Introduction

In March 2001, the English-speaking Conference (ESC), Order of Friars Minor (OFM), undertook an initiative for the contemporary retrieval of the Franciscan Tradition. The commision on the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT) is the result of that initiative. It is composed of the Franciscan leaders from the English speaking provinces of the Order.

The Commission hopes, over time, to explore topics such as Creation, the Iconography of the Crucified, Christian Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Scriptural Themes, Evangelization, History, the Natural Sciences, the Arts as well as areas of contemporary concern, as seen through the Franciscan tradition.

This website serves as a portal to connect lay and religious Franciscan sholars, ministers, educators, and enthusiasts.

The following letter from the President of the English Speaking Conference clarifies the objectives of this initiative.

 

Dear Members of the Franciscan Family,

It is with joy that I write this letter announcing the first step in an attempt to present to all the members of the Franciscan family, once again, the fine intellectual tradition of our Order.

In March of 2000, the English Speaking Conference, together with administrators and professors from the theological schools of the English speaking world, met in Colorado Springs and discussed the need for a renewal in our theological and intellectual formation. We seek to highlight in all of its dimensions the Franciscan tradition which has been part of the universal Church. The reflective and systematic approaches of such forebearers as Francis and Clare, Alexander of Hales and Bonaventure, Peter John Olivi and Angela of Foligno, John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, Roger Bacon and Raymond Lull, Bernadine of Laredo and Veronica Giuliani have presented for us the riches of our Gospel inheritance in ever new and faith-filled ways. We need to do our part. Last March, we appointed a core committee “to lay the foundations of a strategic plan for the articulation, communication, and ongoing development of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition as a vital resource for the animation of the Franciscan Family and as an alternative theological traditionwithin the Church.”

The first step is to aid the members of the Franciscan family to understand the beauty and the wealth of their intellectual tradition. Our second step is to help the Church see this tradition as valid and meaningful for today’s society. In recent times Pope Paul VI challenged us in his encyclical letter Alama Parens of 1968 to once again look seriously at our intellectual tradition, at the preeminence of charity, and the use of charity in our teaching of theology to those who have difficulty in belief. We should focus on the ecumenical ramifications of this primacy of charity. We should also look seriously again at the primacy of Christ and the motives of the Incarnation. John Paul II, at the General Chapter of 1991 in San Diego, has reminded us in his message to be faithful to the tradition of our Order, to the intellectual formation which must be regarded as a fundamental requirement for evangelization.

In the past some of us have had the good fortune to be taught by professors who studied under such intellectual leaders as Philotheus Boehner, Allan Wolter, and Ignatius Brady. Today we are being asked by our Franciscan professors of the present era to articulate our intellectual tradition in cooperation
with the friars of all the obediential groups, with the Poor Clares, with the brothers and sisters of the Third Order Regular, and with Secular Franciscans. This is part of the context of our renewal. This is part of our response to Vatican II: we are to return to our roots. The new Third Order Rule for Brothers and Sisters, the new Rule for the Secular Franciscan Order, the centenaries of both Francis and Clare, the beatification of Duns Scotus, and the publication of Vita Consecrata by John Paul II; all these events make us aware of the challenge to extend to the whole Franciscan family and to our society the intellectual heritage that is found in the Franciscan school so that we can continue to evangelize well.

At our meeting this year, the English Speaking Conference committed itself to presenting again to the large Franciscan family its intellectual traditions. This publication marks the beginning of that presentation. The task force of Joe Chinnici, Margaret Carney, Ed Coughlin, Ilia Delio, Bill Short, Cyprian Rosen, Austin McCormick and Pierre Brunette has taken the first step. Hopefully, other documents will be published. Hopefully, connections will be made with all the members of the Franciscan family so that with hope,
with joy, and with enthusiasm we can once again look at our intellectual history, make it part of our lives, and prepare to become better proclaimers of the Word to those around us.

Fraternally,
Finian McGinn, OFM
President, English Speaking Conference
Order of Friars Minor