Tag Archives: Formation

20 February. What is Theology saying, XLVI: Renounce or change the world?

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Good Pope John XXIII called the Council

Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris1 emphasized that relationships between nations must be based on the same values that guide those of communities and individuals: truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom. Catholic social teaching stresses that peace is not simply the absence of war, but is based on the dignity of the person, thus requiring a political order based on justice and charity. The right of conscientious objection is affirmed when civil authorities mandate actions which are contrary to the fundamental rights of the person and the teachings of the Gospel.

But Vatican II also emphasized the crucial role of the laity in the Church, and these past fifty years have seen a growth and flourishing of lay leadership all around the world. Many Catholics are eager to learn more about their faith, but not all parishes offer opportunities to do so. Therefore, lay Catholics need to evangelize their priests and parishes in social justice terms as well as the other way around. Catholics don’t need to wait for the go-ahead from their pastors to engage in works of peace and social justice. That way, the Church’s social teachings won’t be a secret any more.

To the majority of people in the world, Jesus is an honoured historical figure who was the founder of Christianity—but that is about as far as it goes. Many have no idea that his most wonderful life had an unsurpassed effect on the history of humankind. In fact, without the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, life on planet earth would be incomprehensibly different from what it is today.

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February 7. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VII: Brother Sheward and Brother George did the impossible.

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Br. Hugues OFM

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

Br. Sheward Mandongwe and Br. George Machega have spent the past several years in the Franciscan formation programme, which included human development, religious and Franciscan studies with practical experience in pastoral ministry.

Br. Sheward did his Franciscan Year at St. Francis of Assisi-Nharira Mission in 2014 while Br. George, at the same place in 2015. The Franciscan year is a period of integration and Franciscan experience as it is said in the General Statutes of the Order of Friar Minor that during the time of temporary profession, all the Friars must follow an integrated formation that is properly Franciscan so that they may live out more fully the life of our Order and carry out its mission in a more suitable way.

Following the tradition of the Franciscan Friars in Zimbabwe, at Our Lady of the Angels Friary, Tafara, the day before the profession of our two brothers, after an evening meal there was a time of dialogue between the brothers of the Custody of Good Shepherd and Family members of Br. Sheward and Br. George.

Some brothers explained the Formation stages: Aspirancy, Postulancy, Novitiate and Temporary Profession, Philosophical studies, Franciscan Year and Theological studies. Br. Alfigio explained about the three religious vows; Poverty, Chastity and Obedience with the fact of renouncing all individual goods. Other senior Friars explained the total belonging of the friars to the Order until death, that brothers are buried in the graveyard of the Franciscan Friars not in the family graveyards.

That evening gathering was also a time for the family members of the two brothers to ask questions about Franciscan life. The following day, the special day for Br. Sheward and Br. George, the ritual of their Solemn Profession took place during the Mass led by Br. Fanuel Magwidi OFM, the Parish Priest of St. Matthews Parish, Glenview. The Celebration was well prepared by a committee from St. Matthew’s, in collaboration with their parish Priest. Br. Jean Claude OFM, during his homily instructed the two brothers that Solemn Profession is done only once in life and there is no way backwards once it is done. Brothers are bound by vows into the Order for the rest of their life.

The Custos, Br. Alfigio, received the Final Profession of Br. Sheward and Br. George. After the Eucharistic Celebration, a meal was shared with all who were present, religious from different congregations, families and relatives of the two brothers, the faithful and even uninvited guests. We thank God for this grace, Br. Sheward and Br. George did the impossible by not only gathering different people from different families and leave everything for the sake of Franciscan life, a decision which is not easy to take. Through this celebration, the Franciscan Family is also growing and the Order is very thankful to God and to all the people who made the day possible.

Thanks to Brother Chris for letting us learn about Franciscan Formation in Zimbabwe. We hope to return there in the future. Will.

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5 February. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VI: Understand what I feel!

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Another view of Franciscan formation comes from Novice Brother Karabo Emmanuel Leballo.

Pax et Bonum! (Peace and Goodness).

Religious life has always been shaped by a profound realization of the mystery of God and by evaluation of the reality of the times. Throughout the ages, Christ, the Son of God has walked among us and has exercised a real and absolute claim on the lives of human beings. Today, as yesterday and tomorrow, Jesus attracts young men and women inviting them to follow him.

