In the coming years, the Franciscan family will have the joy of celebrating the Franciscan Centenaries with various opportunities to enhance the gift of the Franciscan charism. The celebrations will be divided into several stages: in 2023, with the approval of the Regula Bullata and the Christmas in Greccio; in 2024, with the Stigmata, 2025 with the Canticle of Brother Sun and in 2026, with the passing away of St Francis.

The Franciscan Rule and that of the Secular Franciscan is to observe the Gospel way of life, even if called to different lifestyles, but all must make present the charism of the Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church and in the world in which they live. The life of St Francis of Assisi was an authentic example of a life inspired by the Gospel. His Rule of Life was nothing more than seeking God in everything he did and trying to live his vocation more effectively. His life was rooted in Scripture and always pointed to Christ.

A rule of life that one embraces during profession serves as a guide and is also meant to provide support as one continues to discern a personal relationship with God and others. A rule of life helps one to become a person of integral faith, and with the Gospel, the mind and heart are enlightened, guided and inspired to live the Charism, not for oneself but to contribute to the life of the church and society.

Secular Franciscans

All this is true, not just for Friars Minor, but for members of the Secular Franciscan Order. The Gospel is the life, the truth and the way that every professed member is called to follow, or rather to live. Therefore, in order to profess and live one's vocation in a meaningful way according to the SFO Rule, “a true and assiduous reading of the Gospel" is necessary, allowing the Gospel to be not only the guide but a real and essential means for a correct understanding of the Rule.

The Holy Scripture must always precede the Rule. St. Francis reading the Sacred Scriptures, was inspired to write a Rule of Life that then served as a key to a clear interpretation and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. The Secular Franciscans, being bound by profession to live the Rule, are at the same time called to proclaim Christ by their lives and words, bearing witness to him in their mission in the world. "Let them be present with the witness of their human lives and also with courageous initiatives, both individual and communitarian, in the promotion of justice, and in particular, in the field of public life, committing themselves to concrete choices consistent with their faith". 

If the Rule and the life of a Franciscan is to observe the Gospel, their daily life must have Christ as the inspiration and centre of their life. When Christ is the model of life, the rule of life has more meaning and purpose. The goal of living the gospel will then be to witness to Christ in the world in which one lives and works. When the Gospel is embraced wholeheartedly, it can easily 'shape lives,'  give direction and give purpose to vocation.

Franciscan Charism in the Church

Charism is a personal gift from God used for the good of the whole Church, for the world. The charism of St Francis of Assisi is simply to live the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel becomes an essential reference point and the heart of every Franciscan as for all Christians.

The significance of charisms in the life of the Church is fundamental for the growth of its mission in the world. Charism should not be confined to a specific moment in the life of a Christian, but rather all charisms should be operative and allow the manifestation of the creativity of the Holy Spirit in the Church in any circumstance of life.

 The Franciscan vocation is a personal call to live in fraternity and, at the same time to live that vocation in the Church and society. The Church expressed its joy during the approval of the Rule by saying: "We rejoice that the 'Franciscan charism' is still vigorous today for the good of the Church and the human community, despite the meandering of accommodating doctrines and the growth of tendencies that lead people away from God and supernatural things". 

Undoubtedly, there are many daily challenges that every secular Franciscan has to face in this modern world that is very hostile to everything related to God and the teachings of the Church. Therefore, " You must be sincerely dedicated to that "high standard of ordinary Christian living" in order to better live the charism in the present without forgetting the origins, that is, the past, and at the same time planning for the future.  

Lived Experience

The question today should be: how is the Franciscan charism lived out in the Church and the world today? The answers must not only be heard but must be seen and experienced, especially by those who do not belong to the Franciscan family, because when the charism is well lived, it attracts others and gives joy and fulfilment to those who live it. The Franciscan charism must never be a theoretical thing because it is the very Gospel of Jesus who not only reveals his identity to us but offers himself to us so that we can be nourished, healed and brought to salvation. Therefore, those who profess the Franciscan Rule, both Seculars and members of the First Order and TOR, must make this Rule of life authentic, tangible and concrete so that all societies can experience God's Love through care and concern for the marginalised and the poor.

This, of course, requires a constant awareness of the specific gifts God has given us, according to the grace bestowed upon each one, intended to serve the entire body of the Church; the benefits of the gifts bestowed are intended for others because “in the common life, it is necessary that the power of the Holy Spirit, given to one, be transmitted to all. The one who lives for oneself, may have a charism, but it remains useless, hidden away inactive, because it remains buried within the self.”

The fraternal life that Franciscans embrace both as Friars and as Secular Franciscans, allows each member to live the Franciscan charism in the fraternity, to share their gifts with the entire fraternity and society at large. As Christians and members of the Franciscan family, each person, regardless of age, "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit" (Lumen Gentium 12).