Fr. Anthony Carrozzo, OFM

Fr. Anthony Carrozzo, OFM, was provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province from 1987 to 1996.Fr. Anthony M. Carrozzo, OFM, was Provincial Minister of Holy Name Province from 1987 to 1996. Born in Winsted, Conn., he was professed as a Franciscan in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1966. Leading the Province in its 90th year, Fr. Anthony shares thoughts on spiritual “refounding.”

Francis of Assisi’s initial understanding of Jesus’ command, “Rebuild my Church” was literal, so he wholeheartedly renovated buildings; later he came to grasp that Jesus intended the command symbolically, as the pope confirmed by his dream of Francis supporting the crumbling structure of the symbol of the universal Church.

“Refounding” is like “rebuilding”: it may be understood symbolically or literally. Concerning refounding, one friar quipped: “I didn’t know we were lost.” But in the symbolic sense we are lost — we need to be constantly renewed by the parables of Jesus, and the wondrous results of prayer, fasting, and refinding the Way of the Lord. “The last days” must be a strong part of our Christian and Franciscan vision.

This readily directs my thoughts back to our beloved brother, Anthony of Padua. Famed for finding lost objects, he may help us find our direction; loved for his understanding of alienated persons, he may help us understand; experienced in losing his sense of mission, he may help us refound our lives and ministries.

On several occasions, Anthony lost his way or had a difficult time finding it. He moved from one monastery to another; he transferred from the stable Augustinians to our loosely established fraternity; he set out to find the Saracens and ended up among the Sicilians. No wonder he went to a hermitage! Yet he remained calmly contemplative as he prayed and studied the Scriptures.

I, too, search for the Way. Moments of isolation along my journey have turned into solitude, leading me to a deep appreciation of my brothers and sisters.

I ponder the feelings of alienation that Anthony must have endured as he transferred from monastic to pilgrim life. At thesame time, Francis was struggling with the opposite tension, anxiously watching some of his followers begin to move from the freedom of the Gospel to a more settled form of life. Even the Church was trying to force Francis, until he finally had to defend the movement with the vigorous statement: “No one taught me what to do but the Most High Himself.”

It fascinates me that Anthony, given his urgent sense of mission, lingered so calmly in a hermitage. Like Francis, he struggled to determine the best use of his knowledge and love of Scripture. Characteristically, Francis resolved this struggle with the help of Masseo, Sylvester, and Clare, while Anthony did so by his obedience to the command of his guardian to preach. Both Francis and Anthony found their way by being evangelists, for through them Christ spoke to the world.

Through obedience to God’s word and through his guardian’s command, Anthony found his way, discovering that God wanted him to regard his knowledge and his power to communicate as divine gifts useful for delivering plain, simple homilies to God’s people.

Like Francis, Anthony discovered in his own way that the truly unique Franciscan calling is evangelization, which takes many forms preaching, ministry — but always in service of the Gospel. Our Constitutions sum up this solitary Franciscan mission by challenging us to hear, live and preach the Gospel.

Francis and Anthony were empathetic and compassionate ministers because they conducted themselves as lesser brothers. In fact, they considered themselves the least of the brethren (in the spirit of Matthew 25), thereby discovering Christ.

Because Francis accepted himself as least in the Kingdom of God, he could see the very structure of the universe as a thoroughly sacramental creation patterned after Christ Jesus and endowed with a central role in revealing the Good News. The sacraments must be administered by friar-priests who possess and share not only the evangelical plan of Francis ofAssisi but also his sacramental vision.

This plan and vision are Francis’s patrimony to his followers. But we friars can easily lose the patrimony at times. Nor should such shortcomings surprise us, for to walk the Gospel way is fraught with temptations to wander.

To symbolize an objective of refounding, the image that I like best is woven into the Lord’s parable of the empty banquet hall. In that parable, we friars identify not with Christ nor with the invited guests nor the guests invited at the last moment to fill the hall, but with the servants sent by the Lord to invite the poor, the lame, the alienated, the ill-bred to his banquet — the very banquet to which we ourselves long for an invitation! The prospect of that invitation is worth constantly rediscovering our true Franciscan spirituality and identity as servants of the Kingdom of God.

— This essay was written in 1991 when Fr. Anthony was Provincial Minister of Holy Name Province. It appeared in the February 1991 issue of The Anthonian magazine.