The Good News in the Fraternal Community
Every fraternal community offers one the opportunity of living the Gospel. The Holy Spirit calls us to live in communion, bringing together the faithful whom he inspires with the love of God. Only this love is able to unite many disciples, enabling them to live in unity. The primary objective and mission of those living in community, therefore, is to become “a living organism of intense fraternal communion, a sign and stimulus for all the baptized” (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Fraternal Life in Community 2b) and an effective sign of evangelization (Cf. Ibid. 54-56).
St. Francis of Assisi reasoned in a similar way and placed great emphasis on fraternitas, that is, on the fraternal community. This community was formed by friars who were obedient to the Holy Spirit, friars who lived in poverty and chastity, full of the desire to serve one another and not just themselves. Therefore, in the same spirit of fraternity they were open to people outside the friary, beyond the circle of their close acquaintances, outside their own country or the Church. They saw everything as their sister or brother and were convinced that all creation pointed to Christ, the Brother par excellence. Their love for each other also allowed them to love and welcome everyone they met, to behold God’s work with admiration and joy, work that continues to grow in front of our eyes (Cf. Canticle of Brother Sun).
It is also not surprising that in his writings, such as the Earlier Rule, the Later Rule, the Testament, and the Letter to the Entire Order, Francis makes ten references to a fraternal community in which everyone is perceived as a gift of God.
In this spirit, Francis never promoted individualism. When there was a need to send someone out to preach, he would send at least two friars together. He was convinced that the work of evangelization was a community issue, where one friar would preach while another offered prayers and sacrifice for this mission. Regarding prayer, one should note that, in sending forth the friars, Francis did not neglect those who were unable to journey to the unbelievers. Indeed, he himself was extremely convinced that through prayer and good works, these other friars, even the most humble among them, could share the merits of every effective apostolate carried out by the friars who were able to preach to, and convert, the unbelievers (Cf. 2Cel 164 FF 749).
This “organic” approach to the challenges of missionary work has also been replicated in modern times. In the Santo Domingo document, we read that only the community that allows itself to be evangelized is made subject to the action of the Holy Spirit, shares the faith, seeks unity in the richness of various charisms, experiences fraternal love, and is able to evangelize (Cf. Santo Domingo, Conclusiones 23).
An echo of this reasoning can also be found in the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote: “A radical conversion in thinking is required in order to become missionary, and this holds true both for individuals and entire communities. The Lord is always calling us to come out of ourselves and to share with others the goods we possess, starting with the most precious gift of all—our faith…Only by becoming missionary will the Christian community be able to overcome its internal divisions and tensions, and rediscover its unity and its strength of faith” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio 49). “The life of communion, in fact, becomes a sign for all the world and a compelling force that leads people to faith in Christ” (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata 46).
History has shown us that St. Francis worked toward this type of life, a life that matches the current teaching of the Church when it talks about missionary fraternity.
Friar Dariusz MAZUREK,
General Delegate for Mission Animation
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