What is OFS all about?

What’s it all about?
People are attracted to the Secular Franciscan Order for many reasons. Francis of Assisi may
attract them by his directness and joy. They may have met Secular Franciscans who
impressed them by their way of dealing with life. They may feel a lack of direction and
desire to find a way a better focus in their lives. Or there may be other worthwhile reasons
for coming to explore the OFS way of life. The OFS provides a period of Orientation to help
you understand what belonging to the Order means. During the course of initial formation we
continue to give you information and insights to help you understand our way of life.
Secular Franciscans DO THE GOSPEL! The Rule (article 4) says simply: “Secular
Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from
gospel to life and life to the gospel.” This is at the root of our lives. As we get to know it
better we refer to it for:
Perspectives for life.
Values that guide our actions.
For our inner spirit to grow.
Attitudes on social issues and the judgments we make in daily life.
In fact, nothing in our life is outside the reach of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to
grow both in the knowledge and practice of the Gospel. So we seek to learn and follow the
Gospel – day after day after day. We commit ourselves to this process. One role of
fraternity life is to nudge us to go from gospel to life – life to gospel!
Franciscans are ordinary people. We recognise that living the gospel requires regular change
or conversion as we stumble along in our efforts. The OFS Rule (article 7) puts it this way:
“Motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds
to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls’
conversion.’ Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.”
This gospel-focus is the heart of our lives. We work together to achieve these ideals. We
learn to share insights and failures, dreams and frustrations, excitements and disappointments,
vision and action. We do not seek an escape from daily life. We don’t see ourselves as some
elite group.
Belonging to the OFS affects our whole of life. We seek to develop a prayerful spirit.
Equally we seek to forgive each other when we hurt one another. We have a hopeful spirit.
Fraternity-community may need a new approach to life. We know for a fact that daily
conversion is essential.
Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi have given direction and a way of life to people for over 800
years. We encourage you to find out more about them. Here is a brief introduction.
Francis and his brother Angelo were children of Pietro and Pica Bernadone. Pietro was a
rich cloth merchant in Assisi who owned his own shop. He frequently went trading in
different parts of Europe. Pica was a gentle Frenchwoman whose love helped Francis endure
some tough times in his relationship with Pietro. Francis was born in 1182. He died in 1226.
Between those dates he experienced a lifetime of conversion and a way of life that still
influences people.
In his early years his father tried gradually to prepare him to work in the business. He
enjoyed life and often spent nights at parties in homes and the Assisi Piazza. He worked in
the shop and was struck by the needs of the poor who came for handouts. He had a generous
heart, sometimes running after beggars he had ignored in the shop. However he had a deep
desire to become a knighthood. This was a way to achieve glory and move up the social
ladder. With local wars going on among Italian cities, Francis had many opportunities to
show his mettle. In the battle of Collestrada, between Perugia and Assisi, Francis was
imprisoned as a prisoner of war. He grew seriously ill and continued in poor health after he
finally returned home. Slowly, and with great love, Pica nursed him back to health. When he
was able, he returned to the ways of the past. But something had changed. While travelling
to train as a knight, he obeyed a dream that told him to go home and wait for further
instructions.
Life was changing. Prison and illness had made a difference. He lost interest in partying;
wandered in and around Assisi as he sought a meaning for his life; until one day he was
praying in the Church of San Damiano when he was told to “repair my Church” by a voice
from the crucifix. True to the request, he began to beg for stones to rebuild little chapels
around Assisi. His father was absolutely appalled by his son’s behaviour. It finally
culminated in having Francis brought before the Bishop of Assisi and demanding that Francis
return whatever he had of his father’s. Then, in a symbolic gesture, (one of many, that
became common to him from now on), he stripped himself, laid the clothes at his father’s
feet and declared that now God was his Father and Pietro Bernadone was no longer his
father. It was a decision that prompted a total commitment to Jesus and the Gospel. It
began a journey of nearly twenty years in his effort to give flesh to the Gospel in his life. The
stories surrounding his life give witness to a continuing search to be faithful to what he had
chosen in the presence of his father and the Bishop of Assisi.
It wasn’t long before Clare joined Francis on this journey to live the Gospel. Clare belonged
to a noble family in Assisi. In fact, the family had to leave Assisi during some civil unrest
and flee to Perugia for safety. She was a well educated and a beautiful young woman.
