THE FLAVOUR OF THE Ordo Fratrum Minorum

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The Intellectual Vocation
of the Friars Minor today


        Rome 2005
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    We are living in a complex, dramatic and
magnificent time, deeply marked by totally
new changes. It is time which challenges us to
have a renewed capacity for meeting, listening
and dialogue, not in a functional way, but
simply because we love mankind, created in the
image and likeness of God in Christ, the Word
Incarnate. This Letter to the entire Order, in
combination with the elevation of the Antoni-
anum to a Pontifical University, was born with-
in me because of the urgency to remind all of us
of the importance of living, at this time, full of
passion for mankind, to which we are to
announce the joyful news of the limitless love
of God with sweet flavoured words. Let us seek
words full of flavour, spirit and life in order to
cultivate this passion for Christ and mankind.
Intellectual activity can help us in this search.

    I hold it to be urgent, therefore, to pursue a
reflection on the value and proper place of
studies and scientific research in the Order, in
continuity with the documents of the last forty
years, a time deeply marked by the grace of the
II Ecumenical Vatican Council1. The connection
between studies and evangelisation, which is

    In summary, let there be kept in mind: “Formation in the
    Order of Friars Minor”, Extraordinary General Chapter
    OFM, Medellín, 1971, nn. 62-81; “Document on Forma-
    tion”, Plenary Council OFM, 1981, nn. 59-93; “Studies
    and Missions in the Order of Friars Minor today”, Letter
    of the Minister General, 13.6.1981; “Franciscan and
    scientific formation of the Friars”, Letter of the Minister
    General, 23.4.1987; The Message of John Paul II to the
    General Chapter OFM 1991; “The Order and evangelisa-
    tion today”, General Chapter OFM, San Diego 1991, nn.
    10-11. 26-28; “The promotion of studies in our Order”
    Report of the Minister General, 4.7.1994; “Go and Fill
    the Earth with the Gospel of Christ”, Letter of the Minis-
    ter General, 1996, nn. 127-132; Ratio Studiorum OFM,
    Rome 2001; Ratio Formationis Franciscanae OFM 2003.
    Various other texts can be added to these documents,
    different by kind and destination, which accompanied
    the process during recent years.

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one of the essential reasons for being of the
Order, clearly stands out in those texts. This
process was taken up again and deepened by
the General Chapter of 1991, by the Plenary
Council of 2002 and by the General Chapter of
2003. Indeed, - as John Paul II said forcibly to
us in 1991 – “it is necessary to consider intellec-
tual formation as a fundamental requirement
for evangelisation”2.

   I feel strongly that this process is coherent
with that of our Order as it moves towards the
VIII Centenary of its foundation. Today also,
“the edifice of the Order must be constructed on
two pillars, that is, on sanctity and knowledge”3.
Let us try to respond to the gift of our vocation
by cultivating a greater quality of life – it is the
path of sanctity – and, at the same time, let us
feel that, “today, it more necessary than ever to
promote intellectual formation in our Order”4.

   In the “grace of our origins” we find, in fact,
within the vocation to live and give witness to
the Gospel as brothers, that of announcing the
Word of God in listening and in dialogue, in
communion with the Church. The path of St.
Francis remains exemplary (the first part).

   This effort has accompanied the history of
our Family, being expressed above all in the
missionary urgency, characterised by the
encounter with cultures, that is, by the listening
and by the severe preparation required of the
announcers of the Word which saves, in view of
dialogue! (the second part).

    The Message of John Paul II to the General Chapter OFM
    1991, nn.5-6; RS, 28-30.
    “Dixit autem idem pater [scil. Frater Iohannes de Parma],
    quod cum ex duobus parietibus construatur aedificium
    ordinis, scilicet moribus bonis et scientiam” : A. G. LITTLE
    wd., Tractatus fr. Thomae vulgo dicti de Eccleston de adventu
    fratrum minorum in Angliam (Collection d’Ètudes et de
    Documents 7, Libraire Fischbacher, Paris 1909), 92.
    General Chapter 1991, n. 10; cfr. VC 98.

                                  The flavour of the Word

    We are fairly well prepared in these topics. It
seems to me that we still have a long way to go
to have an encounter of the Word with the
multiple words of mankind. Briefly, it is a
matter of dialogue with culture, as well as with
cultures, by becoming humble and courageous
artisans of listening and dialogue, being disci-
ples before being masters (the third part).

