new understanding from both the ministers and the vice-ministers”. End quote.

Sisters and brothers, we are being asked by our Minister General, to rethink and recreate, our understanding and experience of the “Office of Minister”.  To expect from those elected to this office, both Minister and Vice-Minister at all levels of Fraternal life, a true understanding of the collegiality and shared ministry expressed and expected as a result of our intentional desire to live out our Rule and General Constitutions.

Our brother Tibor’s comments are meant for the entire order. The task for our specific Fraternity and Region is to look at who we are. How we operate and respond in concrete ways to this moment of fraternal correction we are being offered.

Tibor’s entire presentation can be seen and downloaded from the NAFRA web site. It is well worth the time and effort.

Peace

Mike