Friday, July 10, 2009

July Column for Secular Franciscan Fraternity Newsletter

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 23:35).” (Chap. 53:1, Rule of St. Benedict)

“No matter where they are, in hermitages or elsewhere, the friars must be careful not to claim the ownership of any place or try to hold it against someone else. Everyone who comes to them, friend or foe, rogue or robber, must be made welcome.” (Unapproved Rule of 1221, Francis of Assisi)

“As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ. (Art. 13a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

I know, starting my Franciscan column with a Benedictine quote, but since we are meeting on the Feast of St. Benedict (July 11), it seemed appropriate. Benedict lived in sixth century Italy. We know very little about him, his only writings are his Rule. Yet he had a tremendous impact on Western Christianity that has lasted for centuries. Until the time of Francis and Dominic, Benedict defined what religious life was all about.

The Benedictine monasteries were renowned for hospitality towards guests. They were welcomed into the monastery, given food and shelter. Francis carried this concept of Christian hospitality outside the monastery walls. Whether the friars encountered lepers, nobles, pilgrims or robbers; in their hermitages, friaries or on the road, they were to extend care and aid.

When anyone comes to our fraternity gatherings, we must make every effort to make them feel welcomed. And when we encounter anyone on the streets, in the office, in our homes; we need to show the same hospitality as we would at our gatherings.

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