    It is not a question of studying only in view
of the challenges of evangelisation. Something
greater and more demanding is in play. It is a
matter of acquiring the habitus of cogitare, the
art of thinking as the wise art of life, faith and
charity. Is it possible, therefore, to speak of an
intellectual vocation of the Friars Minor? Yes,
but always within the unity of our forma vitae,
for which “study, like all the other things of our
life in fraternity, must be engaged in with the
spiritual vigour of St. Francis”5 so that it
becomes a necessary basis for Franciscan

   This is the journey which I, in these pages,
wish to travel with you all, dear Brothers. I
address a particular attention to those Friars
who consecrate their lives to research, teaching
and publishing. I appreciate their service,
which I hold to be very important for the
Fraternity, for the development and adequate
understanding of our charism and for carrying
out evangelisation, the specific “munus” of our

  I begin my reflection with these feelings,
comforted by the presence and by the faces of
many Friars who, I know, are assiduous and
impassioned seekers of the Life, the Truth and

    Br. Hermann Schalück, “Promotion of studies in our
    Order” in Acta Congressus Repraesentantium Sedum Studio-
    rum OFM, Rome 1994, 60.

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the Good, which shines on the face of Christ,
and which we should not tire of seeking in the
faces of the many men and women of our
extraordinary and dramatic times and in the
signs of the times.


                       THE WORD,
                   FRATERNAL LIFE
                    IN ST. FRANCIS

   In the collection of the written sources
which illustrate the essential components of the
Franciscan charism, there is no synthesis
comparable, for completeness and lucidity, to
the few lines in his Testament with which Br.
Francis describes the birth of the first fraternity,
“And after the Lord gave me some brothers, no
one showed me what I had to do, but the Most
High Himself revealed to me that I should live
according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel.
And I had this written down simply and in a few
words and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me”6.

   This is why it is correct to speak of “the grace
of our origins”, the arrival of brothers was a
grace in which the gift of the disciples to the
Lord Jesus is renewed: “they were Yours and
you gave them to me”7. The revelation of the
Gospel as a “form” of life for the fraternity-in-
mission was a grace, since it was brought about
through that triple opening of the Gospels,
where there are two steps in the call: “If you wish
to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give
the money to the poor and you will have treasure
in heaven; then come, follow me”8; “If anyone
wishes to be a follower of mine, let him renounce
himself and take up his cross and follow me”9. The

     Test, 14-15.
     Jn 17,6; Rnb XXII, 42-43
     Rnb I,2; Lk 18,22; Mt 19,21
     Rnb I,3; cf. Mt 16,24

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sending of the seventy two disciples on mission
is added: “When the brothers go throughout the
world, they should not take anything for the
journey, no purse, no haversack… And into
whatever house they should go, let their first
words be, Peace to this house!”10-11.

   The confirmation of the written norm of
gospel life by the “Lord Pope”, in which Francis
and his first companions feel the mandate
conferred on Peter to “confirm” his brothers
continues, is a grace: “I have prayed for you
that your faith may not fail, and once you have
recovered, you in turn must strengthen your

    Every interrogation about the charism of
our origins, made in order to have some indica-
tion for a response to the problems and ques-
tions of our times, must be initiated within this
triangle of grace:
    • the vocation of Francis and of his first
       companions to live the discipleship and
       the announcement in fraternity;
    • the Gospel and the word of God, which
       are translated into norms of life;
    • the unchangeable communion of faith
       and action with the Church.


   This indication of method is all the more
necessary in the problematic sectors, such as
that of studies, where a recurring line of
thought going back to the very biographical
sources has insisted on the self-definitions of
Francis as a man “without culture”13 and on his
controversial motives against “the wisdom of

     Lk 10,4-8.
     Rnb XIV, 2-3; cf. AnPer, 11 and 3Comp, 29.
     Lk 22,32
     LtOrd, 39; 2Test, 19.
     Rnb XVII 10

                             The flavour of the Word

this world”14, in order to put the loving search
for God and the search for “science” and knowl-
edge, simplicity of life and commitment to
study, in opposition to each other.

     A careful and serene reading of the Writings of
Francis, with particular attention given to the
normative texts, helps to overcome this conflict.
The tension between knowing and love for the
Word of God are intertwined across the entire
range of the gospel experiences of Francis, from
the invocation which opens the oldest of his writ-
ings, “Most High, glorious God, enlighten the
darkness of my heart” following faithfully the
Psalm “My God lights up my darkness”15, up to
the enlightening conclusion of the VII Admoni-
tion: “And those people are brought to life by the
spirit of the divine letter who do not attribute
every letter they know, or wish to know (omnem
litteram quam sciunt et cupiunt scire), to the body
(corpori) but, by word and example, return them
to the Most High Lord God to Whom every good
belongs”. The force of the affirmation is to be
noted: even knowing the “written culture”
(littera always implies this meaning) and the
“wish to know” are fully in conformity with life in
the Spirit, provided they are aimed at the divine
praise and translated into exemplary life.

