Wherever the Spirit Leads Us
Address by Doug Clorey sfo

June 10, 2001

"Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son and daughter of God."
(Romans 8: 14)

What a gift to have a God who adopts us as sons and daughters, more than creatures but actually part of his family.

As sons and daughters of God, we are indeed special and unique. In fact, there is something very unique in each of us that, when shared, allows us to understand the complementarity of our existence, and that creates the bonds of community. When we share our "little piece" with each other, our "little portion", as Francis would say, we begin to construct something much bigger ... and, over time, we build the kingdom of God. And, so, I would like to share with you three little portions, that provide direction in my life and from which I draw strength in my own life:

  1. that we are on a journey and that it is the Spirit of God who leads us on this journey;
  2. that it is "humility" and "poverty" that enable us to hear the voice of the Spirit of God; and
  3. that the Spirit of God calls us to rebuild the Church.

In our Rule, we read that

"The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans 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 centre 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."
(SFO Rule 4)

The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, the gift of the Father's love (Trinity)

We are all on a journey, and the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us on this journey, the one who leads us to a Gospel way of life, going "from Gospel to life and life to Gospel", as we say.

As Secular Franciscans, we are on a journey that is immersed in the secular world in which we find ourselves. And, what is special, is that we are called to journey with others; we do not journey alone. And, I might add, if we were meant to be on this journey on our own, it is unlikely that many of us would reach our destination. But, no, we are meant to travel together, in community, wherever the Spirit leads us.

The Spirit that leads us is the Spirit of God, a God who loves us, who gives us hope and who fills us with joy. This God of ours is

Last year, I wrote "Wherever the Spirit Leads Us" at the suggestion of my daughter, Christina.

[Sing "Wherever the Spirit Leads Us"]

Wherever the Spirit leads us,
wherever we go,
wherever the journey takes us,
together we'll go.

These are important messages for us to remember,

From my lived experience, I have also learned that the Franciscan journey

is a journey of ongoing conversion ...
a journey that we undertake together
as brothers and sisters of penance.
It is a journey that involves the recognition

In 1990, I wrote the song "Humility and Poverty". It was my attempt to gain a better understanding of these two entities: humility and poverty. It seemed to me that humility and poverty ought to be at the centre of how we journey in a spirit of ongoing conversion. It seemed to me that, if we could be humble and live simple lives, we would be in a better position to hear the voice of God, the voice of the Spirit, who shows us how to go beyond ourselves, to love others.

Through this composition, I came to a greater understanding that humility is born out of a sense that, in spite of what we may think we can or cannot do, we are entirely dependent on God. "So often we see ourselves as the answer to all, and yet for all things we have, we depend on our God." Humility challenges us to recognize that we are nothing without God. In fact, we wouldn't even be without God. It challenges us to find our place in the context of creator and created. And, yet, it also challenges us to recognize the beauty of our creation. So, humility cannot be about belittling our existence. Rather, it is about acknowledging the beauty of God's creation, acknowledging that this beauty is from God, and that we are part of it.

Poverty, the twin of humility, reminds us that "possession and power are the lures of the world", and that these lures distract us from what we need to be, and from moving on as we journey. Detachment from material things and simple living allow us to focus on our God and the journey that we are to follow, and on its destination. And, this is not just any journey ... this is the journey that leads us to peaceful living and everlasting life. As a result, we should want nothing but our God, who will show us the path we are to follow on this journey. He ought to be our only possession.

With humility and poverty, we are assured that we will become free to love. We will become free to care for each other, to truly love God, and to trust completely as Francis did.

[Sing "Humility and Poverty".]

Humility and poverty, in a very real way, seem to be there to help us clear out the clutter, so we can hear the voice of the Spirit in our lives, so we can make deliberate movements along our collective journeys.

And, so we are called to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit in our lives, to be aware of the Spirit's promptings, the Spirit of a God who is full of love, hope and joy.

And, all the while, we are reminded that we never journey alone.

Wherever the Spirit leads us,
wherever we go,
wherever the journey takes us,
together we'll go.
So, where is the journey meant to lead us?
To what is the Spirit calling us as Secular Franciscans?

Ultimately, as our General Constitutions express it, we are called to holiness (GC, Art. 1.1) This call to holiness, however, is not a call that is lived in isolation but, rather, it is a call that is lived out in relationship, in communion,

As Secular Franciscans, I believe that the call to holiness manifest itself in three specific ways:

The call to a life of prayer is a call to be intimate with God. It is a "going to the cave" ... in whatever way that translates for us.

Murray Bodo, in The Journey and The Dream, describes it well:

"It was in the cave that Francis met Jesus
and saw himself for the first time.
During the agonizing hours in the cave,
he began to hear a voice inside himself,
a deeper, clearer voice that was like discovering
a part of himself he did not know was there.
The more he prayed and turned to Christ for inspiration,
the deeper he plunged towards some inner force
that gave him strength and peace
and there, at the depth within,
Jesus spoke softly to him
and made his heart burn with love."
... burning, as the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

If we are to be effective as Secular Franciscans, our lives need to be well rooted in our relationship with God. It is this relationship with God that calls us to serve one another.

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we have as Franciscans is the gift of fraternity, the gift of journeying together in community, with the support of brothers and sisters who love us, and with brothers and sisters who accept our gift of love.

The challenge, of course, is that we cannot keep this gift to ourselves.

It is, in this very context, that we are called to rebuild Church, to build a new creation in our midst, a creation that is based on communion with one another, and which starts with our own communion with God.

This rebuilding of Church occurs at a number of levels.

In cultivating our relationships at all three of these levels, our fraternities are there to support us. For it is in the human family, in our workplaces, and in our service to the greater community, that we will in fact rebuild the Church.

As Emanuela, our General Minister, puts it,

"We must revitalize our fraternities and, beginning there, offer our service to the Church and our contribution to the creation of a new civilization".
Now, that's a vision for us Secular Franciscans!

In this new millennium, we have much to offer the universal Church. We have a model within our fraternities that has stood the test of time (at least, more than 800 years). We have a model of being and living, that recognizes the gifts of the community and invites a sharing of these gifts in service to the community. We have an approach to leadership that engages all of the sons and daughters of God, based on their gifts and talents, and which transcends gender differences and family circumstances. In a sense, we have the potential of being a model of the Church of the new millennium, where we can explore the intricacies of living in relationship together as a community, in holiness and justice. We must not hide our light under a bushel. We have a responsibility to share what we have, and to translate our fraternal life into concrete projects and meaningful action.

God called Francis to rebuild Church. As we all know, God's call extends to each of us today as well.

In this new millennium, we already have a model within our fraternities that can enable the "new civilization" to which Emanuela refers.

And, so, let's remember

  1. that we are on a journey and that it is the Spirt of God who leads us on this journey;
  2. that it is "humility" and "poverty" that enable us to hear the voice of the Spirit of God; and
  3. that the Spirit of God calls us to rebuild the Church, in our families, workplaces and society at large.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are all strengthened on our journey by the Risen One. This is my prayer and hope for each of you; that you will always be accompanied on your journey by

Now he is risen. He is alive.

[Sing "On the Road to Emmaus"]

Thank you.

Contact: Jack Smith: phone 61-2-62583824 jacksmth@ozemail.com.au