For the last several years, the Franciscans of the First Order of France-Belgium have conducted an annual meeting to spend some time together, either for a mission as they did in 2017, in Lyon, France, or for a period of formation for Guardians on how to use digital technology, or for a period of retreat.

In 2021, the Provincials and Custodes asked Friar Mauro JÖHRI, the former Minister General of the Capuchin Franciscans, to preach about the Rule. This year, they met for a retreat in Paray-le-Monial, France, the place where Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The retreat was led by the former Minister General of the Friars Minor, Friar Michael PERRY. From December 3-8, 2023, thirty-three friars listened to talks and prayed together. In his reflection, Friar Michael spoke about the events, encounters and choices that shaped the life of St. Francis and our own. Once we understand this background, we can read the Later Rule with greater human depth. All of the friars were enthusiastic about the depth of the reflections and the life experiences shared. At the end of the retreat, the friars were glad to have spent this time with the other friars of the First Order. It was good to be challenged by the words of a former Minister General, to get to know each other better, and to leave the friars full of dreams for the future, such as the dream of the Franciscan Order rediscovering its unity! In the meantime, we shall continue with our common projects at the local and national levels.

Friar Jean-François Marie AUCLAIR