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Federation of Our Lady of the Angels
CONFERENCE OF THE MINISTERS GENERAL
OF THE FRANCISCAN FIRST ORDERS AND THIRD ORDER REGULAR
May the Lord give you all, Poor Sisters of Saint Clare, His peace!
The echo of the celebration of the foundation of the Franciscan First Order is still
as we now begin to focus on 2012 in order to give thanks to the Lord for the 800
years of the
consecration of Clare in the Portiuncula. The anniversary is not a commemoration
of a glorious
past, but an event that we remember in order to “to take from its history a further
impetus to renew
the will to serve the Church.”(1)
Called by the Spirit to follow the poor, crucified and risen Christ – and living
the Gospel in
obedience, without anything of your own and in chastity – you are custodians of the
charism of St.
Clare and consecrated women who interact with the world while contemplating the signs
Spirit pours out in history. In listening to God you continue to speak today to the
hearts of men and
women of our time with the language of love, a language whose words are rooted in
a reality where
HOLD FIRM TO YOUR STARTING POINT
Remembering one’s own vocation is an occasion to revisit the motivations for your
God. As you reread the story of your vocation, return to your encounter with the
Lord that came to
you through the Word, or a person, or an event, or an experience. After the initial
decided to follow Jesus Christ, leaving them to be resolved by Christ and his Gospel.
experience of Francis and Clare attracted you and today their ‘yes’ to Christ is
extended in time
through you. Aware that various vicissitudes have affected or conditioned the pristine
your Form of Life and that various secular influences may at times have transformed
intuition, we are convinced that the anniversary of your Order cannot limit itself
to a simple
What do we want to celebrate together is the memory of a rule or the memory of
with you through time that still today gives you the passion “to observe the Holy
Gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without anything properly your own and in
can we bring to light that the Form of Life makes manifestly credible to all that
“for us the Son of
God made himself the Way and that our Blessed Father Francis, his true lover and
shown and taught us this by word and example?”(3) How can you still today be a living
the Church and for the entire Franciscan family of what all of us as baptized Christians
are called to
We know that you are expending your best efforts to be faithful to what you have
promised and, for this reason, we feel the urgency to review with you at this historic
reference points of your life as Poor Clares placed by God in the Church, in the
and in the world.
_ Living the Gospel…
In a society bombarded by images in which the individual is driven to seek a continuous
representation of the self, you have been called by the Spirit to be a simple sign
of the presence of
God. We know that this is not always easy, above all when it requires a continuous
conversion of mind, heart, behaviors, and even your own personalities in order to
and not to fall into facile secular competition, and without compromising the cardinal
values of your
While the message that flows from your witness is expressed in structures, signs
the Rule written by Clare requires her daughters to live an evangelical life as poor
glossa. We know that the Spirit of God moves us within our communities to seek and
through the Gospel in order to be alert to scrutinize structures that do not immediately
presence of God. You are thus called to revisit the signs and symbols that exemplify
your life so
that they may be truly understandable in this time in which everything is regarded
as a matter of
opinion – a time in which even the sacred, which refers to nothing other than God,
judged by the consumer logic of use and thrown away.
Consecrated persons must express God as the absolute. In a special way, you are
live a life founded on signs and symbols that do not refer to a sterile void of indoctrination,
ritualism or activism, rather signs and symbols that are able to unite the roots
of the past to the
prophetic future in the present day: structures, signs and symbols that enable us
to simply see God.
How can you be witnesses of God’s presence through the Form of Life that the Spirit
entrusted to Clare, and continues to entrust to you, in this time in which even the
reference points of existence seem to be lacking?
While the world turbulently turns, you, in your stability, manifest that God waits
eternity to love the men and women of our time.
Nourishing yourselves on the Word of God, you enflesh it in your daily life through
obedience in faith.(4) Acquiring faith in Christ is not a once and for all event.
It is a gift of the Spirit.
It requires continuous learning and thus to be celebrated, professed and lived. Through
the care of
the liturgy you witness that God the Father, who is close to every creature, calls
humanity to live in
history in His presence. In your daily lives become visible seekers of the face of
God in the manner
of pilgrims in the world and of beggars of meaning.