    “Science”, therefore, is a theological place of
revelation in which the Spirit, through the
Word, descends to meet mankind. Study, if
lived in this spirit, can only arouse the giving of
thanks which is expressed in restitution to God
(reddunt ea Deo cuius est omne bonum) through
word and example (verba et exemplo).

   It is a thought which not only confirms the
extraordinary love of Francis for the “written
divine words”, insistently recommended by him,
but also explains why Scripture has so much
space in his Writings, literally weaved out of
     Ps 18, 28

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quotes, reminiscences and vital applications of
the Word of God. It is not surprising, as a conse-
quence, that for Francis the “queen” of virtues is
not poverty, as was affirmed for a long time, but
wisdom, the reflection of the everlasting light of
the Incarnate Word: “Hail, Queen Wisdom. May
the Lord protect you, with your Sister, holy pure
Simplicity!”16. In the Franciscan praises, the
virtues are disposed in a series which corre-
sponds to the dynamism of Christian life accord-
ing to the Spirit: the queen wisdom must be trans-
lated into word and works by holy, pure simplici-
ty, and to live wisdom means to follow the humil-
ity and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is
the model for us of charity and obedience to the
Father and to the Brothers.


    Within the original fraternity, the first writ-
ten form of life approved by Innocent III (1209)
was developed progressively until it constituted
the Early Rule, Regola non bollata (1221), a
text in which every norm about community life
and about the method of missions was born
constantly through the interplay between the
word of the Gospel, the aspects of the times and
the indications of the Church. The Constitutions
of the IV Lateran Council (1215) had disposed
that the Bishops should take on “suitable men,
powerful in works and words, to exercise proper-
ly the office of holy preaching” (art. 10), and
that each metropolitan church should have “a
theologian, who would instruct the priest and
others in Sacred Scripture” (art. 11).

    These dispositions are reflected, above all, in
the text of the Rule of 1221, which not only
looked to fix the norms and “spirit” of preaching
(chap. XVII), but disposed, in addition, that the
clerics could only have “the books necessary to
     SalVir, 1

                                     The flavour of the Word

fulfil their office” (possint habere tantum libros
necessarios ad implendum eorum officium17). A
recent study, extending from the Franciscan
Sources to Christian Medieval Literature18, has
shown, without a shadow of doubt, that the
expression ad implendum eorum officium refers,
not to the liturgical office, but to the entire
“office” of clerics, to whom, therefore, was grant-
ed the book instruments indispensable for the
Liturgy of the Hours, the Eucharist and preaching.

    The same study also brought to light that
the often discussed prohibition “et non curent
nescientes litteras litteras discere”19 does not
mean “and those who do not know the arts,
should not be anxious to learn them”, but, more
precisely, “and those who do not know how to
read, should not be anxious to learn”, in homage
to the Pauline norm of “let everyone stay as he
was at the time of his call”20, sorting out, in fact,
a disposition linked to the cultural situation of
the time and applied with difficulty to a society
like that of the third millennium, when literacy
has been achieved by almost the totality of citi-
zens in very many countries.

    The centrality of the Word and the disposi-
tions of the Church reflect at the same time the
severe norms for preachers inserted into the
Approved Rule (1223), which orders: “Let none of
the brothers dare to preach in any way to the
people unless he has been examined and approved
by the general minister of this fraternity and the
office of preachers has been conferred upon him”21.
As every examination requires a suitable prepa-
ration, this could not have been achieved except
through the prayerful listening, reading and,
     Rnb III, 7
     cfr. Carlo PAOLAZZI, OFM “The Friars Minor and books: for
     the exegesis of “ad implendum eorum officium” (Rnb
     111,7) and “nescientes litteras” (Rnb III, 9; Reb X, 7)», in
     Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 1-2/2004, pp. 3-59
     Rb X 8.
     1Cor 7, 20; Rnb 7, 6.
     Rb IX, 2.

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naturally, study of the Word of God, since “to
very few is the spirit of wisdom given miraculous-
ly, without the study of the arts” (St. John Capis-
tran). The following exhortation to preachers,
allusively traced out in a Psalm verse (“Eloquia
Domini eloquia casta, argentum igne examina-
tum”22), that “when they preach, their language
(should) be well-considered and chaste”23, is a
heartfelt request to announce only the word of
God, free from human refuse and purified by the
fire of the Spirit. According to the intuition of my
predecessor Br. John Vaughn, “it is precisely the
awareness of the ‘mandate’ received from the
Church to preach penance among the faithful and
among non-believers and obedience to the Church,
which convinced St. Francis of the need for studies
and spurred him to found a ‘Theological School’”24.

