As April — National Volunteer Month in the United States and in Canada — winds down, a friar at Mt. Irenaeus, where partnering with laity is part of the culture, shares thoughts about collaboration.
Francis’s understanding of everyone as “sister” or “brother” may very well be the source of the Franciscan model of collaboration. I can remember how this collaboration was highlighted at the partners-in-ministry conference at Siena College near Albany, N.Y., in June 1995, and I see how it has been lived here at Mt. Irenaeus in Western New York and at all of Holy Name Province’s ministry sites.
In life and ministry, a Franciscan is united more “with” others than working “for” others. In this model, people are encouraged to identify their gifts, bring them forward and use them for the good of the community. This invitation into shared life and ministry is part of the strong appeal of the Franciscan charism.
That Franciscan spirit of collaboration flows from a deep love of Jesus and a desire to follow his example. Central to my understanding of this collaboration is this passage from Philippians 2:6-11: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found in human appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The collaborative model of the Trinity is now shared with all of us through Jesus. This is the model of love. Jesus shares with us our joy and all the things we suffer: rejection, false accusation, indifference, abuse and death. In the resurrection, Jesus goes beyond all of that and shares with us unimaginable life.
Jesus’ collaboration with humanity is total and complete. We are invited into this collaborative model. When you turn the word “me” upside down, you get not only the new word “we,” but a whole new way of living. Jesus’ invitation to all of us is to move from the “me” to the “we” as we follow his model of living well with one another.
“I may not be much, but I’m all I ever think about” is one of the great AA sayings. What a great model for an increasingly individualistic culture. Yet, the author of the Letter to the Philippians points us to a better way: “Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though in the form of God…” Thankfully Franciscan collaboration is very much alive and well today.
— Fr. Louis, a professed friar since 1959, has been stationed at Mt. Irenaeus for 24 years. Recently, he wrote a reflection about collaboration and Palm Sunday that was published in the April e-newsletter of the nearly 30-year-old Franciscan Mountain Retreat.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, holy day or other seasonal theme – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. The previous reflection, about commemorating Good Friday, was written by Edward Flanagan, OFM. Additional friar reflections can be found on the blogs of HNP friars.