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Dear Brothers, May the Lord Grant You Peace!

For all you Friars Under Ten, or Under Seven, or Under Five (according to the practice of each Entity), that is, for all of you brothers who are living the first years after solemn profession, a Chapter of Mats has been proposed, which will take place in Taizé from July 7-14, 2019. Its theme will be "Friars in Dialogue".

 

We would like to illustrate the path we have been thinking for you all and that will accompany you before, during and after the time of the Chapter in Taizé. From now on, we invite you to visit the website that was created for you on this occasion.  It will be a way to get to know and communicate with many Under Ten brothers who, in different countries of the world, live like you (and unlike you) during this time of your Franciscan life.

Dialogue

The theme of dialogue was chosen by our Minister General who, in his letter of convocation of the Chapter of Mats Under Ten, reminded us of "the need to be weavers of dialogue, bridge builders, and peace artisans today more than never.  It is a challenge for each of us and the life of our fraternities."

 

Furthermore, Taizé was chosen by Br. Michael as the place of the Chapter for its strong symbolic value, as "a place that for decades has been living and embodying ecumenical dialogue and reconciliation among peoples."  As you know, in fact, Taizé has been, since 1940, a monastic, ecumenical and international Christian community founded by Br. Roger Schutz. Today, the Taizé community brings together a hundred friars of various Christian confessions, from more than 25 nations, and it is presently led by Brother Alois Löser, since the death of its founder. In Taizé, after the great experience of the "Youth Council" in the 1970s, tens of thousands of young people from all over the world converge each year to pray with the community, to meet and reflect together on the proclamation of the hope of the Gospel in the world today.

 

You too, dear Under Ten brothers, have the opportunity to meet, in Taizé, not only the monks and pray with them, but you will also meet many young people and adults with whom to experience dialogue.

 

The word dialogue (lat. colloquium) entered for the first time into ecclesiastical language in the Encyclical Ecclesiam suam by Pope Paul VI (1964), which remains a very important text to understand what dialogue means.  From this text we can take some direction:

 

According to the words of Paul VI, dialogue originates in the relationship between God and man: "The history of salvation narrates precisely this long and varied dialogue that starts from God, who interacts with man in varied and admirable conversations" (ES 72).

 

God's dialogue with humanity also offers us the model of a true dialogue between us.  Just as dialogue has been opened up by the divine initiative, thus "it will be up to us to take the initiative to extend dialogue to men, without waiting to be called "(ES 74).  Other characteristics of God's dialogue with humanity include: charity, to turn to those who have no merit, of not imposing oneself by force, but to respect human freedom, to address everyone without any discrimination, accepting the process of gradual and necessary maturation (ES 75-79).  All of these become characteristics that must also shape human dialogue.

 

Dialogue is the key to an effective relationship between the Church and the world in our time: "This form of relationship connotes a purpose of correctness, esteem, sympathy, and goodness on the part of those who establish it.  It excludes a priori condemnation, offensive and habitual polemic, and the vanity of useless conversation.  It does not aim at obtaining immediately the conversion of the interlocutor, because it respects the dignity and freedom of the other.  It nevertheless aims to create a fuller communion of sentiments and convictions "(ES 81).

 

Finally, we recall from the text of the Encyclical (ES 83-84) some characteristics of the dialogue: 

  • Clarity, above all, invites us to review our language.
  • Humility, similar to that of Christ, who was meek and humble of heart, dialogue is not proud, it is not pungent, it is not offensive. It is peaceful; it avoids violence; it is patient; it is generous.
  • Trust, both in virtue of the word proper, and in the attitude to accept it from the other, in order to promote confidence and friendship.
  • Prudence, which takes in account the psychological and moral conditions of the listener.

We can take a poignant expression from the Encyclical: "In the dialogue, thus conducted, creates the union of truth with charity, of intelligence with love" (n. 85).

 

Taking into consideration the development of the theme of dialogue from the Magisterium, we want to point out that Pope Francis also considers it widely in his Encyclical Laudato si'.

 

In Chapter V, which proposes some lines of orientation and action, the concept of Dialogue is used to divide the Chapter into five sections, which are as follows: 1. the Dialogue on the Environment in International Politics; 2. Dialogue towards national and local policies; 3. Dialogue and Transparency in Decision-making Processes; 4. Politics and Economy in Dialogue for Human Fullness; 5. Religions in Dialogue with the Sciences.

 

Pope Francis therefore considers the instrument of Dialogue indispensable for taking action, to insure the survival of humanity and the environment as it is faced with the serious risks, risks that concern our "common home".

A Journey in Three Stages

Since not everyone will be able to participate physically at Taizé, at most two or three friars from each Entity, we have decided to involve all of you through a “chapter” journey that will be divided into three phases: Pre-Chapter, Chapter, and Post-Chapter, structured according to the model: "see", "judge", “act.”

PRE-CHAPTER

 

Every Minister, Custodian, and President has been asked to convene a pre-capitular event for all the Under Ten friars for their respective Entity.  This must be carried out between May 2018 and May 2019. This event can take different forms for different Entities: in some, it may be a meeting of all the Under Ten of the Entity, in others, a meeting with groups located in different areas. Each entity will be responsible to actualize this pre-Chapter according to their own respective abilities and needs.

 

The Minister, Custodian, or President will entrust a friar (the Moderator of Ongoing Formation or the friar responsible for the Under Ten) to organize and coordinate this first stage of the chapter journey.

 

At this stage, we would like to propose three directions of reflection:  to "see" the signs of dialogue in one's own history, in one's own country, and in one's own entity.

 

Your Personal Experience of Dialogue

 

First of all, you are invited to look inside yourself, to your personal history.

 

You can start from your foundational family experiences, of instances of dialogue in your childhood, during your adolescences.  Reflect upon the times when dialogue extended past family into dialogue with friends and peers.  Think about the times when you may have experienced rejection in the context of dialogue, both from others, as well as when you “rejected,” in short, it is about investigating your personal experience of dialogue.

 

In particular, time should be dedicated to dialogue with the friars of the fraternity in which you have lived with since solemn profession. Explore both the “lights” and “shadows” of your Under Ten experience, the years since your solemn profession.

 

If you think it useful in your reflection, you could complete these sentences:

  • I am convinced that dialogue is ...
  • In my life, I encounter/ practice dialogue when ...
  • From the perspective of dialogue, I live some difficulties and fears ...
  • Thinking about dialogue in my life, I would like ...
  • What does God have to do with my personal experience of dialogue?

Dialogue in your country

 

For the second stage of reflection, we invite you to question the need for dialogue in your country, on a social, political, and ecclesial levels.

 

As the Minister General wrote in the convocation letter, "the numerous conflicts that still “live” today on the international scene, the “pilgrimage” of many of our brothers and sisters who, from places of violence, are looking for ports of life and security, these represent phenomena that can not leave us indifferent.”

 

It is important to look around us and see the need for dialogue in our world, between the men and women of our time. Everywhere, there are conflicts: these can manifest as political party hostilities, between religions, social classes, ethnic groups, economic clashes, social and environmental abuses, etc. We invite you to identify which situations in your country are most in need of dialogue in order to reach reconciliation.

 

Perhaps these or similar questions may be helpful:

  • What are the positive experiences of dialogue in my country?
  • What are the risks to dialogue?
  • Are there also failures of dialogue in my country?
  • Perhaps the JPIC perspective has something to say about this ...
  • Does it seem to me that “God” is included in the question of dialogue in my country?

The dialogue of your fraternities with the world

 

After a reflection on your personal experience and on the reality in your country, the third stage is to focus on the theme of dialogue at the level of our fraternities.

 

We want to look at the fraternity as a subject of dialogue with the world: as a "collective" subject, which results from the sum of the individual friars. It is more than any single friar, because it is a fraternity, as a whole.

 

We invite you to question the impact of the presence of your fraternities in today's world and their impact with society.

 

Perhaps these three questions can help:

  • Is there a dialogue between my fraternity and the civil and social context in which it is inserted?
  • Can I describe the characteristics of this dialogue? Does collaboration or confrontation prevail?
  • If it seems to me that my fraternity is "invisible", without dialogue with the world of today, can I identify the reasons for this situation?

As we said, this first stage of the journey culminates in a pre-Chapter event of the Under Ten of each Entity. Each entity has the choice of how to animate a reflection on the three points indicated, taking into account the number of participants and the possibilities of involving them in one place or in several places. Perhaps it can also be an opportunity for other moments of reflection, before or after a common event, on a personal level or small groups ... Each Entity will find its own way to animate an effective path of reflection.  What matters is that all the Under Ten are involved in this common reflection.

 

To the delegates for the Chapter, we extend an invitation to participate actively and creatively in the pre-capitular event of their Entity in order to internalize this experience, since these delegates will then be asked to share it during the Chapter in Taizé.

 

CHAPTER

 

Ministers, Custodians, and Presidents of your Entities will have to choose the delegates to be sent to the Chapter which, as has already been said, will take place in Taizé from 7 to 14 July 2019.

 

For organizational reasons, each Province can send from 1 to 3 delegates, each Custody from 1 to 2, and each Foundation 1.

 

During the Chapter, your delegates will be challenged to reflect upon the criteria of "judging," namely what has been seen in the pre-capitular phase, so as to deepen the foundations of a Christian and Franciscan reflection on dialogue.

 

In order to grasp these foundations, during our days at Taizé, the presentation of Br. Michael Perry OFM, our Minister General, will introduce us to today's situation concerning dialogue.  The reflection of Br. Alois Löser, Prior of the Community of Taizé, will present the model of dialogue offered by Jesus and the first Christian community. The presentation of Br. Cesare Vaiani OFM, General Secretary for Formation and Studies, will concentrate on the model of dialogue offered by St. Francis and the first Franciscan fraternity. Finally, the testimony of five Under Ten delegates will present the theme of dialogue, as lived on five continents.

