Universal Fraternity with Creation

Universal Fraternity with Creation

He is my brother. She is my sister. I am their brother.

Francis of Assisi’s Rule of 1223 defines the life of the lesser brothers as “to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity.” In a Letter to the Entire Order, Francis of Assisi articulates the mission of the friars (i.e., lesser brothers) in a succinct manner.

“Observe His commands with your whole heart and fulfill His counsels with a perfect mind. Give praise to Him because He is good; exalt Him by your deeds; for this reason, He has sent you into the whole world: that you may bear witness to His voice in word and deed and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all-powerful except Him.”

God’s power of creative love is proclaimed by all of creation. As friars, God sends us into the whole world; into all of creation. Our fraternal life in our friaries or houses helps us go into the whole world to bear witness to the joy of the Gospel in word and deed.

Franciscan Friars Conventual do this in a particular manner. Giovanni Iamorrone, OFM Conv. articulates this manner or style for us.  

“The Franciscan Conventual Identity is sent out to the world and must go (itinerant) everywhere to accomplish its mission which participates in the very mission of the Church, the poor spouse of Christ the poor. It is a task received from the Founder (see ER 16; LR 3;12; LtOrder, v. 8) which through history directed it into all parts of the world, both within and without Christianity’s borders. In its missionary task, however, the Fraternity received from the Founder a specific, particular task: to proclaim God’s love by word and deed, to the Church and to the whole world; the Love of God made humble and poor for Love’s sake, who in Jesus Christ gratuitously gave and gives the whole of Himself, inviting the Church (and humankind as a whole) to conversion and penance, so that all men and women, in humility of heart and life, may gratefully give themselves to the One who infinitely loved and loves them still (see Rnb 23; Lcap).”

While the Rule of 1223 directs us how to live as brothers to one another, we often cite a reference in Francis of Assisi’s Testament to remind us that brothers in the fraternity are a gift. Saint Francis notes in his Testament, “The Lord gave me brothers.” Francis of Assisi uses the word “brother” 306 times in his writings. While the first point of reference may be the brothers who live in the same religious house or convento and work in the same mission, Francis’ use of “brothers” is not exclusively friars.

Friars learn the Franciscan virtues of humility and charity so to imitate the humility and charity of God and the humility and charity of Christ in the world. A friar learns how to live humbly and charitably in his life with the friars he lives with in a particular locale and the brothers he serves with in mission by being brothers to one another.

Again, the brotherhood in a local fraternity is not exclusive. The brotherhood in the local fraternity is immediate and develops a friar’s ability to live as a brother to other people. In his Second Letter to the Faithful, Francis writes:

We are bothers, moreover, when we do the will of His father who is in heaven . . . . O how holy and how loving, gratifying, humbling, peace-giving, sweet, worthy of love and above all things desirable it is to have such a Brother and such a Son: our Lord Jesus Christ!

What was important for Francis of Assisi was the truth that God is father of us all.  Francis’ use of the word “brothers” in the Testament would include the lepers and the poor. Francis wrote two versions of a Letter to the Faithful where he refers to the laity as brothers and sisters to him and to one another. We have one common Father in heaven who makes us brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ as well.

Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures extends that fraternal bond to all of creation.  He uses terms like “Sir Brother Son, sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Water, brother Fire, and Sister Mother Earth.” For Francis, all created things are brothers and sisters because they all originate from the same loving Father, and so with this imagery Francis celebrates the universal fatherhood of God.

 – friar Michael Lorentsen OFM Conv.

In part two, read about how we live with joy the Gospel of our Brother Lord Jesus Christ.