    This collection of dispositions, concessions
and exhortations constitutes, in fact, the legisla-
tive antecedent of the important Letter to Br.
Anthony, in which the name “bishop” realistical-
ly alludes to the Episcopal mandate of preach-
ing, to which the founder of the Order adds that
of teaching: “Brother Francis sends greetings to
Brother Anthony, my Bishop. I am pleased that
you teach sacred theology to the brothers provided
that, as is contained in the Rule, you do not extin-
guish the Spirit of prayer and devotion”. In line
with the Lateran Constitutions, the teaching of
Br. Anthony was certainly addressed to the Friars
“who are priests, or who will be, or who wish to
be priests of the Most High”25, where the verb
who wish can only refer to clerics expecting to be
promoted to the priesthood and, therefore, to
preaching, while within the fraternity a parallel
recommendation of the Testament is addressed,
which seems to be some kind of seal of authen-
     Ps 11,7.
     Rb IX, 3.
     “Studies and Mission of the Order of the Friars Minor
     today”, Letter of the Minister General, 13.6.1981, in AO,
     100 (1981), 261-262.
     LtOrd, 14.

                                 The flavour of the Word

ticity to the same letter to Br. Anthony: “And we
must honour all theologians and those who minis-
ter the most holy divine words and respect them as
those who minister to us spirit and life”26.

    “Holy, pure simplicity”, Francis seems to say
between the lines, is not the virtue of one who
does not know the Word of God, but of him who
listens to it and studies it with faith, meditates
assiduously on it with a prayerful spirit and,
through the power of the Spirit, lives it and
announces it through example and in words.

    It was, therefore, in line with the thought of
the founder and with the early legislation of the
Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, not always
fairly judged by scholars of our times, who,
when in dispute with the secular teachers,
forcibly stressed the duty of the Friars Minor to
attend to the study of the Word and of their
right to have indispensable books at their
disposal: “The Rule raises its voice and expressly
imposes on the Friars the authority and office of
preaching (cfr. Rb IX), something which I do not
think is found in other Rules. If, therefore, they
must not preach fables, but the divine words,
and they cannot know them if they do not read,
or read if they do not have the written texts, it is
all too clear that it pertains to the perfection of
the Rule to have the books in order to preach.
And as it is not against the poverty of the Order
to have missals to sing the Mass and breviaries to
say the Hours, neither is it against it to having
books and Bibles to preach the divine words”27.

   If it is true that down through the ages the
reform movements of the Order normally start-
ed out with a tendency to a solitary and
contemplative life, it is equally true that after
some time they have always rediscovered the

     2Test, 13.
     Epistola de tribus quaestionibus, in Opera omnia, ed.
     Quaracchi, vol. VIII, 332-333.

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“pastoral” dimension of the charism28 in
homage to the word of Francis: “Give praise to
Him because He is good, exalt Him by your
deeds, for this reason He has sent you into the
whole world, that you may bear witness to His
voice in word and deed”29 .

    The insistence with which Francis exhorted
others to venerate “the divine written words”,…
“honouring in his words the Lord Who had
pronounced them”30 has been mentioned
already. It would be important to add that the
saint of Assisi, really pure of heart and capable of
seeing the God of supreme Beauty, Eternal Light,
fountain of Goodness in everything, had great
respect for every written text, sacred or profane,
as is shown by a symbolic episode narrated by
Thomas of Celano: “Once a brother asked why
he so carefully gathered bits of writing, even
writings of pagans where the name of the Lord
does not appear. He replied ‘Son, I do this
because they have the letters which make the
glorious name of the Lord God.. And the good
that is found there does not belong to the pagans
or to any human being, but to God alone, to
whom belongs every good thing!”31.

    That “saying” of Francis does not turn up again
in the subsequent biographies, perhaps intimida-
ted by his extraordinary religious and cultural
openness, but it is certainly well applied to the
activity of those Friars Minor who, down through
the centuries, preached, translated and comment-
ed on the sacred texts in other languages,
convinced that every language and every culture
has within it the possibility to receive and
propose again the “good” of the Scriptures32.
     cfr. P. MARANESI, Nescientes litteras. The admonitions of the
     Franciscan Rule and the question of studies in the Order (sec.
     XIII-XVI), History Institute of the Capuchins, Rome 2000
     LtOrd, 9.
     LtOrd, 35-36.
     1Cel, 82 ; cfr. also 2Cel, 165.
     Cfr. Br. John VAUGHN, “Franciscan and Scientific Formation
     of the Friars”, Letter of 23.4.1987 in AO 106 (1987), 53.


