Final Profession of Franciscan Friars Minor
May 31, 2016 (Feast of the Visitation)
On this joyful feast of the Visitation, we gather in joy to celebrate the religious consecration of Brother Bonaventure, Brother Seraphin, and Brother Francis. On this feast of our Blessed Mother, the perfect model of consecration and discipleship, our brothers will profess their final vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as well as the special vow of the Franciscan Friars Minor to Mary Immaculate. It’s beautiful that they do this on Mary’s feast. Her motherly love will help them every day to offer their lives to her Son and to cooperate with Him, as she did, in the work of salvation. I pray that Mary will help these brothers to be faithful to the vows they make today and to grow and advance in their vocation as Franciscan Friars Minor.
Consecration and mission always go together. Mary’s consecration was for the greatest mission in the history of the world: to bring Christ into the world. She said “yes” to the Father’s will, opened herself to the Holy Spirit, and conceived the Son of God in her womb. With deep faith, she said “yes”. Elisabeth recognized this and cried out: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Today, with deep faith in God, Brother Seraphin, Brother Francis, and Brother Bonaventure, say “yes” to God’s call to consecrated life in the Church. They say “yes” forever in making perpetual vows. They do so not because they think they are great or perfect. They do so because they trust, like Mary, in the greatness of the Lord and the power of His grace. They recognize with humility their lowliness. Today and every day, with Mary they say: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” Like Saint Francis, our brothers know they are lowly servants. This status is reflected in the name of this community. They do not call themselves simply “Franciscan Friars.” They call themselves “Franciscan Friars Minor.” “Minor”, from the Latin, means lesser.” Saint Francis taught his brothers that they must always be aligned with the poor and the lowly, the lesser of society. Brothers, you are to witness to the Gospel like Saint Francis did, as truly lesser brothers, in holy humility. Mary also teaches us this: she did not identify herself as a great Queen, but as the lowly servant of the Lord. We call her our Queen because, as Christians, we know that true greatness is not in power and riches, but in love and humility.
I mentioned that consecration and mission always go together, and that Mary’s consecration was for her mission as Mother of the Redeemer. That mission led her to set out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She went out to help her elderly relative, to assist her during her pregnancy. That journey into the hill country of Judea was a real missionary journey. Mary’s charity toward Elizabeth was more than giving her material assistance. She brought Jesus to her. She carried Jesus in her womb. Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognized this and proclaimed words we say every day: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary shows us the meaning and purpose of every missionary journey: to give people the living and personal Gospel which is the Lord Jesus Himself. Elizabeth rejoiced in this gift and so did her unborn son, John the Baptist. As Elizabeth told Mary: “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leapt for joy.” It is in receiving Jesus that people find true joy.
Brother Francis, Brother Seraphin, and Brother Bonaventure, your consecration today is also for mission. Included in your call to the consecrated life is your mission. Like Mary, and also like Jesus Himself, your consecrated life is a mission. The evangelical counsels you profess today make you free for the service of the Gospel. Mary didn’t stay to herself. She went out and brought Christ to others. You too have this mission. Conformed to the poor, chaste, and obedient Christ, you are to bring him to the world through your witness. Your fraternal life in the community of your brother friars minor is also for the sake of the mission. You are to go out, like Mary did, to serve in charity and to bring Jesus and the joy of His Gospel. According to your Franciscan charism, your special attention should always be the poor, those Jesus speaks of as “the least of our brothers and sisters.” You must especially bear witness to the Church’s preferential option for the poor, for peop0le who are on the margins of society, and for those who are suffering, those in varied states of affliction. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I especially wish to encourage you in doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Remember always, as Blessed Mother Teresa taught us so beautifully, that the Lord whom you encounter in prayer and adore in the Blessed Sacrament is the same Lord who lives and suffers in the poor and needy. Remember too as Saint John Paul II taught, that your love and service of the poor is “an act of evangelization and, at the same time, a seal of Gospel authenticity and a catalyst for permanent conversion in the consecrated life.”
In making the vow of poverty, you are testifying that God is your only true treasure. Jesus is the only true treasure you will possess, but a treasure that you don’t keep to yourself. In a society and culture where so many don’t know the Lord or choose to ignore or reject Him, you have the mission to proclaim Him. It’s an extraordinary responsibility that you assume today, a consecration for the mission that Mary shows us in the mystery of the visitation: to give people the living and personal Gospel which is the Lord Jesus Himself. You are equipped for this mission by your prayer, your listening to the word of God, your participation in the Holy Eucharist, and your fraternal life in community.
Brothers, I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother, Our Lady of the Visitation. May Mary visit you every day and bring you joy, the joy of deep friendship with her Son. With her always at your side, may your lives as Franciscan Friars Minor proclaim to all the greatness of the Lord! May your spirits rejoice with Mary in god our Savior!
Bishop Kevin Rhoades