I write this article as a Franciscan Novice who is embracing a vocation to consecrated life. What this means for me is that my life should embrace penance and repentance which St Francis of Assisi expresses as a life of perfect joy.

To be a follower of St Francis can be joyous but very demanding, as it is centred on the values of prayer, fraternity, evangelisation, minority and work. This life becomes meaningful when it is believed, acted and shared. After all, this is a vocation to religious life as Thomas Aquinas explains that “religious life, being founded on Christ’s own advice is a better way to life. And therefore, he says, if someone wants to enter religious life (has a good intention) and does not have any definite obstacles then he should go for it. At first one makes a personal discernment and after there is an approval by the church authorities.

God does not call us to holiness simply as individuals but as members of the church, the mystical body of Christ. It is not suddenly expected that those who enter into religious life will be immediately perfect. What is required is for them to tend to perfection and to embrace the means of growing in perfection. A true vocation is nothing other than a firm and constant will in the one who has been called to serve God in accordance with divine majesty.

Novices on pilgrimage

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January 30, From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe II: Faithful Vocations.

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Brother Givemore Mazhanje is a young Franciscan in Zimbabwe. There is a freshness in his writing which I hope you enjoy. The post is about when he attended 

A WORKSHOP ON FAITHFUL VOCATIONS

 

Mr and Mrs Musiyiwa from St Francis of Assisi Parish, Waterfalls in Harare, were the facilitators.

Firstly, they took us through reflections on our life as religious men of today, including: what is the significant contribution of my vocation to people in the Church and in society? Is my choice of vocation an informed decision? Does my vocation have a foundation in God?

One’s choice of vocation gives life to the individual and humanity only if it has God as its source of being. God is the source and summit of each and everyone’s calling. All vocations are nurtured by Him. On the other hand, it is of paramount significance that each person should cultivate some crucial values and virtues; including endurance, flexibility, dedication, commitment, truthfulness, humility, trust and self-control.

Akin to these, is the establishment of personal boundaries that a person to protect oneself and remain focused. Boundaries can be emotional, physical, psychological and material. Above all these practices, a vocation is nourished with prayer. Without prayer, religious life can be fruitless and meaningless.

Several challenges affect faithful vocations: identity crisis, health, personal doubts, the balance between prayer, study and work, family demands, cultural diversity and economic crisis among others.

Identity crisis is a question of knowing oneself. It is a challenge in religious life if one does not really know who he or she is. Yet knowing oneself requires introspection and acceptance; failure to do such, one may remain in confusion.

Another challenge is the balance between prayer, study and work. All these three are to be given suitable space and time, considering their vital roles in the life of a religious. The challenge arises when one aspect is given more time at the expense of the other. For example, it is not healthy when more time is given to study while prayer and work are suppressed; or more time is given to prayer without studying and working. What is needed is a balanced undertaking of one’s prayer life, time for work and studies.

Secondly, a religious ought to make peace with one’s past and the present so as to build a better foundation for the future. Not only that but also to attend workshops where challenges are shared and discussed so as to gain skills of conducting oneself. Reflections, recollections and retreats are also of great importance. The workshop helped us to know the foundations and importance of a vocation and how to nurture a faithful, meaningful and life-giving vocation.

Let us pray that Givemore and his fellow novices may persevere in their vocations and find the Franciscan way life-giving.

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29 January: From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe, I.

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We haven’t heard much from Brother Chris Dyczek for a while. After leaving the Franciscan International Study Centre, he’s been busy studying and working in Oxford, but is now off to teach in Zimbabwe. The friars have had a custody there for sixty years; this picture shows them all (bar Brother Chris!) in a boat, reminiscent of the one on the L’Arche emblem.

Chris hopes to send us some reflections from Zimbabwe, but in the meantime he has sent us their house journal from which we’ll share a few extracts.

This passage sets out their philosophy and vision.

The Franciscan Friars of the Custody of The Good Shepherd- Zimbabwe are called by Christ, in the footsteps of St. Francis. We are a Missionary and Contemplative Fraternity, striving towards a Self-Sustaining life, in Minority and Simplicity, in continual Formation, and being adaptive to the needs of our times.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1)

The challenge for anyone wanting to follow Francis set out very clearly! Let us pray for the grace of minority (or an attitude of deep humility and brother- or sisterhood), and simplicity, wherever we are called to meet the needs of our times.

