Carrying peace and good throughout ages...
Fr Ignacy Kosmana, OFM Conv
The Franciscan friars celebrate the 800th anniversary of the order. In 1209 Pope Innocent III approved the First Rule that St Francis presented to the Holy See. In fact, the Holy Father approved the evangelical way of life that the brothers lived. One should know that the text of the Franciscan Proto-Rule consisted most likely of only Gospel quotations. Unfortunately, the first rule was not preserved. In other words, we all know it, I hope so, since it is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most perfect way of life. As it was then, Jesus approved this way without any document and signature. And so was it 800 years ago: St Francis was satisfied with the oral approval of the Vicar of Christ. One can say that the order grew very rapidly. Contemporary people might be a little surprised reading about that because nowadays very few candidates knock at the religious gates. The European society of those days, full of various orders and congregations, was astonished, too. What did the Little Poor Man of Assisi offer to the world that the world accepted it and let him spread his wings? Francis himself was poor to the extent of the heroic poverty of the stable in Rivotorto (the first centre of the order) and he could not give ‘silver and gold’ to the world. However, he could give peace and good ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth’ (Acts 3:6). The times were turbulent. People’s hearts were troubled by the lack of spirit, i.e. Love. And one cannot live without Love in this world. Therefore, St Francis had the idea to give people the most beautiful fruits of Love – peace and good. He did not want anything instead. He promised ‘Lady Poverty’ absolute destitution. But then he received in infinite abundance the treasures that ‘neither moths nor woodworms can destroy’ (Matthew 6:20) – ‘peace and good’, the treasures of the Holy Spirit. God gave such a charism to the new order. Francis, together with his brothers, began to give away what he had in excess. Soon peace and good were given to Italy, Galia, Germania, Iberia, Dalmatia, Pannonia… The fruits of the Holy Spirit reached Poland, too. Eleven years after the death of the Little Poor Man the Franciscans came to Krakow. One can see that the brothers hurried to give the priority – peace and good of the Gospel – to all people of those days. The sons of the Seraphic Father did not fear the Saracens and Russians. With courage and humility, sharing the fruits of Love, the Franciscans also shared bitter herbs, the myrrh of the national fate. During the times of the partitions, in Galicia only nine monasteries were left from the once powerful province of Poland, Russia and Lithuania. They became the seed that – like the mustard seed – grew into a big tree of the Franciscan province in restored Poland. What could the followers of Pavarello talk about in Poland before the war? Only about peace. What else except peace could they offer to the injured generation that remembered the Prussian lash and cold Siberia? Following the example of St Maximilian they resumed their activities. The old remember those Franciscans carrying ‘The Knight of the Immaculate’. They brought peace and good to peasants’ cottages and to city houses. They brought peace and good from Niepokalanow. Our parents and grand parents can still remember such sons of St Francis, the brothers of St Maximilian. Zealous, full of fervour and in a hurry – because you need to use time so that the lights did not fade… so that we did not fall asleep… Niepokalanow – the house of the Polish ‘pre-war’ Franciscans. The same spirit of Assisi, the same poverty and the same gifts of the Holy Spirit. Peace, good and love distributed abundantly with ‘a full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over’ (cf. Luke 6:38). What did the Franciscans give to the Church, to Poland yesterday? The answer is obvious – they gave St Maximilian, Niepokalanow, the Knights of the Immaculata and ‘The Knight of the Immaculate’… We are living at the beginning of the 21st century. So we can ask: with what offer for the world, for Poland, come the Franciscans, ‘the travelling salesmen’, today? Do they bring us peace and good? Love? Smile? Joy? I do not know. It seems that the Church needs to find her place in the awareness of contemporary man. This world has made everyone dizzy. We are a little lost… the world has lost ‘its old course’. But we, Franciscans and all followers of Christ, are not of this world. Our homeland is heaven; ‘recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth’ (Hebrews 11:13) we are making for heaven. In fact, this is the most important reason to rejoice, more important than the jubilees: the 70th anniversary of the province or even the 800th anniversary of the charism. It seems that today the Franciscans carry peace and good best in the missionary countries: in South America, Africa and post-Soviet countries. Why? Perhaps people there need their Good News most. Perhaps these nations longed for the Gospel, for Christ, for the Church for many years, for many centuries. Almost twenty years ago the Franciscan seeds fell on the soil of Peru. They fell and ‘died’ to yield fruit. The Servants of God Fr Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Fr Michal Tomaszek, the martyrs, the sons of the Krakow Province, were killed by the terrorists. Are the Franciscans of our times like their brothers who lived 800 years ago? Have they changed since the world has changed…? Perhaps they are not so poor. Perhaps they do not experience material poverty. But in some way they are ‘poorer’. They are living in the darkness of the epoch and signum temporis is the growing materialisation of culture, Europe being rinsed out of spirituality. And they must learn anew to bring people peace and good in these times of depreciation of all that is full of ideals. Carry joy and love. And we wish these values to all spiritual sons of the Little Poor Man on their feast, during the 800th anniversary of the Franciscan charism. We wish them to go into the world, carrying all nations peace, good and artistry of God’s children, admiring the world that still sings to God the SONG about Hidden God – the Sun Song.