Pope encourages Franciscans to live out their charism in the world

As the Franciscan Family marks the 8th Centenary of the confirmation of the Rule of St. Francis, on 29 November 1223, Pope Francis invites Franciscan friars and sisters to renew their vocation of bringing the Gospel of poverty and fraternity to today’s world.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis has urged members of the Franciscan Family to hold true to the charism of fraternity, humility and poverty of their Founder by going out to the world to share the Gospel.   

The Regola Bullata of 1223

For Franciscan friars and sisters going around the world means realizing their “itinerant vocation in a style of fraternity and peaceful life” and is in line with the call on all Christians “to be an ‘outgoing Church’”, the Pope said in a letter he addressed to the Ministers General of the Order on the occasion of the 8th Centenary of the formal confirmation of the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi by Pope Honorius III.

The Rule (Regola Bullata) was formally recognized in the Bull “Solere Annuere” issued on November 29 1223, 800 years ago today.

Pope Francis’ letter was read out during a solemn liturgy presided over on Wednesday afternoon at the Papal Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese.

The celebration was attended by friars, nuns, and lay people belonging to the three Orders founded by St. Francis.

Rooted in the Gospel

In his message, the Pope noted that the centenary is “a propitious occasion” not only to remember an important historical event, but above all, “to revive the same spirit that inspired St. Francis of Assisi to strip himself of everything, and give birth to a unique and fascinating form of life rooted in the Gospel”.

“May this jubilee be for everyone the time (…) for a renewed missionary mandate of the Church which calls us to go out to meet the world where many brothers and sisters await to be consoled, loved and cared for.”

Drawing from St. Francis’ Rule, Pope Francis, therefore, exhorted the members of the Franciscan Order first of all to “observe poverty, humility and the Gospel”, living “in obedience, without anything of their own and in chastity.”

Recalling that St. Francis put “the Gospel at the center of his existence”, the letter stressed the importance of returning “to the foundation of a Christian and baptismal commitment, capable of being inspired, in every choice, by the Word of the Lord.”

“Christ is the focal point of your spirituality! Be men and women who truly learn “rule and life” in His school!”

Obedience to the Church

Pope Francis then highlighted the Franciscans’ duty of obedience to the Church enshrined in St. Francis’ Rule. “In that bond of obedience and reverence to the Pope and the Church of Rome,” said the Pope, “he recognized an essential feature of the fidelity to his vocation and of receiving Christ in the Eucharist and this is why he declared, with no hesitation, his compelling belonging to the Church.”

“Be tenacious in supporting the Church, repairing it with example and testimony, even when it seems to cost more!”

Going out to the world

Finally, the letter called on the Franciscan friars and sisters “not to hesitate” to go out to the world “sharing the bliss of poverty, becoming an eloquent evangelical sign, and showing our age, marked by wars and conflicts, by selfishness of every kind and logics of exploitation of the environment and the poor, that the Gospel is truly good news for man.”

Concluding, Pope Francis said he confides in the Order’s capacity to identify the right way to courageously and faithfully respond to the charism it has received and invoked the intercession of the Virgin Mary and Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.