I f the liturgy shapes our faith, faith in turn must find verification in daily lives,
and communal, in order to be credible. In fact, it is not enough, to believe on the
notional level. It
is necessary that the Mystery celebrated assumes in each of us the face of Christ.
Still today there is
a widespread gap between faith and life.
Help us to reexamine our celebrations: the care of the Liturgy of the Hours and
Eucharist, while constantly ordered to the praise of God, must allow each participant
the grace of the Risen Lord’s presence through Clarian simplicity.
Abandoning yourselves through the Spirit and shaped by the Gospel, you are consecrated
women who give yourselves to God. Based on the example of Francis and Clare, you,
like the Virgin contain Him in whom all things are contained.(5) Bear witness in
the silence of
“contemplating the Christ of the Gospel, love him intensely and imitate His virtues.”(6)
Therefore, narrate with your lives that which you hear, which you see with your
you contemplate and which your hands touch, the Word of life.(7) Continue to announce
existence, living the mystical dimension of life, that God exists, that God is love.(8)
In this world that seems indifferent to God, you are called to refer back to the
presence of the
Mystery that has the face of the Father. Only by passionately searching for Christ
and his Reign are
you able to stand alongside the men and women of our time with hope in your hearts
– aware that
you are intimately connected with this wide community of humanity. Make us see the
always feeling like people on a journey, daily staking their lives on God’s presence
The contemplative experience of Clare poses a question to us. If she invited Agnes
her entire self in the image of Jesus Christ (cf. 3LAg 12-17), today she continues
to ask you to
allow yourselves to be transformed through contemplation, to give your very existence
over to the
unending pursuit of God, so as to free yourselves from anything that blocks God from
center of your lives, and to love to the end.
If today God requires Christians to be adults in the faith, it is an even greater
reason for you,
consecrated women, to be asked to have an adult faith – one that knows how to express
personal experience of encountering the Lord in order to respond with hope wherever
you are, to
the profound questions of people our time. Only those who continuously walk under
the gaze of
God are able to truly listen to those seeking meaning.
Thank you for your tireless search for God: the freedom lived in God is an invitation
into the Mystery every day, to believe that God exists, because you have encountered
_ From poverty…
In these days when few in the world live in abundance and many people do not have
to feed themselves, to you, Poor Sisters of St. Clare, Francis continues to entrust
“I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high
Christ and his most holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask
you, my ladies, and
I give you my advice that you live always in this most holy life and poverty. And
watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone.”(9)
You, Poor Sisters of St. Clare, are placed by God in a specific place to be a sign
contradiction, not because you defend any particular structures, but from poverty
you choose to live
the Gospel radically every day.
Every community becomes an alternative sign to the places of opulence and a sign
among those who live in precarious insecurity. Your witness is a surrendering of
entrusting yourselves to the Father who is revealed by Jesus Christ. This is not
an ideological or
intellectual poverty but a lifestyle that witnesses to a total trust in the Father
and takes its form in
daily life. There are, in fact, some communities that choose “to witness to an extremely
in order to be in solidarity with the poor and to trust only in Providence, living
every day in
Providence, and to placing themselves with full trust into the hands of God.”(10)
Do not let anyone or anything to dissuade you of this conviction. Verify whether
of thinking within your Order is founded upon a common quest to be faithful to Jesus
Christ and the
Gospel or whether it is a defense of certain lifestyles that no longer point to the
Most High. God
continues to call some to be prophets, not for self-exaltation, but to be signs of
God’s love and
nearness to humanity. The Lord said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people
in Egypt and
have heard their cry ... I know their sufferings.”(11)
Recount to us your faith in the Providence of God with a style of life that is poor,
humble: “Poverty is the sign of belonging to Christ; it is the guarantee of the credibility
Reign that is already in our midst. It is a sign ever more convincing today when
it comes from a
poverty lived in community with a style of life that is simple and essential, an
communion and abandoning of self to the will of God.”(12)
Make us taste the joy of freedom because contemplating, you see God in every fragment
life. Show us that you do not follow the fads of the day; that you are not swept
up in worldliness,
where appearance, self-exaltation, individualism, and self-referentialism appear
to overshadow the
masterpiece of God’s creation. Tell us about your experience with God which is nurtured
silence, listening and a profound spiritual life.
