THE SECULAR FRANCISCANS INVITE YOU TO FOLLOW THE GOSPEL AS ST. FRANCIS DID
Francis of Assisi is known as Everybody’s Saint. In fact, many men and women love him so much that they make a lifetime commitment to follow his way of life. Is God calling you to follow Francis?
Questions a prospective member might ask…
What’s the main difference between a practicing Catholic and a Secular Franciscan?
The difference is that in addition to following all the guidelines and fulfilling the obligations of the Church, we make a permanent commitment to live a life of penance, sacrifice and service to God and others as we try to spread the Gospel in the way of Saint Francis of Assisi. We strive to go from Gospel to life and life to Gospel. To be bearers of the good news as our particular OFS charism of JOY expresses.
What is a Charism?
A Charism is a good spiritual gift that flows from the Holy Spirit and is given to a particular person, fraternity or even a whole religious order. This good gift is given ultimately for the sanctification of the whole Church and the world. The official charism of the Secular Franciscan Order is Joy. As the Catechism states in #798 “The Holy Spirit is ‘the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body.’ He works in many ways to build up the Body in charity: …by the many special graces (called ‘charisms’), by which he makes the faithful ‘fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church.’ The charism of Joy makes an OFS fit to undertake their mandate to rebuild Christ’s Church.
What are some of the qualifications that a person must have to become a Franciscan?
You must be a practicing Catholic in full agreement with all the teachings of the Church, Pro-life and other laws and not belong to any other Religious or Third Order. Members of the OFS are laity – men or woman age 18 or older who are single or married or secular clergy – diocesan ordained deacons or priests. A prospective member must have a joyful, peaceful disposition with the desire to help and serve others. They must express an authentic desire to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi to rebuild Christ’s Church within their particulate state of life.
Do I have to attend a lot of meetings?
We have Fraternity meetings once a month. Those who have entered formal formation will have additional monthly face to face meetings with the fraternity’s formation director. Formation meetings/classes are set up to meet the needs of the personal schedules of the candidate(s) and the formation director. The monthly fraternity meetings and formation process must have top priority over all your other meetings or obligations. These are our special places and times for sharing the spirit of St. Francis with our Franciscan brothers and sisters.
Occasionally, we may attend special events or Masses together. Or share a social activity that are optional to attend. Example might be a diocesan event, Parish picnic or retreat or mission, etc. Special events that we vote on as a fraternity may replace our traditional “monthly” fraternity meeting.
That is why our Facebook page and phone tree play an important role in keeping accurate communication lines open to members. We often have bulletin announcements sent to the various parishes of our members. The challenges of a regional fraternity.
What about dues? How much is it a month?
Rule #25 Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Dues are not called dues with in the Secular Franciscan Order but are known as Fair Share in the spirit of almsgiving to our family. Only fully professed members are expected to give a Fair Share to the fraternity’s Common Fund. Once a year, each Fraternity is also expected to give a Fair Share to their Regional Fund which supports the Secular Franciscan Order at the Regional and National levels. This a fair share equals to about $50.00 a year per professed member.
Members who cannot pay Fair Share as outlined, due to financial hardship, are not required to do so. They will only be asked to contribute according to their means. No one is turned away from the Secular Franciscan Order because of financial difficulty. All are expected to willingly do penance and make sacrifices to give proof of their love for God. The money they give should represent the sacrifices they make for God through out the year. An example: a professed member on the way to work could fast from a weekly speciality coffee once a month to give about $5 a month over 10 months. Thereby helping their fraternity with the alms for the regional and national fraternity fair share collection.
Is the Secular Franciscan Order part of any other Franciscan organization?
We are united in a worldwide Franciscan Order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi over 750 years ago. Our Franciscan family consists of Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters and lay Franciscans…which we Seculars are. There are, worldwide, about one and a half million lay Franciscans. Here in the USA we have over 25,000 OFS members. To learn more about the rest of the Franciscan Family.
If you’re united into such a worldwide Order, what means are used to guide you?
The Rule, OFS Constitutions and particular Statutes and guidelines are a canonically established way of life for the Secular Franciscan Order. It unites us to work as one family for the same spiritual goals and lead us away from the materialistic way of life. We are committed by our vocation to center our life on Christ and to build the Kingdom of God in temporal situations and activities. We live our membership in the Church and in society as an inseparable reality. We allow God to be in charge of our life and trust fully in his divine providence.
What do you do at your meetings?
Due to the geographical nature of our fraternity, most members attend their perspective local parish Mass ~ some months; we do attend a local parish mass together as a whole on the Sunday before our monthly fraternity meeting.
On the 2nd Sunday of each month we come together to build fraternal life through communal prayer with a short business meeting followed by continuing our ongoing formation through discussions on some aspect of Francis’ life and how to apply it to our own way of living in the world. We share Scripture, ideas and apostolates with a mutual love and support for each other through life’s difficulties and challenges.
Are there any set prayers that must be said everyday?
Members are encouraged to say a daily office; usually morning and evening prayer of the “Liturgy of the Hours” or the Office of the 12 Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be. Or some other accepted Franciscan office contained in the rule. Members should be immersed in sacred reading of the Gospel with Franciscan humility and openness to the Holy Spirit. Members are encouraged to practice a devotional life as it fits within their particular state. Some favorite Franciscan devotions our fraternity include the Crown Rosary, Divine Mercy, Consecration to Mary, and other practices. Members are to be active in the full sacramental life of the Church. Check out our page on prayer.
Would I wear any kind of a habit or distinctive sign to identify me as a Secular Franciscan?
You wouldn’t wear any habit as the members did in the 1200s and for many years afterward. To show that you’re a member, you would now wear a “Tau Cross” or a pin, ring, medal, etc. that displays the “Tau Cross.” For more information on the TAU.
What kind of works do you do? And is everyone obligated to do them all?
There are no obligatory works; but, we do have works that we call “apostolates” — these are works that everyone can do. Each Secular Franciscan fraternity tries to fill the needs in their own area and parish. We have individual personal apostolates as well as those where members may work together. For example, we work as advocates for the unborn by praying for life, attending regional pro-life events and writing to our representatives; some volunteer at a local soup kitchens, at food pantries, in local hospitals, teach religious education courses or act as Music or Eucharistic Ministers, etc. We try to build authentic relationships with those we serve with, always seeking to give dignity and courtesy in the face of neglect and degradation. You may choose to work on whatever apostolates that would suit your abilities, talents and time.
What kind of spiritual activities do you have?
As a Fraternity we celebrate Transitus each October 3rd at St. Mary’s Cathedral or another local parish. We have a prayer list for prayer intentions that members or others can request. We always begin and end our meetings using the Secular Franciscan Rite. Some members may choose to meet to pray a crown rosary, attend a parish event or other devotion together. We have Regional Retreats, Days of Recollection, Holy Hours, Rosary and other spiritual activities in conjunction with our Region brothers and sisters as well.
Through out the year, we may host a Live Stream on Facebook or other social media outlet on Devotions from our Franciscan spiritual heritage. Check out our Facebook page for more information and calendar of events.
For further discernment of a possible vocation to the Secular Franciscan Order please read this reflection at the NAFRA website. Or check out our own brochure to attend a local fraternity meeting in the Cheyenne Area. Come & See Brochure