Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Expressions of the Franciscan Charism

THIS MONTH OF JULY 1994 MARKS the 20th anniversary of the permission (1) to implement St. Francis Regula pro Eremitoriis for the propagation of a movement that established post Vatican II associations and hermits in the Franciscan tradition of life style renewalThis statute, known as the Rule for Hermitages, is usually an addendum to the statutes of the third orders (2) and or Franciscan associations and hermits which implement the Rule for Hermitages in various ways and who exist in various forms of anchoritic and semi-eremitic life. The Rule for Hermitages, written by St. Francis of Assisi, had fallen into disuse.
Norms, which postulated the aspirations to restore a forma vitae, were the "particular norms" (3) published in 1970 (4) for regularization in 1971. (5) These norms established the foundation from which the new order developed. This order-movement (6) is referred to under a variety of nomenclature that contain such designations as: hermitage, eremitical, hermit, and movement. The most common designation for the new Franciscan branch, however, has been simply the movement. The term movement was coined in 1974 in a letter from Rome by the Franciscan Father General who also imparted the Seraphic Blessing for: "a wholesome development of your plans and aspirations" and the "opportunity for your movement to develop and flower" with "freedom to develop your own initiative in the life style that you have ventured on." (7) The individual Franciscan hermits of this order-movement had been members of specific groups within it or became individual hermits directly in accordance with Franciscan tradition or the recent canonical revision for this charism in the reformed Code of Canon Law, 1983. (8)
The spread of this movement occurred largely as a result of a publication in the Official Newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, The Pilot and in a cover story in the bulletin of the National Assembly of Religious Brothers which was widely circulated and involved with the media for its cause. (9) The publication in the Pilot entitled Good News Mendicants, (10) depicted the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News as "a team of four Franciscans who have been given permission by Cardinal Medeiros of Boston (11) to experiment with the original 13th century Rule for Hermitages as drawn up by St. Francis some years after he founded the three Franciscan Orders." (12) This account, which was carried on wire service to other Catholic newspapers, became, in effect, a kind of basic charter which served to propagate the order movement. It postulated the "ideals and aspirations" subscribed by the Father General, O.F.M. in 1974The "series of small rustic hermitages built in the wilderness of the Massachusetts Berkshires" in 1972; the establishment of the precedent to make room again in the United States, under the impetus of Vatican II, for the option of the religious habit for public attire as a witness for consecrated life; (13) to alternate between a hermit life of contemplation and all active ministry. The account, which made public, the approval of the Franciscan Father General during his visit from Rome, also, in effect, promulgated for the first time, the little known Regula pro Eremitoriis of St. Francis by Cardinal Medeiros.
After these publications, Franciscan semi-eremitic third orders, associations, and hermits implementing the Rule for Hermitages began to grow internationally. (14)
In 1983, the national Catholic magazine, Our Sunday Visitor, published a front page account of the ecclesial movement which stated that there were about "100 small Franciscan communities (not including the individual Franciscan hermits) that have emerged throughout the world over the last 10 years or 15 years." The publication pointed out that the Regula pro Eremitoriis (Rule for Hermitages) became the "cornerstone" of the the "movement" of Vatican II renewal groups, and that "the new movement of Franciscan friars who are trying to revive", since 1967-68, the original Franciscan way of life "make a point of wearing the habit both in public and in private as a visible sign of their commitment to follow Jesus." (15)
In 1983, the first FRANCISCAN EREMITICAL LIFE CONFERENCE assembled at Graymoor, Garrison, New York consisting primarily of Franciscan tertiaries, individual Franciscan hermits, and groups of the new movement "inspired by S1. Francis' Rule for Hermitages" and was presided over by the President of the English Speaking Conference of the O.F.M. The third Conference was covered by the Franciscan Communication Office of New York (16) in 1985, which gave the highlights of the Conference since the first in 1983.
The "development and flowering" of the movement as stated by Fr. Constantine Koser, Minister General, OFM in 1974 has, under Divine Providence, come to fruition. This movement has also been
acknowledged and admired by Pope John Paul II, after the "Rule for Hermitages" was presented to him in the early 1980's.
The Mustard Seed, (17) the former international Franciscan publication [re. above note 17,] published the following quote about the "eremitical spirituality": about the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News.

