My dear Brothers of the Order,
In the words of our Seraphic father, May the Lord give you peace!
It has been my intention for some time to write to you once again during this particularly challenging moment in the life of the world, to update you on some of the blessings and challenges we are facing as a worldwide brotherhood, and to encourage all of us, to stay the course and keep the faith. I have chosen this date, which commemorates the approval by Pope Honorius III in 1223 of the definitive Rule and Life (Regula bulata), in order to speak to you about urgent matters weighing on all of our hearts.
Over the course of these past many months, I have been in contact with a number of the Provincials and Custodes to inquire about your well-being my dear brothers, and to communicate words of consolation, solidarity, and Christian hope. The year 2020 will forever be remembered as one in which the entire human community was brought to its knees, humbled by the Sars-CoVid-2 pathogen (hereafter, CoVid-19). While the pandemic continues to ravage human communities, leaving in its untold suffering, it is having other serious social consequences.
Families, friends, and brothers in the Order have felt the psychological and emotional impact that comes as a result of maintaining social distance, wearing protective masks, and refraining from expressing physical forms of affection, depriving us of something so vital and necessary for human life and community.
The loss of jobs and livelihoods also is having a very negative impact on the lives of literally billions of people in every region of the world. People are being increasingly pushed into chronic poverty. There is an increasing sense of fear, uncertainty, powerlessness, and hopelessness….
Brothers, it is my hope that in these difficult moments you are finding increased time to focus on what really matters for our lives. As our General Constitutions remind us, we are “bound to lead a radically evangelical life…in a spirit of prayer and devotion, and in fraternal fellowship…a witness of penance and minority…in charity towards all…preaching reconciliation, peace and justice…and to show respect for creation” (Art. 1 §2).
This living of the Gospel life provides us with a spiritual grounding in times of trial and suffering. The fraternity should be an oasis of hope, a place where we draw strength from the kindness and care we show towards one another. It also is important that we indulge in self-care, including exercise, reading, prayer and study, strengthening our bodies, minds and hearts to stay the course. Our commitment to be brothers to all people should lead us to engage in a deeper reflection on the many social fractures – economic, political, social, the various forms of growing inequalities, racism and other ‘isms’ – the other ‘viruses’ – that undermine the common good and commitment to global solidarity….
In conclusion, I invite you to pray with me the following words from the “Praises of God” composed by St. Francis and entrusted to Br. Leo at La Verna in 1224:
You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are the protector, You are our custodian and defender,
You are our strength, You are refreshment. You are our hope!
You are our faith, You are our charity,
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord, Almighty God, Merciful Savior. AMEN.
Rome, November 29, 2020
Feast of all the Saints of the Seraphic Order
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant