A final reflection from Rome
Yesterday, Sunday, was rainy and chilly and we stayed at the friary all day after returning from Mass. It was a good time for reflection and recuperation. Our legs and feet have taken a beating with all of the walking and climbing of steps and hills that we have done. This morning we went to see the Colosseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum and then on to St. Paul's Church outside the city. St. Paul's is huge and beautiful with a lovely courtyard in front. All around the apses and the nave are mosaics of the popes. Benedict XVI is lighted as were his predecessors before him. (We did notice that there are only seven more spots available. We're not too sure what will happen if there are eight more popes. :-))
While San Isidro Friary has been a very welcoming and very comfortable place to stay and while Rome is a fascinating city to visit, the focus of the trip was, of course, the International Chapter of Mats. As we processed across the plain from the Portiunucula up to the city of Assisi Friday afternoon, one of the friars commented that we had met were Francis and the early friars had lived and had been at the birthplace of the Franciscan movement. Francis had purposefully left the city of Assisi, had physically and psychologically stepped out of the emerging middle-class economy of his time, to pursue a life among the "little ones," the minoritas. It was here near the Portiuncula that he had experienced the leper colony and had his conversion experience when he embraced the leper.
The message of the Chapter, especially that of our Minister General in his Saturday morning homily, is that we are called to take the Good News of our faith out to the world by living the minority of our lifestyle. Giacomo Bini, our previous Minister General, called us on Thursday to step out of our comfortable friaries and reach the 90% of the folks with whom we seldom associate. Personally, I found the Chapter challenging but hopeful as I saw so many young friars willing to live the life in perhaps different ways than we have. Not to discredit the work we have done and are doing, but the young do have a more radical vision as will be evident this summer when some of our newly and recently professed friars make a pilgrimage in an attempt to witness to our simple life. (More on that when it happens.)
So I end the experience with a sense of renewed hope in the Franciscan movement. As a Vocation Director I experience the dreams of the young and I saw many young men in Assisi already beginning to live our life; men primarily from Eastern Europe and South and Central America. We have lesser numbers of young men in the USA coming to us, but maybe the Lord is calling us to a richer experience of Franciscanism through those that we have and those from around the world. Maybe what they offer will attract more of their peers from our affluent society.