God Is Enough”
Our spiritual life and our contact with God is not a head thing,” reflects Brother Michael. “There is a deeper seat of consciousness, what the Old Testament calls the heart. My life as a hermit has taught me to communicate more on this level with God and others. It is here,in the heart where God lives. From that place His grace can be released as a powerful force in the world to build His Kingdom. God is enough to live for. Our purpose is to seek union with Him and draw others to do the same. This is the essence of our charism.”
1. Official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston: The Pilot, p.l, vol. 145 No.28, July 12,
1974 [microtext: Boston Pub. Library] re. Franciscan Brothers of the Good News.
2. The three designations of third order are by the initials T.O.R., S.F.O. and O.S.F. (T.O.R.: Third Order
Regular, S.F.O. (Secular Franciscan Order, formerly Third Order Secular with initials T.O.S.; O.S.F.: Third Order Regularized)
3. Regular third order groups [O.S.F.] were established under Articles 6 8 of the Constitution of the Franciscan Third Order, properly so called. This Constitution, approved by the Sacred Congregation for Religious, contained the proper legal channels for the establishment of both the O.S.F.(regular third order) and the S.F.O. (Secular Franciscan Order).
Article 6. “Consequently, besides the normal divisions of the fraternity, other special groups may be formed within it...”
Article 8. “Since in the Third Order there are always members who have consecrated themselves to God either by private vows, or by promises, these may be gathered into groups of their own, subject to particular norms, in order that they may progress more surely in virtue and grow in numbers, and act more efficiently as gospel leaven in the life of the fraternity.
4. I. To live the original Franciscan way of life in all its simplicity. II. Return to the spirit of the founder in accordance with the Second Vatican Council. III. Make adjustments according to the needs of time and place and in favor of what will benefit the universal Church. Biddeford – Saco Journal, Maine, June 29, 1970 Vol.86, No. 152
5. 1917 Code of Canon Law [code in effect] Canon 492 “Tertiaries living in community” “The Franciscan Brothers of the Good News are officially incorporated into the Franciscan Order by way of the Third Order” and “canonically established”; document of incorporation, July 12, 1971, Friar George Marcil, O.F.M., Saint Francis College Biddeford, Maine[re:Articles 6& 8 of the Constitution of the Franciscan Third Order]
6. Initials O.S.F.
7. Letter from Constantine Koser, O.F.M., Rome, July 31, 1974, to Brother Michael Greaney, O.S.F., Franciscan Brothers of the Good News.
8. Canon603 # 1 [603#2 usu. For non order diocesan hermits, cf. Code commentary];Canon26: cf. A Short History of the Third Order, Habig, 1963; 13b1. Tertiary hermits listed in Franciscan Book of Saints, (Habig) Franciscan Herald Press; Statutes for Tertiary hermits promulgated by Pope Paul III, 1547.
9. Official Newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston: The Pilot, p.1, Vol. 145 No. 28 July 12, 1974 [microtext: Boston Pub. Library]
10. One of the nomenclature of the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News which became a community of isolated tertiary hermits in 1976. NB: Similar to the way the Friars Minor of the Eremitical Life of 1525 became the Capuchin Movement [later the O.F.M. Cap. In 1619]. The designation of Hermits was made in the publication of the national Assembly of Religious Brothers in 1975. Additionally, since 1976, the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News appeared in the Catholic Directory, as such. From 1985 until 1988, the Franciscan Brothers of the Good news was also listed in the Catholic Directory as a Federation of Franciscan Hermits, clearly distinguishing it from that of a Religious community. In 1988 the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News, a.k.a. Federation of Franciscan Hermits became itinerant once again as in the early 1970's.
11. Letter from Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, February 21, 1973 to Brother Michael Greaney, O.S.F., Franciscan Brothers of the Good News.
12. Official Newspaper ofthe Archdiocese of Boston: The Pilot. p.1, Vo1.l45, No.28 July 12, 1974 [microtext: Boston Pub. Library] Jazzman gives Friars Solid Upbeat; re. Franciscan Brothers of the Good News.
13. The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore of 1884 had regulated the use ofthe roman collar in place of the religious habit for public attire, In 1970, the Vicar for Religious, for Cardinal Cook of the Archdiocese of New York, gave permission to Brother Michael to revive this aspect of the original Franciscan way of life and to "make this statement" promoting the habit as public attire and sign of consecrated life. Cardinal Medeiros of Boston reaffirmed this. cf. Letter from (then Archbishop) Medeiros to Brother Michael, Franciscan Brothers of the Good News, January 11, 1972.
14. New associations after the current Code of Canon Law affiliated by adopting the foundation statutes and/or the Regula pro Eremitoriis in accordance with Canon 303 "under the higher direction" of a Franciscan of the Franciscan Eremitical Conference. Tertiary hermits were also considered under the provision of Canon 603# 1 [603# 2 usu. For non order diocesean hermits, cf. Code commentary, although some order members have performed #2]
15. Taking God to the Streets, July 31, 1983 Vol. 72, No.14. The article was reprinted in Catholic Digest, entititled: New Branches on the Franciscan Tree, August 1984 Vo1.48, No.1 0
16. Special Report, Vo1.6 No.7, September 2, 1985, Franciscan Communication Office, 135 West 31St., New York, N.Y. [nb There are a plethora of titles for the numerous independent subdivisions of the eremitical third order]

17. Mustard Seed, January, 1988, Vo!.5, No.7, 1615 Vine St. Cincinnati, OH,4521O; article entitled:
"Franciscan Hermits Discovered! Suppressed for centuries, Franciscan eremitical life is returning.”;depicted the original hermitages of the Franciscan Brothers of the Good News as the "first Franciscan hermitages in the Western hemisphere". 

Footnote No. 1

Footnote No. 3

There are Secular Franciscan Hermits that are also part of this movement.  There is also provision in the new constitution of the Franciscan Third Order for private vows; which Order is now also referred to officially as The Secular Franciscan Order.  The previous Franciscan Third Order Constitution was approved by the Sacred Congregation For Religious.  This Congregation has been since renamed The Sacred Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  The New Secular Franciscan Order Constitution was, like its predecessor, given a Decree of Approval by, the now renamed, Sacred Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Footnote No. 4

Footnote No. 5

Footnote No. 7

Footnote No. 8