Thomas of Celano wrote
His highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest intention was to pay heed to the Holy Gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to retrace His footsteps completely with all vigilance and all zeal, all the desire of his soul and all the fervor of his heart. Francis used to recall with regular meditation the words of Christ and recollect His deeds with most attentive perception. Indeed, so thoroughly did the humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion occupy his memory that he scarcely wanted to think of anything else .
In the second chapter of the Earlier Rule, Francis tells us about those, who by divine inspiration, want to join our lifestyle: If anyone, wishing by divine inspiration to accept this life, comes to our brothers, let him be received by them with kindness. Certainly, someone who begins this journey – as I said in my previous reflection – becomes a visible sign; he becomes an instrument of invitation to others, as St. Francis was to his contemporaries.
Wanting to follow Jesus Christ in Franciscan spirituality means embodying Gospel values today, in a concrete context, where God has called us, within a certain spirituality. The document reads: “let him be received by them with kindness.” Francis could have written simply: “let him be received by them”; but no, Francis wants those who knock at our door to be well-received; he wants those who are sent by inspiration of the Spirit to find a place where there are brothers who are welcoming, the way a mother welcomes a new son, as we read in his writing about the behavior of the friars in the hermitages:
Let those who wish to stay in hermitages in a religious way be three brothers or, at the most, four; let two of these be “the mother” and have two “sons” or at least one. Let the two who are “mothers” keep the life of Martha and the two “sons” the life of Mary.
How do we welcome those who knock on the doors of our friaries today? What do they find in our fraternities?
Francis wrote: Let the minister receive him with kindness, encourage him and diligently explain the tenor of our life to him. Receiving, encouraging and explaining the tenor of Franciscan life are practical guidelines for any vocation promoter. Any brother in the Franciscan family, any Superior, can use them and put them into practice.
One concrete sign that we are following Christ in our spirituality, even after 800 years, is the welcome we extend to new brothers. The one who walks invites others. The one who does not walk stagnates. He does not renew himself. He becomes like murky and malodorous waters. On the other hand, the one who drinks from the fountain is renewed. He becomes fruitful and life-giving. He becomes a hearty invitation to the new generations.
Friar Elio J. ROJAS