May the Lord give you His peace!
In anticipation of the celebration of Christ the King, Pope Francis has established next Sunday, November 19th, as the first World Day for the Poor. This day is a fruit of the Year of Mercy that we lived throughout 2016, in recognition of the oft lived contrast between empty words present in our lives and the concrete facts that we must face.
As Franciscans, we are invited to follow the praxis of our brother Francis of Assisi: “When I lived in sin, it seemed very bitter to see the lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them, and I treated them with mercy (Test 1-2).” Such a following of the Poverello will provoke a real encounter with the impoverished people of our day, and make this Day’s sharing a daily part of the lifestyle of our fraternities.
Our Franciscan evangelical tradition demonstrates that being with and in the midst of the poor has theological roots. It reflects our relationship with God. For this reason, the beloved disciple words, “let us love not in word or speech but indeed and truth (1 Jn 3:18),” are given life and give meaning to our living of our charism.
Through this letter I wish to encourage you to live and celebrate this World Day for the Poor instituted by Pope Francis in our fraternities and in the diverse pastoral and social services performed by the Brothers throughout the Order.
In addition to the concrete proposals offered by Pope Francis, I would ask the Brothers to review the social assistance projects found in many of the Order’s presences. This is an opportunity to discern whether the poor, who are our privileged sisters and brothers, are treated not only as recipients of our assistance, but also as the responsible agents of their own lives. Let us commit ourselves anew to help them forge their own futures, to leave behind the marginality of their poverty to which they have been subjected as the product of unjust systems that promote the culture of discarding and waste and forget about the human being.
Let us take this opportunity to ask ourselves, as poor and lesser ones: Where are we? May this be a moment for us to evaluate “how honestly, concretely and authentically we live as ‘poor and minors’ among the poor in order to ensure that all the Entities and local fraternities might become communities of presence and solidarity ‘with’ and ‘in’ service to the poor (Document of the 2015 General Chapter, Decision 8).”
In closing, I wish to encourage you, Brothers, to live the ecclesial life proposed by Pope Francis, i.e., that of being a missionary Church that goes to the peripheries, and that contributes to the new evangelization by responding to the challenges of our day.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide our Order and lead us on the path of justice, peace and the common good.
Fr. Michael A. Perry, OFM
General Minister and Servant