Living in stability, show us what is truly essential, beautiful and authentic. We
know that God
is the true wealth of the human heart(13) and that poverty liberates us from the
bondage to things and
artificial needs which drive the consumer society: help us rediscover that Christ
is the only treasure
for which life is truly worth living.(14) For Clare and Francis, “most holy poverty”
is not just a virtue,
not only a renunciation of things, but is above all, a name and a face: the face
of Jesus Christ, poor
and crucified (cf. 2LAg 19). For both of them, the contemplation of the poor Christ
reduced to a beautiful mystical theory of detachment. Rather, it takes flesh in a
real poverty that is
concrete and essential.(15) We look to their testimony: they both loved poverty in
order to follow
Christ with total dedication and freedom and still today, they continue to be an
invitation to us to
cultivate interior poverty in order to grow in trusting in God, and also uniting
a sober lifestyle and
detachment from material goods.(16)
You are called to follow the poor Christ by your form of life and thus to embrace
poverty. If it
is necessary, you must find new ways to express it(17) with a prophetic spirit through
witness of personal and collective poverty”(18) just as Francis and Clare did. The
some of the communities that conform themselves to the poor who live in their area
is at times
amazing. When you share with the poor who have nothing, when you choose to live with
is of necessity, when you do not accumulate things needlessly, when you entrust yourself
the community, you make your choice of poverty credible because you are living your
faith in God
– the Father who cares for all of humanity.
_ In holy unity…
In the global village, the world today is in danger of becoming a stage on which
wanders, but in isolation. The crowd, in fact risks remaining entangled in a net
of anonymity –
individuals who lose their sense of belonging to a family, a group, or to a history
and seem to move
forward without a proper name, without knowing a familiar person.
Even though you are in a monastery you live in this society, where the “rootless”
increase in number, a society infused with a kind of incoherent or disjointed reality
everything converges to organize a life that is disconnected and without meaning.
often run around without an awareness of their own proper identity, impoverished
communication with the “Other,” with whom they establish relationships that are nurtured
In your stability you reflect the presence of God in history that lends meaning
to everyday life.
You are an important sign in the Church, in the Franciscan Family, and in the world
because in this
time, in which everyone claims their own rights or lives an egocentric life, you
continue to recount
to us by your relationships that it is still possible to stake your life on love.
To a world that strives to reduce the individual to a consumer immersed in the “laws
market” you rely on authentic relationships that are nourished by silence, listening,
forgiveness, generosity, the gift of surrendering oneself in faith, respect for the
diversity of roles,
and in relationships that aim to nourish the other to grow in freedom according to
the stature of
Christ. Today, while the current mentality is directed toward the leveling of roles,
you show us how
to be “spouse, mother and sister.”(19) In your communities unite firmness to gentleness,
authority, responsibility to freedom, autonomy to trust.
In welcoming each sister as a person who is unique and unrepeatable, you make known
world the masterpiece of God – creation – and that she is a part of the creation
that you love so
much. Love every person in his or her entirety; constituted by biological, psychological,
spiritual dimensions and led by the Spirit, a sister is not reducible to a single
In the face of widespread intolerance, disrespect, suspicion, and the desire to
dominate in our
world, you respond by placing yourselves next to the “Other” and together as community
in the hearts of the people of our time through dialoguing with those who knock on
the doors of
your monasteries. Help us to be people who really listen, who promote relationships
rooted in the
Gospel, deeply human, and who aim to be open and welcoming. It is important for us
to be able to
always see in the ordinariness of life that you seek the greater happiness of the
“Other.” Strive “to
be for the other.”(20)
From your contemplation derive new ways to be consecrated women, learn from the
the Spirit how to combine constant attention to God and to the sisters. We perceive
in you a
continuous journey that frees you from every form of selfishness. Do not be preoccupied
trying to be the center of the universe. Live according to the economy of self-giving,
the spirituality of communion without quantifying love or laying claim for a return
from the other.
Live the joy that derives from the experience of Christ’s gratuitous love for us.
We need to learn from the “laboratory” of your culture as Poor Clares, which is
the Gospel, to help us to develop a method that will enable us to combine ethical
values with social
values in order to radically live according to the God or Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,
and of Jesus
Christ… and to be bearers of the Gospel through a culture of justice and peace.