          THE WORD IN THE

    John of Pian del Carpine, John of
Montecorvino, Roderick of Pordenone and
John of Marignolli, evangelisers of China, went
bare-footed, wearing the habit of penance like
the poorest spirituals, but they were people of a
good intellectual formation who, through
study, knew how to listen to cultures different
to the one they came from. We know that they
spoke languages such as Armenian and Tartar;
that John of Montecorvino (1247-1328) cele-
brated Mass according to the Roman Rite but
pronouncing “both the words of the canon and
of the preface (tam verba canonis tam prefatio-
nis) in Tartar expressions”; that he wrote thirty
two hymns for the Mongolian group of the
Ongut and that he translated the New Testa-
ment and the Psalter into their language.

    The extreme trust in the possibility of the
word, or of language, on the part of Raymond
Lullo (1235-1316), was a determining factor in
overcoming the idea of the crusades of a
medieval stamp. The prophecy of Lullo regard-
ing religious education and the linguistic and
cultural preparation of missionaries, seems to
have found correspondence three centuries
later in the advice given by the Capuchin
Jerome of Narni to Gregory XV in view of the
establishment of the Congregation for the Pro-
pagation of the Faith (1622).

   Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros, humanist
and reformer, was shown to be a cultivator of
biblical language through the foundation of the

The flavour of the Word

University of Alcalà (1499), thanks to which the
prestigious Polyglot Bible was realised. He drew
even the missionaries Andrew of Olmos, Toribio
Motolinía, Jerome Mendieta, John of Torquema-
da, John Baptist Viseo and others, who left their
homeland to evangelise the Americas, to his
reform of studies centred on the return to the
sources and to the original languages. One of
them, Bernardino of Sahagún (1599-1590),
fascinated by the local language and culture,
spent a good thirty years of his life in the collec-
tion of data on pre-Colombian society (Codex
Florentinus). In this way he came to compose
hymns with the use of the language of the
indigenous people and, having recourse to the
wisdom of their proverbs, tried to convey Chris-
tianity in accordance with the canons of the
Aztec culture. He dreamed of an Indian and
Spanish Republic with the objective of overcom-
ing the cultural distances through the principle
of the unity of faith.

    Louis Bolaños, the redactor of the first cate-
chism in Guaraní - and founder of the first
reductions in Paraguay -, was also a supporter of
the study of local culture for the purpose of
evangelisation. He was one of the protagonists
in the Synod of Asuncion, convoked by his
confrere Martin Ignatius di Loyola, Bishop of
River Plate (1601). The fame of the latter is due,
in a particular way, to his Itinerary, a diary of
voyages to China which, thanks to a wide and
speedy distribution, contributed not a little to
enkindling the interest of the West in the celes-
tial Empire. Martin Ignatius of Loyola, who
circumvented the globe a good three times,
reduced geographic distances and broadened
the spaces of communications. The Venetian
Friar Minor Conventual, Vincenzo Coronelli
(1650-1718), the first to make large dimension
globes, requested by King Louis XIV for the
palace of Versailles, could be held to be his
imitator in the concept of cultural globalisation.

                                      The flavour of the Word


   The different world of the other, listened to,
loved, studied and understood in its most
diverse cultural and linguistic expressions, has
become the proper place for dialogue and
proclamation for our Friars: a place which
receives the Word, enriches it with the typical
resonances of each people and culture and
makes it accessible to all.

    It can be understood, then, why the cate-
chism of Peter of Piñuela, in the Chinese
language, Ch’u hui wên-ta, published for the
first time in 1680, was used for more than two
centuries, knowing numerous editions, the last
of them in 1929. Peter was a half-cast, a physi-
cal expression of inter-cultural reality and a
cultural product of Mexico, that country which
had become a bridge between East and West
and the new centre of the Franciscan mission-
ary method. Peter was not only one who popu-
larised, he was also a linguist. The fact that he
had re-worked, for needs linked to evangelisa-
tion, the grammar of his confrere Basilio Brollo,
famous for having redacted the first complete
Chinese-Latin Dictionary (1694), proves it.

    Franciscans, like John Wild, for example,
who, faced by Protestant Reformers, preferred
to leave aside the method of controversy in
order to insist instead on “the true, affirmative,
Catholic part”33, were also exceptional figures.
A particular form of preaching was that adopt-
ed by French Capuchin diplomacy, embodied in
an eminent way by Joseph le Clerc of Tremblay,
known as “la petite eminence grise” of Riche-
lieu, or that, so to say, of the Spanish politics of
the Immaculate, to which is linked, in some
way, to the Scotus rebirth promoted by Luke
Wadding and by other Italian Franciscans of the
Conventual Family.
     Luca Baglioni, The art of preaching, Venice 1592 (chap. 6).

