FRATERNAL CORRECTION

 

There are many aspects of our life together of which we may be justly proud. There are also areas where we are still weak and obviously in need of conversion. To look just at one side of our lives together will always give a biased view, and can result in complacency on the one hand or despair on the other.

Fraternal correction, as presented in the gospels and to which we are so strongly exhorted by St. Francis, must start with oneself; but, because we are a brotherhood, much of our conversion and correction should come from, and even be sought from our brothers. This means surely, that while we work to remove the 'beam' from our own eyes, we also try to help one another with the process of removing the 'speck'. This cooperation in conversion calls for sensitivity, humility, sympathetic understanding and a genuine application of the exhortation in our Rule that we make known our needs to each other with confidence.

If we can be confident that our brother will listen with sympathy and a true desire to help us rather than fear he will criticise us without a proper hearing, or make our weaknesses the material for gossip, then we will see true brotherhood blooming in our communities. Loyalty is essential to our community living and adds substance to praiseworthy customs already in use in many communities, such as special days for prayer and recollection, house meetings, remembrance and celebrations of birthdays, extended meals of fellowship, etc. In some ways, customs such as these are the icing on the cake very acceptable with the cake, but perhaps too sugary and even unhealthy without it.

Where these customs are a celebration of the loyalty that friars know exists because of their experience of everyday communal attempts at conversion, and their acknowledgment that they have brothers who are willing to help them when they are 'down', there is a joy and an exuberance that almost defies description. Perhaps, it has been captured in the following Admonitions of St. Francis:

"Blessed is the servant who would love his brother as much when he is sick and cannot repay him as he would when he is well and can repay him" (Admonition XXIV).

"Blessed is the servant who would love and respect his brother as much when he is far from him as he would when he is with him; and who would not say anything behind his back which in charity he could not say to his face" (Admonition XXV).