The care that you show to formation is noteworthy. You do not allow it to be merely
intellectual instruction; rather you aspire to communicate a way of being. You enter
into that which
you learn with emotional understanding and you retain that which is meaningful for
and that of others. You witness in the ordinariness of daily life through a human
is sustained by ongoing conversion that enables you to follow Jesus Christ as poor
You represent for many an oasis of peace where people may consider the Mystery that
surrounds life and is experienced through it. You are called to give credibility
to the desire for God
in the depth of every creature and the constancy of God’s seeking out men and women
establish a relationship with them founded in love. We know how involved you are
concerns of the world and how you continue to intercede for them before God. As we
your life you remind us that we must dream together in order to make manifest an
We are convinced that the witness to a “holy unity” today demands reflection on
relationship between the First and Second Orders. We cannot ignore that “one and
the same Spirit
inspired the friars and those poor ladies to leave this world.”(21)
What significance does this truth have in our lives? We are convinced that holy “unity
us to assume, in the diversity of vocations, the profound fullness of the dimensions
of the Church
that the Council defines as being completely fervent in action and totally dedicated
contemplation… If it is not acceptable for the female branch to be subject to the
neither is a total separation an acceptable solution. Indeed, that would be damaging
to both the
brothers and the sisters. Our Orders can instead offer the Church and the world the
witness of a
healthy and necessary complementarity lived between the two branches and an attitude
of a great
mutual respect, but at the same time in a fellowship of mutual aid – that would reflect
the image of
the Church as communion.”(22)
Maybe it is time to consolidate a relationship between us that knows how to combine
autonomy and reciprocity. We are aware that it is not for change or for protection
that you live the
charism of holy unity. Rather, in listening to one another, with mutual respect and
contemplative attitude our common riches and the diversity that creates our own uniqueness
beautiful gives credibility to our witness to communion lived in God without confusion
_ The Lord bless you and keep you…
We want to dream with you so that Clare might see the realization of the Rule in
among her daughters. If the reality of Francis and Clare continues to be visible
in the world it is
because God still continues to count on us, and particularly on you, so that the
that the Spirit once entrusted to our founders might take shape today. Who knows
impact this might have in our time through the witness of the Poor Sisters of St.
Clare in the Church
and in the world!
With Francis we want to renew our commitment to you: “Since by divine inspiration
made yourselves daughters and handmaids of the most High King, the heavenly Father,
taken the Holy Spirit as your spouse, choosing to live according to the perfection
of the holy Gospel
I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers always to have the same loving
special solicitude for you as for them”(23) And, with Clare, we would like to ask
you to continue to
“be eager to observe what you have promised the Lord.”(24)
To the praise of Christ
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm Br. Mauro Jöhri, ofmcap
Minister General Minister General
Br. Marco Tasca, ofmconv Br. Michael Higgins, TOR
Rome, February 2, 2011
1 Benedict XVI, 23rd General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic
Universities (FIIUC), November 19,
2 RegCl I:2.
3 TestCl 5.
4 Cf. The Service of Authority and Obedience 7.
5 Cf. 3LAg 26.
6 Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 27, 2010.
7 Cf. 1 Jn. 1:1.
8 Cf. 1 Jn 4:8.
9 RegCl 7-9.
10 Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 13, 2010.
11 Cf. Ex. 3:7.
12 Giacomo Bini, OFM, Minister General, in L’Osservatore Romano, February 1, 2003,
13 Cf. Vita consecrata 90.
14 Cf. Starting afresh from Christ 22.
15 Cf. Chiara d’Assisi e di oggi, José Carballo, OFM, Minister General, pp. 15- 16.
16 Cf. Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 27, 2010.
17 Cfr. Perfectae caritatis 13.
18 IX Synod of Bishops, The Consecrated Life and its Role in the Church and in the
World: Instrumentum laboris (June
26, 1994) 53.
19 1LAg 12.
20 Cf. Deus Caritas est 7.
21 2C 204.
22 Reciprocity and complementarity between the Friars Minor and the Sisters of St.
Clare, Report of the Minister
General, Hermann Schalück, OFM, to the International Congress of the Assistants to
the Federation of the Franciscan
Contemplative Sisters (September 3, 1996).
23 RegCl VI:3-4.
24 BlCl 1