Sharing the Word
Franciscan Formation – Inspirations (Part 12)
“Because preaching—the proclamation of the wonderful works of God in salvation history—must draw foremost upon Sacred Scripture, the friars are to read, listen to, and deepen their understanding of the Word of God every day, impressing it upon their hearts so as to be better able to witness the Gospel life and communicate to others the fruits of their own contemplation.”
I am reminded of an experience in which I shared the Word of God with a group of people suffering from addictions. I had been working with them at one of our centers. We introduced bibliotherapy classes into the program. Bibliotherapy is among the therapeutic methods that use literature to treat patients. Of course, one can choose a variety of books, fairy tales, stories or other worthy texts to use for this purpose. We chose the Bible. Our group would meet once a week, usually on Saturday evenings, to reflect on the Gospel for Sunday. Beginners would learn how to look up a chosen passage in Scripture, a volunteer would read it, and then there was a brief, explanatory introduction and a period of meditation. After the meditation, everyone had an opportunity to share their understanding of the Word of God, how it applied to their lives, and what was important in the chosen text… After these meetings, I always had the firm conviction that I was prepared to preach the homily on the following Sunday. On Sundays, the patients at the center would attend the Mass in their home parishes. When they returned, they would comment on the homily they had heard. They often said that our bibliotherapy session had given them a better understanding of the text than anything they heard in church….
Influenced by these meetings, I have been thinking more often about myself and our religious life in the context of living the Word of God. Some questions have arisen. Is the Gospel something I live every day on a personal level, or is it just something I use in my pastoral and therapeutic work? Do I look at various life issues and situations in the light of Scripture? If yes, can it be seen and felt in what I do and say? Such questions can be applied to our life in community. In our various experiences of daily life, do we feel and see, in ourselves and in other friars, that we seek light and inspiration in the Bible?
What does St. Francis suggest to us in this regard? “The Rule and Life of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ…” Francis invoked the Word of God in a natural way at various times in his life. He also encouraged the friars to study the Gospel; not so much out of curiosity, but so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they might become better through love and at the same time be able to renounce self-importance. The Gospel illuminated Francis on how he should act and how he should follow and serve Christ. He wanted to follow Jesus as faithfully as possible, to allow himself to be formed by Jesus within the Church. The Word of God did not direct St. Francis to reform the Church or to resurrect the life of the primitive community gathered around Christ. Scripture gave him the illumination he needed to first convert himself. I am convinced that this is the main way we should shape our lifestyle and the way we should refer to the Word of God. It is not about studying the Gospel in order to radiate knowledge and learning and thus deliver a fascinating homily. It is about absorbing the Gospel in such a way that it fills and transforms our hearts and our communities: “And those religious are put to death by the letter who are not willing to follow the spirit of the divine letter but, instead, wish only to know the words and to interpret them for others. And those people are brought to life by the spirit of the divine letter who do not attribute every letter they know, or wish to know, to the body but, by word and example, return them to the most high Lord God to Whom every good belongs.”
Our Constitutions strongly encourage us to meditate on Scripture and share it in community: “The Friary Chapter is to schedule times for hearing, praying, and reflecting upon the Word of God, during which the entire fraternity shares that which the Word of God has inspired in each one.” There is a clue here regarding the time and place to conduct meditation in the community and for the community (although there are friaries where the friars more often come together in discussion groups.) In this way, we can find a stable place to “break” the Gospel together like bread; not so much to hone our skills as preachers, but to offer our gift to other friars. The Word thus lovingly shared will multiply in us and, more often than not, give us more strength and light for the rest of our life and ministry.
Friar Piotr STANISŁAWCZYK
General Delegate for Formation
 Friars Minor Conventual, Constitutions, Rome 2019, art. 99, §2.
 Cf. M. GRUDZIŃSKA, Biblioterapia – na czym polega leczenie poprzez literaturę, https://portal.abczdrowie.pl/biblioterapia, February 18, 2023; R. MININNO, Cos’è la biblioterapia, http://www.biblioterapia.it/biblioterapia.html, February 18, 2023.
 Later Rule 1:1 FF 75.
 Cf. K. Esser, Melius catholice observemus. Objaśnienia Reguły w świetle pism i wypowiedzi św. Franciszka, in: Franciszkańska Reguła życia, a cura di Hardick L., Terchlűsen J., Esser K., Niepokalanów 1988, p. 93-197.
 Cf. A. DRAGO, Słowo Boże, Pismo święte, in: Leksykon duchowości franciszkańskiej, edited by Emil KUMKA, OFM Conv, Cracow-Warsaw 2016, pp. 1836-1850.
 Admonitions 7:3-4 FF 156.
 Friars Minor Conventual, Constitutions, Rome 2019, art. 44, §4.