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    The figure of Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-
1751), chosen by the Church as the patron of
popular missions, merits some emphasis. He, as
a convinced follower of Scotus and supporter of
the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception –
even to suggest to the Pope a way to proclaim
the dogma without convoking a Council – a
subtle diplomat in mediation between opposed
political factions, well represents the Franciscan
spirit in the century which was, culturally, most
adverse to the figure of the saint of Assisi.
Leonard, confidant of Benedict XIV – one of the
few, if not the only Pope to be praised by Voltaire
– was invited to preach the Jubilee of 1750,
during which the praxis of the Via Crucis at the
Coliseum was inaugurated. The originality of his
preaching, as he himself explained, consisted of
putting himself half way between the theatrics of
the Jesuits and the intellectualism of the sons of
St. Vincent. The devotion, centred on the repre-
sentation of the mystery of the passion, repro-
duces the attachment of the Franciscans to the
holy places of Palestine, re-proposed down the
centuries through different forms, not least that
of the Sacred Mount of Varallo.

   In more recent times, an authentic transla-
tor of the word, in the true sense of the term,
can be recognised in Gabriele M. Allegra (1907-
1976). His translation of the Bible into Chinese
from the original texts reproduced the Francis-
can vision of mission as a work of the propaga-
tion of the Word. An interpreter of Scotus’
thought, he seemed to transfer the doctrine of
the primacy of Christ, supported by the Subtle
Doctor, to the area of the Bible by highlighting
the primacy of the Word.


   The work of these individuals of genius
would not have become a common patrimony,
or assume a continuity in the mainstream of a

                            The flavour of the Word

tradition, if it had not been given organisatio-
nal structures.

   One of the most efficacious organisers of
Franciscan knowledge was, of course, Luke
Wadding (1588-1657). He conceived cultural
activity in collegial terms, so much so that he
founded a college of scholars in Rome for the
publication of the writings of St. Francis. He
favoured the promotion of the Scotus rebirth
and of the religious and literary historiography
of the Order. His Annales (1625), inspired by
those of Baronio, try to propose the itinerary
travelled by the Order during its history and
result in a ponderous operation of religious and
community self-awareness.

    After him, another scholar, Girolamo De
Gubernatis, tried to offer a universalistic style
vision of the Order. During the General Chapter
of 1688, he had outlined, by means of a
pamphlet under the title of Idea Orbis Seraphici,
a project on the history of the Order divided into
4 parts and with a total of 35 volumes. It was a
question of a colossal undertaking, only partly
realised, but none the less admirable on consid-
ering the ideological/organisational effort.

    Two missionary colleges, St. Bartholomew’s
on the Isola Tiberina and St. Peter’s in Monto-
rio, were founded in Rome for learning Arabic
and Chinese and for the preparation of mission-
aries destined for the Middle East and China.
For Latin America, on the other hand, so-called
colleges of Propaganda Fide were activated in
Queretaro, Guatemala, Zacatecas, Mexico,
Pachuca and elsewhere. Missionaries, sent to
evangelise those peoples who had not yet
known the Christian proclamation, were
prepared in these structures through study and
an intense spiritual life.

   In contemporary times, with the end of the
areas of jurisdiction, the Order, after centuries
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of division, once again found a certain unity, of
which Rome seemed to be almost the symbol.
The Minister General, Bernardino of Portogru-
aro, who had spent a great part of his twenty-
year service tirelessly visiting the Provinces of
Europe, felt it was opportune to give life to a
Study Centre which could function as a cultur-
al basis for the entire Order, and that is the
AntonianumEarlier still he had founded the
periodical Acta Ordinis, an organ for linking up
the various Entities of the Order of Friars Minor,
thus showing that he believed in the power of
communications. He meant to guarantee his
proposal further through the institution of a
Study Centre that would allow for an adhesion,
in didactic terms, with the sources already
investigated by the scholars of the College of
Quaracchi, founded by himself some years
earlier and which continues today in the
College of St. Bonaventure in Grottaferrata

    The Order, which had given life to the so-
called Seraphic Colleges in Europe for the
purpose of recruiting new vocations, was
assuming a didactic trend, thanks to the bene-
ficial influence of and collaboration on the part
of modern feminine Franciscan Congregations.
Such orientation was made even more evident
in the North-American mission, in which
pastoral service was almost entirely carried out
through schools. Panfilo of Magliano, founder
of the two Provinces of the East, established a
Centre of Higher Studies, which was later
renamed St. Bonaventure’s University.

   During the XX century we find different
Universities present and functioning in various
Provinces of the Order, held by them in addi-
tion to Colleges and Study Centres of various
kinds. After a period of relative contraction we
are now seeing a new flowering of this reality,
which obliges us to reflect and to make more

                           The flavour of the Word

decisive choices with respect to the intellectual
qualification of the Order, overcoming the
cultural down-turn which has been clearly
shown in recent decades.

