The friars of Holy Name Province remember that for some years we would occasionally receive a small paperback book on an aspect of the rich Franciscan intellectual and spiritual tradition. These publications were the efforts of “CFIT,” the Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. Because the last volume in this Franciscan Heritage Series – Knowledge for Love: Franciscan Science as the Pursuit of Wisdom by Br. Keith Warner, OFM – was published almost four years ago, many may be under the impression that CFIT’s work has quietly faded away. That is not the case. We continue to meet annually to brainstorm and plan new activities – not only new volumes in the Heritage Series, but a number of other initiatives as well. Our most recent gathering was in January.
CFIT was founded in 2001 by the Order’s English-speaking Conference to respond to the growing sense among Franciscan formation directors and educators that there was a need to retrieve our distinctive theological and spiritual tradition, not only for contemporary Franciscan men and women, but also for the many people who are searching for an alternative to the dominant voices that have formed them up to this point. As Fr. Joseph Chinnici, OFM, observed when CFIT was founded, “When our intellectual tradition, with its view of God’s overflowing goodness, its Christocentric emphasis . . . its view of a Spirit-filled yet sinful Church . . . its valuation of freedom and human dignity, is presented to people, it almost always meets with an enthusiastic reception. But do we really know this tradition? Are our resources mobilized so as to protect and update it?” The goal of CFIT, from the beginning, has been to retrieve the wealth of our distinctive Franciscan tradition by finding ways to articulate and communicate our intellectual heritage to men and women today.
Transitions of Leadership and Name
Fr. Joe, now president of the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, Calif., ably led CFIT from its founding until 2013, when I was asked by the ESC to take the reins. Joe still remains active on our board; he and F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, also a CFIT member from the beginning, provide a great sense of continuity to our efforts.
In 2008, the CFIT initiative was formally made an official secretariat of the English-speaking Conference, to whom we are responsible. We continue to use the original acronym CFIT (“See-Fit”), as that has become the popular shorthand for the group in Franciscan circles. We in Holy Name Province can be proud of the role we have played in CFIT’s history as we have generously funded most of its operations.
Over the past year, a good deal of work has been expended in upgrading the CFIT website, FranciscanTradition.org, as a vehicle for communicating our Franciscan tradition. The easiest way to learn about current projects is to click the “Resources” link there. One can see the existing volumes in the Heritage Series; several more are being prepared.
New Methods of Providing Early Sources
We are especially proud of the book The Franciscan Moral Vision: Responding to God’s Love, a collaborative volume by a number of leading ethicists that elucidates the distinctive Franciscan approach to contemplating moral issues. In addition, we provide several popular initiatives, such as the “Custodians” series, which provide shorter digests of significant articles; these can be downloaded from the website, and are intended for use in parishes and college classes and by Secular Franciscans. Again, new additions to this Custodians series are in the works. There is also a DVD series that makes some classic lectures available in that format.
In addition, we have partnered with Now You Know Media, a firm in Rockville, Md., to develop audio presentations of a wide variety of Franciscan themes. We have also revived the Franciscan Tradition Facebook page, posting notices and reflections on a fairly frequent basis. Those without Facebook, those same posts are available on our website, under “News.”
The “crown jewel” of the CFIT website is the immediate access that it will provide to the early Franciscan sources. We have obtained permission from the publishers of the three-volume Francis of Assisi: Early Documents as well as Clare of Assisi: Early Documents to make these works available online through the CFIT site. This will provide an immense service, especially to the burgeoning Franciscan movement in Africa and Asia where English is the principal language of study, as people will be able to access the early sources immediately without having to go to a book. Obviously, such a project is a massive undertaking, which has involved developing a whole new platform for the website that will operate on tablets and smartphones as well as on personal computers.
Currently, an older, “clunky” version of the early documents can be accessed from the website, but we warn users to not all rush to use that feature at once or the page will crash. However, we do want to let you know about this development, as we hope to have the new and improved platform for the writings of Francis and Clare available by the end of May.
Over the next year, the rest of volume one of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents will be uploaded with volume two, the following year, and finally volume three. Since a person has to register to access the early sources online, we hope this, in turn, will build up a network of Franciscan scholars and Franciscan men and women “in the field.” This will go a long way toward meeting a long-term dream of CFIT – to establish ourselves as a “one-stop shop,” a point of entry for people looking to find out more about our Franciscan intellectual tradition.
We are always eager to learn of topics that you would find helpful for CFIT to explore in future endeavors and of other ways in which we might work to make our great tradition available.
— Fr. Dominic, Provincial Vicar from 2005 to 2014, is stationed at St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y., where he is a distinguished professor of Franciscan studies. He is marking 50 years as a Franciscan friar this year and is the author of Francis and His Brothers: A Popular History of the Franciscan Friars.