Franciscan documents

Franciscan bits & pieces picked up by Ted Witham tssf

Archive for the tag “Episcopal Church”

Obedience, Poverty and Chastity for All?


Brother Clark Berge SSF, The Vows Book: Anglican Teaching on the Vows of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity, CreateSpace 2014, 142 pages.  (from $AUD 18.20 online)

Reviewed by Ted Witham tssf
[Published in Anglican Messenger April 2014]

The late Abbot of New Norcia Dom Placid Spearritt OSB once claimed that Franciscans invented the idea of ‘vows’: Benedictines, he said, only had ‘promises’. I don’t know enough history or canon law to evaluate Abbot Placid’s statement, but as a Franciscan, I take the point that we should treat our promises with the least complication we can. Let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. (see Mt 5:37)

Brother Clark Berge, currently Minister General of the Society of Saint Francis, explores what it means to be a vowed person. All of us are vowed persons, as promises were made in our baptisms, and The Vows Book speaks to all Christians about the discipline and constraints inherent in following Christ. ‘The vows protect in us deep down the courage and strength to live for God,’ Br Clark writes, ‘to help God create a world we want to live in, a world of love.’

Vowed persons are counter-cultural. We have promised to make the world a different place than it is now. For those called to ‘give their lives to God in a special way’ as brothers and sisters in religious orders, the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity structure their lives to have the freedom to tell out the Good News.

Obedience means listening – listening to the Scriptures, to the Founders, to each other, to one’s inner voice and to nature. It means living as a responsible adult. Poverty is a free choice to follow Christ in a sharing lifestyle clarifying one’s social vision and helping those who are poor not through choice.

For members of religious orders like SSF chastity implies celibacy, which sets brothers and sisters free to love in new ways without the ties of family. Brother Clark is brutally honest about the difficulties of celibacy and gives practical advice on what to do with ‘sexy thoughts’.

Br Clark has printed his book in long thin columns. Each line of text has three or four words only in the style of the Catholic Workers’ Peter Maurin’s Easy Essays, making his ideas accessible to all members of the Society who have a very wide range of educational levels.

Br Clark’s ideas are also profitable for Tertiaries, as we too are vowed people, promising obedience, poverty and chastity as appropriate for our life-situation. He challenges us to use our promises as a framework to follow Jesus more closely, to find more joy in our life in Christ and to find more freedom in telling the Good News. These Franciscan values are ours too, and while our life-situations are not the same as the brothers and sisters of the First Order, our call to be Christ-like is.

It is challenging to be reminded to be responsible adults in listening to the wisdom of those around us and so learning to be more mature in our obedience. When we have so much materially our vow of poverty should cause us difficulty, and Br Clark asks us to re-consider if we are serious about sharing our resources with the whole community. Do I have the purity of heart I promised in my vow of chastity and what impact does that purity have on my ability to love as Christ would have me love?

Br Clark’s teaching about the vows may have started from his life-situation as a brother, but his wisdom, simplicity and depth is for all of us.

The Vows Book has a Foreword by Archbishop Roger Herft AM, Bishop Protector General of the Society of St Francis and the cover is graced by one of Br Clark’s own paintings, a reflection inspired by the words of Ephrem the Syrian on baptism. Br Clark’s book will help us say our ‘Yes’ with greater conviction and with joy and simplicity. It will help us bring our promises to life.

 

Hard-pressed but firm in the faith


Reflections on the catastrophic earthquake of 12 January.

Monsignor Jean Zache Duracin

Monsignor Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of the Episcopal church of Haiti.

“Hard pressed but firm in the faith.”

This cry arises from the heart of Monsignor Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Haiti after the evidence of this devastating catastrophe of this Tuesday 12 January in the afternoon; a date which will be engraved for ever in the memory of Haitians and the inhabitants of the whole world.  12 January, about 4:53 in the afternoon, is the beginning of another page in the history of this republic called the “First Black Republic in the world.”

The humanitarian assistance which has been announced for this catastrophe is also historic. The quake has been a hard blow in a country of more than 10 million souls.  Residents have lost everything, their house, and their former lives.  The capital has been transformed into a huge refugee camp.  They desperately need water, food and medication.

“I was almost buried under the roofing of Bishop’s House,” Monsignor Duracin, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Haiti, told us. “I was two seconds away from the entry door, and I was just able, thanks to the help of the Most High, to escape with my life.  My wife who was inside the house is still in the ZANMI Health Centre, with injuries to her legs which were crushed in the debris of the house. We had just time to drag her from the rubble. Two of my children miraculously got out of the collapsed house. Holy Trinity Cathedral succumbed to this earthquake, magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale, which has devastated our country: the roof of Saint Cecilia Hall, the only stadium in Haiti, has practically come down on the stage where concerts are held regularly… most of our churches are destroyed; a number of our schools are piles of rock.

St Peter’s College, where I have set up a makeshift tent with my family among about 3000 refugees during the day and many more at night, is fragile, because there is no water or food. Hygiene conditions are precarious with so many young children, nearly 200 children, and the presence of handicapped children from St Vincent school, which sustained irreparable damage, has complicated the life they had developed in an appropriate environment on Paul 6 Street.  A large part of the capital has been completely destroyed.  The National Palace has partly collapsed.  Several Ministry buildings, Parliament, churches, hospitals, hotels, schools and several universities have been destroyed, the University of the Episcopal Church of Haiti among them.  The scene before our eyes is truly sad.

The shock has severely disrupted communications in the country.  The wounded are conveyed to the hospital centres that are still standing.  Holy Cross Hospital is sorting itself out to help the wounded from Leogane.

“I hold out the arms of the diocese to the thousands without shelter, and I offer my prayers,” says the Bishop of the Diocese of Haiti.  “Haiti already had serious difficulties before the earthquake with an extremely poor population, so after the earthquake it will be difficult for us to pull through alone.

“International media are speaking of between 150,000 and 200,000 dead.  There would be 250,000 wounded and a million without shelter, over half of whom are in Port-au-Prince, the capital.  We have all being surprised during the 48 seconds of this deadly tremor.  The UN itself recognizes that this earthquake as a catastrophe without precedent.

“The course of THE HISTORY OF HAITI has changed.

“I want to say THANK YOU to all who have extended a helping hand to us.  What is more, I would like to think that we are at the beginning of a long partnership.  I invite you to accompany us in helping our Haitian brothers and sisters.

Hard pressed, but firm in the faith.”

[From the website of the Diocese of Haiti:

Translation Ted Witham tssf 23 Jan. 10]

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