The Grace of Our Origins

Roy Gasnick Features

St. Petersburg 2006 Provincial Retreat
1209. The Lateran Basilica. Pope Innocent III, the most powerful man in the world, presiding at his Papal Court. In front of him, a trifling matter to be dismissed easily. A small, beggarly man with companions obviously out of place among the grand churchmen present with the Pope. The dismissal never happens. The grace of God intervenes. The Franciscan movement has begun.

This is the setting and background for the 2006 Provincial Days of Reflection and Renewal in preparation for the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Order of Friars Minor. The first of these was held at St. Anthony Friary, St. Petersburg, Fla., Jan. 23-26, formatted as a traditional retreat. According to Dominic Monti, who directed the retreat, the same format would be used in March at Butler. After that presentation, the format will open up to more contemporary formats which invite discussion and interaction. Provincial Minister John O’Connor, Dominic said, will participate in all the upcoming Grace of Our Origin Days in Butler; Stoneville, N.C.; Mystic, Conn.; Silver Spring, Md.; St. Bonaventure, N.Y.; and Loudonville, N.Y.

The 41 friars who participated in the retreat were treated to a spiritual rarity: conferences steeped in Francis: the development of his personal vocation; the wonderment of the Lord gave me some brothers; the gradual realization of the enormity of go and rebuild my house; the discovery, regardless of the historic activist examples Francis left to his posterity, that he spent more time in prayer and contemplation than in ministry; the agony of alienation of who are these men who are trying to steal MY Order away from me; the daring challenge of those who go among the Saracens, among many other Franciscan archetypical moments.

Drawing from origins such as these, Dominic spoke movingly (to this listener, a good example of Bonaventure’s definition of wisdom as knowledge affecting the knower) about the five priorities given us by the successor of St. Francis, the present Minister General and his Council as we prepare for the 8th Centenary of the approval of our Order: 1. contemplation and prayer; 2. fraternity; 3. minority; 4. mission; and 5. formation (initial and continuing).