   This history, summarised briefly, gives us a
precious testimony and provokes us to seek
creative responses for our times.

The flavour of the Word


                            THE WORD
                    IN THE ENCOUNTER
                         WITH CULTURE


   It is uncomfortable to pass from history to
the present. It is necessary, however. On the
basis of the overview carried out up to now, I
wonder with you if there is an intellectual voca-
tion of the Friar Minor as a proper dimension of
our way of life and, therefore, valid for all Friars
and, in a special way, for those who dedicate
themselves in a priority fashion to study,
research and teaching.

    We have to admit that intellectual work
does not appear to be fully integrated into our
Franciscan life. It is often considered for its
practical utility, without being held to be a
necessary element: otherwise it would remain
on the margin. It seems to me that we can re-
think a Franciscan model of intellectual life
because, on the one hand, the Franciscan life
can be nourished by intellectual work and, on
the other, it enlightens and supports it. What do
we mean by “intellectual vocation”? I, for my
part, understand this expression to mean,
above all, a taste for the search of the Life, of
the Truth and of the Good34. I dare to utter this
word. I would like to pronounce it, not as an
affirmation of a truth which we possess in order
to give it to others later, but rather as a never
completed process of seeking and desire35.

     Br. Hermann Schalück, “The promotion of studies in our
     Order”, 75.
     cfr. RS, art. 9. 13.15.

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     a. the process of self-expropriation

    The search for the Life, the Truth and the
Good, a limitless ocean of unending light,
requires an impassioned, careful and respectful
intelligence since, given that the manifestation
of the truth is never immediate, the search can
only be a ceaseless hermeneutics or interpreta-
tion. If it is not us who go to the truth, but
rather is it the truth which comes to us in differ-
ent ways, the preliminary and pre-eminent atti-
tude for receiving it is openness in listening,
after which follows the restless questioning.

    I am convinced that we have an urgent need
of this dynamism in order not to remain in tired
and sterile repetition of already exhausted
words and formulas36 and, therefore, of listen-
ing to and meeting present-day mankind
through an attitude nourished by sympathy
and interest37. I think that, for us Franciscans,
the problem should not be so much that of
studying in order to find points of contact
between the Word and the culture, but of want-
ing to listen to and to know (study) the world
and mankind in order to “re-cognise” the “foot-
prints of Christ” in him – in both the form of
presence and, especially today, of absence -
and to be able, therefore, to praise God38. Could
the Canticle of Creatures not be read as an
expression of the wise Franciscan way of going
to and about the world?

    The world, in this sense, is not a challenge
to be conquered, but an occasion to gather, a
kairos39. Faced by the acceleration of history
and the confrontation between cultures and
religion, often tense and violent, we restlessly
ask by what path it is still possible to discover

     OF, 1.3; LgP, 6.
     GGCC art. 162.
     Cfr. RFF, 32. 90
     OF, 2.

                                    The flavour of the Word

the traces of Christ in the world. We are faced
by many “signs of the times” which are not
immediately intelligible or capable of interpre-
tation40. We are often constrained to remain in
a non-resigned, but respectful and deeply
searching silence. Study is, then, an itinerary
which tends not to quench this seeking. It is an
exercise of humanity and faith, of dialogue and
confrontation with what is different to us, of
intelligence and of the contemplation of the
greatest mystery which inhabits the world and
the human person.

   Study is primarily, therefore, a “gift” and a
“search for God”, “a giving of thanks”, an act of
“bringing back” everything to Him: in a word,
the path to sanctity. With St. Bonaventure, we
can speak of commitment “so that we may
become good (ut boni fiamus)”41.

    In this sense, I perceive a great affinity
between Franciscan poverty and the humility of
a disinterested search for the truth, in continu-
ity with the effective determination not to
appropriate anything and to remain humble.
Study and research are an on-going expropria-
tion of knowledge. It means, in a certain sense,
to free oneself, to purify oneself from one’s
preconceptions in order to accept reality in its
diversity and to read it critically42. It is a version
of what Francis called “being subject to every
creature”43. It is the necessary awareness of
one’s own “docta ignorantia”44, of the Socratic
“not-knowing”. The limits of consciousness are
imposed on any Promethean (independent and
daring) claim to possess reality, even in the
sciences. A true path of study and research

     LgP, 7-9.
     cfr. Sententiarum I, q. 3
     RS, 26.
     cfr. Towards the extraordinary General Chapter, “The
     vocation of the Order today”, Rome 2005, 18-19.
     S. BONAVENTURE, Breviloquium, pars V, cap. 6 (Opera omnia,
     ed. Quaracchi, vol. V, 260).

