Exemplified by developing a method of prayer suitable to a secular lifestyle

Fr. Patrick Colbourne OFMCap., National Assistant SFO-Oceania

The Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World began with the words, "Joy and Hope". If we look at the state of the world, was this the right title?

* When we were young, we fought the devil sometimes over the sixth commandment. As we become older, we fight God over the fifth commandment, i.e., not to become angry with him concerning the state of the world, the way life has treated us, and the fear of what lies ahead as we lose our independence. This follows the pattern of the life of Christ who fought with the devil at the beginning of his public ministry and fought with his Father in the Agony in the Garden. It is hard not to lose faith but it is easy to give into fear.

* There are so many things that the Council could not have foreseen, e.g., test tube babies, terrorism, proliferation of wars and weapons, ecological problems such as global warming, same sex marriages, drugs, and so on. The average person longs for a spirituality to support them as they face such things within their own families.

* As Tod will state, spirituality has often been based on the assumption that priests and religious had a monopoly on speaking to God.

* Consequently, there were times when the laity were seen and defined through a clericalized projection of what clerics thought laity should be.

* The clergy and the laity have a place in the Church based on the Sacraments which they receive. The Hierarchy receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and have a duty to safeguard doctrine and the authentic interpretation of Scripture. (This is not dissimilar to the altius moderamen according to which Spiritual Assistants ensure that the SFO is orthodox in faith and Franciscan spirituality.) All the baptised have the gift of the Spirit that enables them to experience their faith and, as St Paul says in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, to pass on the consolation with which they have been consoled. All SFO members have to set an example of experiencing the Franciscan way of following the Gospel. At his Episcopal Ordination, Bishop Peter Ingham used the phrase: "For you I am your Bishop, with you I am a Christian."

* While authenticity of doctrine is needed, the world today is also in great need of examples of an experience of faith to offset the prevalent culture of death.

* Prayer is an experience of faith - a coming into his presence. People are convinced that they need it in the face of their problems and to sustain their hope. But we need to develop methods in line with lay life and its demands quite separately from methods suitable for priests and religious.

* In Australia, as there are no Spiritual Assistants who are not either priests or religious, this is an area where they could seek advice from lay people who have successfully found a place for authentic prayer in their secular lives.