 

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8 March, Human Will IV: The Will and Virtue

 

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In the Church’s anthropology, our will is one.  We have ‘free will.’  Saint Irenaeus, in the third century, wrote that the human person is ‘master over his acts’ precisely because of his free will.  We are therefore responsible for our decisions and actions.  Those decisions and actions of which we are ashamed cannot be panned off on some other sort of ‘will’ present within us.

At the same time, we know that our will’s capacity to respond to the promptings of our conscience is not always immediate or consistent.  Although Augustine thought our emotions and our will can and should work as one, the fact is that sometimes the will is under the sway of our emotions.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this important observation:

Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts [no. 1734]. 

Let us pause over this sentence and savour it a bit.  It means that if we want our will to function properly with ‘mastery’ over our acts, it needs some help.  First, as the Catechism indicates, help is needed on the level of virtue.  The Church defines virtue as ‘an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.  Virtue allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself’ [Catechism, no. 1803].[1]

What is important to note here is the encouraging news that we can grow in virtue.  Each time we do something truly good, the will is strengthened by that action, and we grow in our ability to continue to do good.  We grow not only in terms of the ease with which we act in a good way, but we grow in our understanding of what we are doing and why: we grow in spiritual depth.  We thereby make real progress in virtue, and strengthen the power of our will.

The next idea in the sentence we are considering is that our will’s mastery is strengthened by our progress in ‘knowledge of the good.’  Perhaps you are someone who has been a Christian all your life, or perhaps you are someone who is just discovering God, Jesus, Christianity.  But, wherever we may be on the Christian timeline, we all need to grow in our ‘knowledge of the good.’

We do not live in a society that accepts that ‘the good’ exists in a way that makes requirements on all people.  Much of what Christianity declares to be truly good in an unchanging and universal sense, our society simply writes off as mere opinion – not binding on anyone except those who hold such opinions.  This can be confusing, both for long-term Christians, and new Christians.  To really know ‘the good’, it is necessary to turn to the teaching of the Church, to pray for understanding, and to be courageous enough to reject some counterfeit notions of goodness that are the currency of our culture.  The Church has always been counter-cultural and Christians must simply expect that the ethical and moral teachings of the Church will be a challenge to many of our society’s popular notions of morality.   As we gradually come to understand what is truly good, and live in accordance with our knowledge, our will is strengthened, and its mastery over our acts is enhanced.  We become more alive, more joyful, on a very deep level.

And lastly, our phrase from the Catechism uses the word ‘ascesis.’  What is that?  Perhaps we can call it the ability to set limits on our pleasures.  Living for mere pleasure can quickly degenerate into addiction.  And it is well known that addiction’s pleasures operate by the law of diminishing returns.  This is not to suggest that a Christian should have no pleasure, but that pleasure is the by-product of joy, and joy comes when our will, guided by our reason and informed by faith, exercises mastery over our acts.  Perhaps it is easiest to understand ascesis as self-discipline that functions for the purpose of enabling us to be free of dependences in order to live fully for God.  St. Augustine’s prayer, published at the beginning of these posts, affirms God helps us on the level of our will.  He is the strength of the will that serves him.

 

[1] This is not the place to give a detailed treatment of all the virtues, but those wishing to understand more about this subject may refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1804 – 1829.

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Franciscan Studies in Canterbury

  Another word from our sponsors!

If you want to learn more about Franciscan life and thought, the first course below might interest you.

The second is maybe for you if you feel ‘What? Novice Mistress (or Master) – me? Help!’ If you are appointed to the community in a house of formation, start here! You’ll find plenty of wisdom among the staff and your fellow students, who come from different branches of the Franciscan family in different parts of the world.

The Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, is now accepting applications for our Certificate in Franciscan Studies and Certificate in Training for Franciscan Formation.

These two six-month programmes, which are internally accredited but at present not externally validated, begin on 10 October 2016 and end on 17 March 2017.

For more information email info@franciscans.ac.uk or call 01227 769349.

Read more about the Centre here: http://www.franciscans.ac.uk/

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