Reflections on Formation Topics in the
Yes, this is what I want
This Reflection is based on material found on page 3 of 18 ff, in the "Profession and the Secular Franciscan" section of the F.U.N. Manual
The title of this reflection is the answer to the Profession formula. Those in ongoing formation have made Profession and strive to live the life of a Secular Franciscan as best as we/they can. These simple words (Yes, this is what I want) should be spoken after proper preparation, reflection, discernment, and without coercion - when you speak these words you, hopefully, know what you are promising. Profession is a Gift of the Holy Spirit.
If we consider Profession something other than a Gift of the Holy Spirit, we can't go on with Profession. We'd need more discernment. It is a serious, life-long commitment. "The moment of Profession is a specific moment. It just doesn't happen. It is prepared for and is joyfully anticipated." (p. 3 of 18). Fr. Richard Trezza, O.F.M, the author of this chapter, refers us to Fr. Felice Cangelosi OFM Cap (Profession in the SFO: Gift and Commitment)-see ciofs.org "old" website - where Fr. Felice says that it is the "foundational moment in the identity of the Professed."
Fr. Felice's cited work is intensely applicable and, in my opinion, a gift of the Holy Spirit in itself. If you ever study any piece of writing, please include Fr. Felice's work.
"The very liturgy of Profession gives one the opportunity to make an appropriate response to God – the One who gave the call in the first place. Participation in the Profession Rite, is a "confession of faith – confession fidei" on the part of the one being professed. It says that we believe in such a way, that we are willing to allow our words and actions betray the fact that we are true followers of Jesus Christ and His Gospel."
One important consideration under 1) The Grace of Profession (p 4 of 18) that immediately catches the eye is: "God does not allow us to make promises that He is not willing to help us keep." Yes, I believe that too. Same is true in a marriage ceremony - but then one wonders why so many marriages fall apart? There are of course many complex reasons.
The Holy Spirit is called down upon those to be professed during the ceremony in a way similar to the type of invocation prayed at Mass upon the gifts of bread and wine so that they be transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
"Profession is an Action of Christ and of the Church" [p. 5 of 18] - not just our own action. The Church is the whole body of Christ, head and members. Profession is not just an action, but an event in the life of the Church. Profession is an event that takes place in God's (Kairos) time. It is part of His saving plan in time for us. The text reminds us that when we see Profession merely as an action, something that happened on a given day at a certain time, it is not memorable (at least not long), but Profession is a "transformational event" – a life changing event in God's time.
"We are beginning to speak about Profession as a very important, transformational, ecclesial event that it is. We need to give meaning to the idea of Church - ecclesial - as regards Profession. We keep saying "we" are Church, but sometimes we do not live by that. "The members of the local fraternity make the presence and the action of the Church visible.
"Your membership in the fraternity is a cause of great joy and hope for the members of this community."
As the visible Church assembles, all have their own ministry in the celebration of Rite of Profession: the candidates, the fraternity and its minister, and the presbyter. Fr. Richard Trezza explains each of these items in detail. Especially in regard to the presbyter, there are a couple of considerations reference to the absence of priests to represent the Church, should the Rite take place during Holy Mass (Yes!) and a note regarding the way of reading documents from Rome, advance planning with the priest, and so on. "The priest is the witness of the Church and of the Order. Although profession is not a Sacrament, it is sacramental in nature. It reminds us of God's interaction in our lives..." In short, the priest is witness who manifests the action of the Church. He ratifies or conforms the promises made in the name of the Church.
Continuing with subsection 5 (page 8 of 18), Fr. Felice is quoted: "Sanctification is always the work of the Father, but it is channeled through the mediation of Christ and of the Church, and is realized in the Holy Spirit."
We look upon the Holy Spirit as the love between the Father and His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, thus the Holy Spirit teaches us (as the visible witnesses of the Church) to spread God's Word and His love for us and for our neighbor. "During the Rite of Profession, the Fraternity Minister calls down and invokes the Holy Spirit upon the candidates. This is the same 'calling down' of the Spirit upon those about to receive the Sacrament of the Sick ... upon those about to be confirmed ... upon those to be ordained. When the priest does this at Mass by spreading his hands over the host and the chalice, it is called the epiclesis." Fr. Felice, making the connection with the SFO calls the moment of Profession an eplicletical moment ... another Pentecost when the Spirit comes to dwell with us in a dramatic moment. The Spirit will assist in the action of consecration and transformation."
In the next subsection 6. Profession and the Eucharist. (page 9 of 18), Fr. Richard Trezza continues, and again points to Fr. Felice's talk, "He actually shared with us the theology of the liturgy of Profession thereby giving the best reasons why the rite of Profession should take place within the context of the Mass.
"Mass emphasizes what takes place at Profession, that is, there is a sacrificial dimension of self-giving taking place. Remember me saying that the candidates, as baptized persons, have a priestly/victim nature. Cangelosi puts it this way, "They, [the candidates] by promising to live the Gospel life, make themselves entirely available to God and place their own bodies (persons) on the altar of Christ's sacrifice, as a holy victim pleasing to God." Whew! I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty heady stuff. When was the last time you even thought that that's what you did on your Profession day? The connection between the act/event of Profession and the dynamic of the Eucharist is very clear. These two sacrifices – that of Christ the priest and that of the newly-Professed – are lives offered to God and they are real at one and the same time. I underlined the phrase – entirely available to God" because that's where the sacrifice comes in. Day in and day out, both when convenient and inconvenient, in good times and in bad – the Professed Secular Franciscan is to place him/herself at God's disposal.
These "FUN Reflections" only cover the highlights of each chapter of the FUN Formation Manual - it is strongly recommended that the original work be read, used for formation of others, and for ongoing formation of the Professed. I am repeating this note again, because I have given you an example of Fr. Richard's reaction (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit), to Fr. Felice's statement given at the General Chapter of the Secular Franciscan Order in 2008. Fr. Richard was present, and so was I, purely by the Grace of God I felt, and I recall Fr. Richard when Fr. Felice's talk was over, emote on the whole experience, that the Holy Spirit surely was in the room ... and I felt that too, it was a meeting I will never forget! The "unity and fraternity" that I experienced there was outstanding! It was a Gift of God, to be sure.
To conclude this "FUN Reflection" I'd like to comment on Subsection 12 "After the Manner of St. Francis." Fr. Richard poses the question - what does that actually mean? "Do we constantly have to go through live asking ourselves the question, "What would Francis do?" Do we need to approximate 13th century Italy in our daily lives? What about radical, material poverty. Must we empty our bank accounts and walk around in rags? Remember, we become Franciscans NOT to become other Francis's, but rather to journey toward Christ and eternal life with God. As one speaker so bluntly put it, "Francis is dead!" The audience let out a gasp ... perhaps it was shocking, but a reality nonetheless. His spirit is alive, of course, and that is the basis for living a life in his manner. But to what extent?
To find out what Fr. Richard wrote in reply to his question, please see "Profession 3-23-2011" in the F.U.N. text (in Candidacy).
"My God and My All"
Peace and Good,
Fred Schaeffer, OFS