The Secular Franciscan Order (OFS)
The Secular Franciscan Order belongs to the Franciscan Family and is “formed by the organic union of all the Catholic fraternities, whose members, moved by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves through profession to live the Gospel after the manner of St. Francis in their secular state following the Rule approved by the Church” (Const. 1,3).
“The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the centre of his life with God and people…. They should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.” ( Rule Article 4).
The worldwide Secular Franciscan Order is approved by the Church. It has a Rule of life and is not simply a pious society or association. As a lay order, we are not called to leave the world, but to transform it. The Franciscan Spirit of poverty, simplicity, service and joy runs through the whole Franciscan family. This spirit is called the Franciscan Charism. (Charism; meaning a gift given by the Holy Spirit to help with the task of building up the Church).
Our vocation is to make Sacred Scripture the basis for our life, especially the Gospel, following Jesus Christ closely in the spirit of St. Francis. This vocation of Secular Franciscans, calls them to make profession in the Secular Franciscan Order, which is "on a par with" and "of equal importance to" profession made by friars or any religious.
We are sisters and brothers in Christ. The fraternity to which we belong is the privileged place where we develop our sense of Church, Franciscan spirituality and ministry. Meetings are held monthly for prayer, study, sharing and to fraternize. We seek to encounter the living person of Christ in each other, in Scripture and Liturgical prayer and in the Sacraments.
Secular Franciscans seek to live simply, valuing the goodness of creation, and sharing their love for God with others. St. Francis was known to revere all creation as originating from our loving God. As God’s stewards of creation, our work is to foster a love for the sacredness of all life, to relinquish the desire to accumulate goods and the power of possessions, and to find joy in the abundance of God rather than the empty promises of the world.
Secular Franciscan brothers and sisters seek to respond to the Gospel challenge through the witness of their lives, identifying with the poor and the needy, and promoting social justice in response to the call to the mission of the Church.
Peace & Penance
Adopting Saints Francis and Clare as models, Secular Franciscans work ardently for peace and reconciliation in their families, churches, communities, schools, work places... in all corners of the world. We value the integrity of family life as a sign in the world of peace, fidelity and respect for life. We esteem work as a gift through which we share in creation, redemption and service to the human family. We are actively involved in the sacramental life of the church and reaching out to community life in service, love and the building of God’s kingdom.
Who is St. Maximilian Kolbe
In 1906 young Kolbe had a vision of the Virgin Mary in which she offered him a white crown and a red crown and asked which he would accept. Understanding the white to represent a life of purity and the red to represent martyrdom, he said he would accept them both. The vision deeply affected him, and the following year he and his elder brother joined the Franciscan Conventuals. In 1912 he went to Rome, where he studied theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1917 he founded the sodality (i.e., devotional association) of the Militia of Mary Immaculate, thus making a significant contribution to the international Marian movement. In 1918 he was ordained a priest. Returning to Poland, he established the popular Roman Catholic periodical Rycerz Niepokalanej (“The Knight of Mary Immaculate”) and in 1927 founded the City of Mary Immaculate (Niepokalanów), a religious centre, that eventually attracted some 700 friars and workers. A fervent devotee of the Virgin Mary, he later founded sister institutions in Japan and India.
Upon his return to Poland, Kolbe became superior of the City of Mary Immaculate and director of Poland’s chief Catholic publishing complex. In 1938 the centre started its own radio station. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1939 for his anti-Nazism but was later released. He and the remaining brothers used the centre to shelter an estimated 2,000–3,000 Polish refugees, the majority of whom were Jewish, and continued to publish anti-Nazi publications. He was again arrested in February 1941 on charges of aiding Jews and the Polish underground. He was imprisoned at Warsaw and then shipped to Auschwitz. There he continued his priestly ministry, including hearing confessions and holding mass with smuggled bread, for which he was subjected to beatings by the guards. Following a prisoner’s escape, 10 men were randomly selected to die as punishment, and Kolbe volunteered his life in the place of Franciszek Gajowniczek, who was married with young children. Kolbe and the other nine prisoners were starved for weeks until he and the few others who were still alive were finally injected with carbolic acid and cremated.
On October 17, 1971, Kolbe was beatified by Pope Paul VI, the first Nazi victim to be proclaimed blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1982 Pope John Paul II canonized him, proclaiming also that he was to be venerated as a martyr. Gajowniczek survived Auschwitz and attended both the beatification and canonization ceremonies.