Some people believe they have no responsibilities. They walk around as if they were the only person in the world. Most of us, however, are aware that we are responsible to someone. God gives us great graces and His total love, and He has given us the responsibility to extend His love to other people. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that all who believe in him may not perish, but may have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16)
Jesus told us: " ‘You shall love the Lord your God from all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. But the second is similar to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Mt. 22:37-39)
By saying this, Jesus has given us a responsibility. He told us to take care of everyone else. Implied in "neighbor" are a lot of different people. These could be members of your church, worshipping with us, or people we meet on the street, or just about anybody. Definitely, your spouse! Most people live in a community of which they are a part, a member. Some people stay to themselves and aren't joiners, but most of us at least seek some sort of contact with the rest of the world. This, by the way, is felt strongly at a World Youth Day event, where thousands of young people join with other young people they have never met and pray with them, talk, yell and scream their love for God, and their admiration for the Holy Father (Benedict XVI), as we have seen these days on television. Thus the responsibility we are given toward one another comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, third person of the Holy Trinity, is believed to be the love between the first person (Father), and second person (Son) - and in the same way, the Holy Spirit blesses us with His gift of love for our brothers and sisters if we are open to the Word.
The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO), consisting of at least 850,000 people world-wide, some people say one million (it is possible), gives us also responsibilities toward one another. We are all brothers and sisters toward God and toward one another, so we follow the Rule of St. Francis and as we all know, that is a big responsibility, but one we have accepted voluntarily. Where would we be without the Holy Spirit, His constant love and grace makes living that Rule somewhat easier.
Those who have made their profession in the SFO, have done so freely, thereby taking on the responsibility of not only calling themselves Franciscans, but living a Franciscan life, according to the Rule. Did you know that "Profession is a priestly action, proper to someone who by virtue of Baptism, is already incorporated into the Church, a priestly Body, and is conformed to Christ, who is priest, prophet and king.*" [I, 4.1]
Before any candidate is accepted to profession, he or she must be confirmed. Because Catholics who "are confirmed have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in confirmation and have been empowered and deputed to celebrate the Eucharist and the sacraments..." [*id.]
So profession is an action of the Church - "made concretely visible in the presence of the minister of the Fraternity. This is clearly stated in the SFO constitutions and the Ritual. [I, 4.2]*
Profession in the SFO, a body of primarily lay people, men and women, married or single, is a responsibility taken on for the love of Jesus Christ. The action of Profession is of the Church as well as Sacramental in nature. [see I, 4.3 and further]*
The most important responsibility of profession is the following [see I, 5ff]*:
There is more to paragraph I, 5 than summarized above, and I urge all Secular Franciscans to read the entire document carefully. In other reflections, we will begin with I, 6*. It is clear, however, that profession is not an automatic progression from candidacy to becoming a full member of the Order. We have a specific responsibility (as a Fraternity Council) to ascertain that the candidate has a vocation to the SFO, completely willing to make profession and that he or she is not coerced into this action in any way.
Making profession means taking on a most serious responsibility toward God, toward "our neighbors" (the fraternity and everyone else) and the willingness to be a Herald of the Good News of Jesus Christ. People who seek profession are serious about their faith, they take every opportunity to share in the Liturgy of their parish church, and to set a Christian example through their actions. Most are deeply involved in parish ministries. Also, professed SFO sisters and brothers never retire of their duties under the Rule. They take their responsibility seriously, and God will reward them for their love and duty.
In Our Eucharistic Lord,
Fred Schaeffer, SFO
(*) Quoted from: "Profession in the SFO: Gift and Commitment" by Fr. Felice Cangelosi, OFM Cap