Vision and Values
The choices which we make come from a certain perspective, a certain attitude towards the past and how it may inform the present. Certainly retrieving our tradition, identifying it, and knowing its salient features is a first step. This we have tried to do, at least initially, in the fine paper written by Ilia Delio and William Short.
Franciscan theology was created by a process involving many writers. As far as the specific 'Franciscan' aspect is concerned, and not simply the 'Christian-Catholic' aspect is concerned, Francis of Assisi of course stands as the foundation of this process even though his writings cannot be called in any technical way a 'theology.' Along with him, also at the point of origin, one must see the writings of Clare of Assisi....Their vision of the gospel way of life, however, found its echo in the process which developed into a technical theology (See Kenan Osborne, "Alexander of Hales," in The History of Franciscan Theology,16.).
However, there is no intention here simply to retrieve the past as an artifact or a fixed inheritance, but rather to identify the tradition for the sake of renewing and revitalizing our mission in the Church and the world. Thus, the insights which we obtain from the past must change in presentation and language; they must interface with new developments in science, psychology, and sociology; they must confront the new questions posed for the Church and society in the third millennium. The major themes of the Franciscan tradition, it seems to us, are timely and relevant; other elements in it are best discarded (e.g. its attitude towards the Jews). The globalization of the Franciscan family, the explosion in technology as well as the political, religious, economic and scientific developments of the contemporary world demand a significant restructuring of older approaches. Retrieval exists for the sake of revitalization.
Those of us present at the meetings have noted a significant increase of interest in the Franciscan intellectual tradition, particularly its theological features, among lay people working in our institutions, pilgrimage participants, college students, and the laity who come to our churches, retreat centers, and places of continuing education. When the tradition in its view of God's overflowing goodness, its Christocentric emphasis, its moral-decision making process, its view of a Spirit-filled yet sinful Church, its understanding of property and community, and its valuation of freedom and personal dignity, is presented, it almost always meets with an enthusiastic reception. But do we really know this tradition? Is it institutionalized in our formation programs, our preaching, and our education of the laity? Are our resources mobilized so as to protect it and update it?
As teachers of the tradition, we believe that its distinctive voice can offer an important alternative, one which is truly Catholic and faithful to the tradition, to the perceived public and often dominant institutional voice of the Church.
Our purpose in retrieving and revitalizing the tradition is thus subordinate to our mission to give people hope, speak to their fears, and present a coherent intellectual pathway which strengthens faith and encourages just action for our neighbors.
The newly written Ratio Studiorum for the Order of Friars Minor, #13, carries the following description:
Study permits the friar to respond to the manifold needs for:
- development of the human person as a whole (CCGG 127.2);
- penetration of revealed truth (cf. AG 9, LG 16);
- harmony between theory and practice, and between action and contemplation (cf. Itin Prol. 4);
- giving a reason for the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Pt. 3.15);
- carrying out the ministry of evangelization (Cf. SC, Proemio; CCGG 83-84; MP 9-17; VC 96-99);
- taking one's place as an active participant in his time and milieu, by living our mission and by exercising a trade or engaging in a qualified activity (cf. RFF 160, 169);
- a commitment and service in ecumenical, interreligious, and intercultural dialogue (cf. VC 100-103).
Thus we make the following working assumptions:
If the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition is going to make a vital contribution to the life of the Church, Franciscan family, and the world, it must:
- Be taught/communicated: What is believed?
- Be made accessible (published resources available for use in a variety of forums): How will I know it?
- Be supported by formative experiences that are lived and reflected on in the company of brothers and sisters whose life and ministry gives witness to its truth, values, and alternative ways of being in the Church and world. To put it another way: How does belief enlighten and shape both life and ministry?
In summary fashion, we wish to
- identify the broad contours of the intellectual tradition
- for the sake of renewing/revitalizing our mission in the Church/world
- in the hope of mobilizing (conscious of a problem we seek to network resources in response to the perceived need)
- with the goal of institutionalizing, that is, setting structures in place which will ensure ongoing attention to this area of vital concern.