Despite having many suitors, she did not choose any of them. Even when her family
pressured her, she remained adamant. She had been inspired when she heard Francis speak.
It is said she met with him in the year before she followed him. She finally made the break,
left home at night and met Francis’ little group of friars. He cut her hair as a sign of her
new life and initially took her stay at a Benedictine monastery. Her family was furious and
tried to take her home by force, but they failed. When her sister Agnes joined her, the same
scenario played out with the same results. Clare lived as a dedicated disciple of Jesus and
Francis. San Damiano, on the hillside outside Assisi, became the home of Clare and her
community. She is the foundress of the Poor Clares. Throughout her life she fought to
maintain the vision of poverty that she and Francis had grasped. Francis and Clare had a
lasting impact on the Church and society. Their dream of gospel life was lived in all its
reality, as a healthy and joyful way to walk through life. They proved that you could live the
gospel life fully. No wonder many people chose to follow Francis and Clare. Lay people, as
well, saw it as an alternative to the violence and power-seeking of their society. Remaining
in the world as married and single, young and old, they embraced the spirit that inspired
Francis and Clare. Lay people who followed Francis became known as the Third Order of St.
Francis. Francis and his Friars formed the First Order, Clare and her Sisters the Second Order and lay people and members of the diocesan clergy the Third Order. The Franciscan
spirit permeates all three Orders. We call that the Franciscan charism. The Rule of the
Secular Franciscans (1978) puts it this way:
“Called like St. Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote
themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests,
fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity” (article 6).
SOME ELEMENTS OF SECULAR FRANCISCAN LIFE
1. Secular Franciscans live in the world.
2. Secular Franciscans draw strength from the Gospel of Jesus.
3. Secular Franciscans share in the spirit of the Franciscan Family.
4. Secular Franciscans seek to give flesh to the gospel vision.
5. Secular Franciscans serve others through social justice and ministries of charity and
peacemaking.
6. Secular Franciscans commit themselves to a way of life spelled out in the OFS Rule.
7. Secular Franciscans develop a prayerful spirit.
8. Secular Franciscans attend to the demands of their inner spirit as did Francis and Clare –
a spirit of reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.
9. Secular Franciscans recognize the need for daily conversion.
10. Secular Franciscans walk through life with a Franciscan COMMUNITY – called
Fraternity.
11. Secular Franciscans are people of hope and joy – God is with us.
12. Secular Franciscans know it is IMPOSSIBLE to fall out of God’s love. Our
brokenness and sin can keep us from growing but we cannot stop God from
loving us.
13. Secular Franciscans have a good sense of humour. Life is serious, but not so serious
that we lose our sense of joy.
14. Secular Franciscans see work as a partnership with God’s creative power, active in our
world.
This list is not exhaustive, but it gives a flavour of our Franciscan way of life.
SCRIPTURE
We are gospel people and the Sacred Scriptures are vital to our lives. Since we desire to
implement the Gospel, we have to devote time and energy to getting to know it better. We
are NOT fundamentalists nor do we seek to quote chapter and verse. Instead we show the
implications of the Gospel by the way we live in our ordinary life. Neither are we Lone
Rangers using Scripture texts to support what we want to do anyway nor as a club to win the
argument. Our goal is not to be intellectual biblical scholars but people who practise what we
learn from the Bible.
Our lifelong commitment is to continue the journey of learning and applying the Gospel in
daily life.
A number of things are required of Secular Franciscans in relation to the Bible:
1. Our guide book is the Bible – we use it!
2. Jesus and his words have special value to us. We listen to him.
3. In fraternal gatherings we share insights and reflections for implementing the Gospel in
everyday life.
4. When we are puzzled about texts, we seek competent help.
5. We avoid fundamentalist attitudes that limit the power of Scripture.
6. We work to deepen our understanding of Scripture.
7. We avoid attitudes that use Scripture to condemn others or identify them as nonsalvageable.
8. The circle of our love must never become narrow. We seek to include rather than exclude
people.
9. We use Scripture for prayer as well as study, letting its power touch us and soak into our
lives.
The Gospel is our guide when we assess the values and attitudes of society that are in
conflict with the Gospel. We face situations where our commitment to gospel ideals will be
challenged. Our awareness of personal weakness should make us less judgmental. We are
called both to confront in love and to walk with people who are struggling.
Following the Gospel is neither easy nor simple but fraternal life helps us to find our way and
to support others.
 
Come and See:
see here for this brief introduction to the OFS.