THE FORMATION IN THE SFO OF PRIESTS AND OTHERS

A Dialogue conducted in the National Fraternity of the U.S.A., 2006

 

Question from the Minister of a local Fraternity:

 

There is a retired Diocesan Priest who was a Spiritual Assistant for many years in a certain Fraternity and worked with formation. He has now moved and is a Spiritual Assistant with another Fraternity. The new Minister would like him to become a Secular Franciscan, and hopefully without going through Formation. What are your thoughts?

 

Reply from the National Secretary:

 

Formation as a Secular Franciscan is different from any other form of formation. No matter how long someone has worked with us, their formation was as a priest/religious, etc. This includes former Franciscan religious, who may, now, desire to be professed as SFO. Perhaps, the Regional Spiritual Assistant may help create a special and appropriate formation program for the person mentioned, but formation as an SFO is required.

 

Reply from the National Minister:

 

I was contacted by an individual with a PHD in Franciscan Studies. She sent me her dissertation to review with the desire to omit Formation.

 

I shared this with her. "It is not about how much you know about Francis and Clare, or how long you shared time with Franciscans, but who you become as a result of your journey in Formation." The only way to have a good understanding of our spirituality is to experience it.

 

Reply from the National Formator:

 

Vocation to the SFO is a grace and a gift and a call from God, not generated by a minister's desire. I wonder if there is something in the Spiritual Assistant's Handbook that adapts the formation of the secular clergy.

 

The SFO Ritual, n.31, says:

 

"Therefore, in my secular state (or: as a member of the diocesan clergy) I promise to live ..." It comes from the rite of profession, which presumes that they have been properly formed.

 

The General Constitutions, 2000, state:

 

Art 2.2.: The SFO is open to the faithful of every state of life. The following may belong to it:

the laity (men and women); the secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops).

 

Article 3

2. Their secularity, with respect to vocation and to apostolic life, expresses itself according to

the respective state, that is:

for the laity, contributing to building up the Kingdom of God by their presence in their

life-situations and in their temporal activities; 6

for the secular clergy, by offering to the people of God the service which is properly theirs, in communion with the bishop and the presbytery.7

Both are inspired by the gospel options of Saint Francis of Assisi, committing themselves to continue his mission with the other components of the Franciscan Family.

 

6. See Can 225, and the Discourse of Pope John Paul II to the SFO, September 27, 1982 in

L'Osservatore Romano, September 28, 1982.

7. See Can. 275 ff, Presbyterorum ordinis 12; 14; 15 ff.

 

Reply from a Regional Formator:

 

Having been the formation director in our fraternity that included a diocesan priest who also was a canon lawyer/judge on the Tribunal of our diocese, I can assure you he fulfilled all the requirements of our humble Fraternity formation program, and went on to be professed. He never felt belittled or having his intelligence insulted, nor did he EVER ask for special consideration. He expected to complete his formation requirements just like everyone else. I believe that is what our father Francis would have expected of him and us.

 

This is not about how much book knowledge you have but how you can live it, enflesh it, internalize it, share it and love it in your daily life and in fraternity.

 

Our newly adopted regional guidelines respond to this specific question (thanks to that same priest who is now our regional Canonist):

 

Title 16 - Life in Fraternity: Formation

 

canon 112: Inquirers and candidates who are intellectually gifted, even if they are clerics, shall not be allowed an abbreviated formation. They shall participate in the full program of formation and shall be challenged even further by material consistent with their intellectual abilities. They shall be given the opportunity to delve even further into the profundity of our Seraphic Father's life and thought, its development in the writings of Franciscan theologians and philosophers and the application of the Franciscan charism to their own particular state in the world and in the Church. The fraternity director of formation should consult the spiritual assistant and the regional formation director for guidance in these matters.

 

Our Seraphic Father Francis tells us in Admonition VII: Good works must follow knowledge:

 

St. Paul tells us, "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6)". A man has been killed by the letter when he wants to know quotations only so that people will think he is very learned and he can make money to give to his relatives and friends. A religious has been killed by the letter when he has no desire to follow the spirit of Sacred Scriptures, but wants to know what it says only so that he can explain it to others.

 

On the other hand, those have received life from the spirit of Sacred Scripture who by their words and example, refer to the most high God, to whom belongs all good, all that they know or wish to know, and do not allow their knowledge to become the source of self- complacency.