 

The reports will be available "live" via the Internet and also from the Web page (texts), so friars not present in Taizé can share in this second stage of the chapter journey.

 

POST-CHAPTER

 

Finally, after the Chapter in Taizé, between August and December 2019, in each Entity, a post-capitular event will take place, similar to the one already celebrated in the pre-capitular phase. These will be convened by the Ministers, Custodians, and Presidents, or organized by the appointed friar (Moderator of Ongoing Formation or delegate for the Under Ten).

 

The purpose of this meeting is to involve all the Under Ten friars, even those who could not participate in the week of Taizé, so that the reflection on dialogue can be really shared, finding an operational outlet.

 

Also in this case, as in the pre-capitular phase, each Entity will have to find ways to insure the involvement of all the Under Ten friars: with an assembly meeting, with meetings in different territorial groups, or other modalities.  In this post-capitalular phase, the delegates who participated in the Taizé week will be called to share their experience with the other Under Ten friars of their Entity.

 

We suggest that they tell what they have seen and experienced, not just the contents of the reports heard (these will be available on the website) but above all what each shared in group exchanges, in meetings with other Under Ten friars of other countries, and the impression left by the Taizé community and its style of prayer.

 

In addition to this sharing, the goal of this post-capitular phase is that Under Ten friars complete the last step of the journey, to make concrete choices suitable for each, to implement the celebrated event ("act").

 

We suggest that the choices to "act" are made according to the same schema used in the first phase of "seeing": discuss how to “act” in one's own life, in one's own country, in one's own fraternity.

 

"Acting" in your personal life

 

Recalling the observations, you have made on the experience of dialogue in your personal history and especially in the last years after solemn profession lived in a specific fraternity, and comparing your personal experience with the model of Jesus and of Francis, as well as of the first Christian community and of the first Franciscan fraternity, what practical indications seem to emerge to you?

 

We invite you compare your personal experience with the model of the Gospel and to draw some operational consequence from it.  Everyone may ask with whom to start a dialogue or with whom to deepen conversations. Each may ask oneself how to overcome the obstacles to the dialogue that one encounters in his own experience.

 

"Acting" in your own Country

 

Again, looking at the situation in your country, which you have developed in the pre-capitular phase, one is asked to incorporate the suggestions that come from Jesus and the first Christian community as well as from Francis and the first fraternity.

  • If you relate the problems and opportunities for dialogue that exist in your country with the Gospel model, what operational suggestions can you grasp?
  • Jesus entered into dialogue with the civil and religious society of his time: today, what can you do to increase opportunities for dialogue in the social and civil context of your country?
  • If you think you can not do much on your own, what are the existing organizations that already promote dialogue and which you could try to help?
  • Who can you bring together to promote a culture of peaceful and fruitful dialogue?
  • What are the possible and effective concrete signs of dialogue in your country?

"Acting" in one's own fraternity

 

Starting from the observations you made in the pre-capitular phase on the impact of your fraternities' presence in today's world and their impact upon society, and comparing them with the suggestions coming from the Gospel and from the Franciscan tradition, what choices seem useful and possible in your context?

 

When we speak of fraternity, no one can claim to decide for themselves: what can be formation paths to propose in your fraternities to choose together gestures, initiatives, life practices that can improve the impact of our fraternities with the world?

Best wishes

Dear brothers, who have lived in joy and hard work in these first years after solemn profession, we wish you to continue your journey with fidelity and perseverance. To this end, we all have a fundamental instrument, which is fraternal accompaniment. From a few years ago, you have chosen to live the life of the Friars Minor; you have found yourselves accompanied by many brothers: some, like the formators, the guardians or the Ministers, have had a specific role in this journey; others, like your companions or the friars of your fraternities, have played a less evident but perhaps more important role in this accompaniment.

 

We hope that this journey toward the Chapter of Taizé mats of 2019 can also become an element of growth and maturation. You do not know (and we do not even know) what the results will be for each of you if you choose to commit yourself to this proposal. But a sure result will be to grow in the exchange of ideas, experiences, relationships and fraternal affection with many brothers. Precisely through these meetings and exchanges, once again, the Lord will work wonders in your life. Because to each of us, just as to Francis of Assisi, God reveals himself through his brothers: "When the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I had to live according to the form of the holy Gospel".

 

Francis discovered his form of evangelical life "when the Lord gave him brothers;" just so it happens the same every day for us too when we allow ourselves to be joined by the brothers whom the Lord puts next to us. This journey before, during and after the Chapter of Mats Under Ten is an opportunity to grow in an openness to the Spirit of the Lord, who speaks to us through our brothers.

 

A Blessed Journey to all of you, Brothers Under Ten!

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