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transforms this presumption into a desire and
self-stripping: it is a strong existential experi-
ence of poverty, which makes us mendicants.

       b. without fixed abode

    This search for the Life, the Truth and the
Good is an on-going movement which makes us
itinerant, without anything of our own. Scientif-
ic research tries to establish the results obtained,
while it shows the relative nature of it and push-
es on to go ever further. It cannot stop with what
is known already. Whoever seeks does not have
a place to rest his head. Whoever seeks is, in the
end, taken by the hand by the object he is study-
ing and led towards new horizons of life and
truth. Blessed John Duns Scotus tells us: “knowl-
edge of the truth is always increasing along the
journey of the human race”45.

    Along this path we learn freedom. In the
midst of economic, social, and institutional
contrasts and of the different and often
opposed anthropological visions, whoever
seeks the truth goes beyond his preconceived
ideas, his personal interests, in order to submit
himself to what is imposed as true on the intel-
ligence, by committing himself to research and
accepting to be transformed by it. It is an act of
a responsible freedom. Such an attitude is, at
this time, more than ever necessary for us,
among us, in dialogue with contemporary
mankind and towards the Church.

       c. The happiness of the truth

  There is another aspect that I very much
want to underline and which I hold to be very
     “In processu generationis humanae semper crevit notitia veri-
       tatis”: Ordinatio IV, d. 1, q. 3, n. 8 (ed. Parisien., vol. XVI,
       p. 136a). Here Scotus indirectly indicates the affirmation of
       St. Gregory the Great: “Per incrementa temporum crevit
       scientia spiritualium patrum [Testamenti Veteris et Novi]”:
       In Ezechielem II, hom. 4, n. 12 (PL 76, 980).

                                 The flavour of the Word

important in our tradition. The pleasure and
the gratuitousness of the path towards the truth
make whoever is studying gradually become a
humble, patient and devote servant of life. This
does not take away the seriousness and the
scientific effort from study, but it is also capable
of giving satisfaction and joy, because the true
source of life is found through study.

   It is the typical gaudium de veritate of the
Augustinian tradition, to which we owe very
much46. It is good to enter into study as a place
in which to experience a particular joy, that
which comes from research and from the
discovery of the Life, the Truth and the Good,
capable of giving a more profound internal
unity between life and thought.

    This joy is also the result of desire, as is written in
our Ratio Studiorum, art. 3: “Study, as an ‘expression
of the unquenchable desire for an ever deeper knowl-
edge of God, the source of light and of all human truth’
(VC 98), is fundamental to the life and formation, both
on-going or initial, of every Friar Minor”. In this
Bonaventura perspective of “desire”, study cannot be
understood as possession, wealth, “status”, as a
“desire to know only the words, so as to be held as wiser
men among others…” a yearning “to know only the
words and to explain them to others”47. Rather than
possession, study is “to allow oneself be possessed by
the Truth and the Good, in order to love and praise the
Lord to whom belongs all good and to serve the broth-
ers in the charity of Christ”48. In this way, study can
become a profound exercise of research as a desire
and an expropriation, which has happiness as its fruit.

     d. An anticipation of the future

   I think we have an urgent need for this rest-
less questioning, understood as a path of free-
     cfr. St. Augustine, Confessiones, 10, 23, 33, Nuova
     Biblioteca Agostiniana, Rome 1975.
     Adm, VII.
     RS, 4.

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dom and happiness, in order not to limit
ourselves to returning to “the grace of our
origins” almost satisfied with, or nostalgic for,
the past. We should really want to live the grace
of our origins “not only as a memorial of the past,
but as a prophesy of the future”49. Thought needs
to be nourished at the source of the Truth, the
Life and the Good and, at the same time, to proj-
ect itself towards open horizons. A critical
philosophy and theology will impede retrospec-
tive gazing from falling into pure traditionalism
or sentimental nostalgia for our origins. At the
same time, accuracy of thought will help to
overcome every futuristic and utopian ideology.
Franciscan thought has been able to discern the
signs of the times and always to find again the
courageous power of a prophetic word for the
world, society and, if necessary, even within the
Church itself in order to recall that divine ordo,
which alone can promise the salvation and
happiness of mankind.

   It is the Spirit which projects us towards the
future50. The search, therefore, cannot stop. It
would be to say that our charismatic proposal
has ceased to be viable. The seeking, of which
study is one dimension, cannot stop if we wish
“to discover, creatively, new ways of promoting
and spreading gospel values”51.

     e. As brothers

   Study is not just a private and solitary occu-
pation. The search for truth pertains to us all, as
a fraternity, in virtue of our very charism. We
can, in the context of fraternal life, be educated
and educate progressively to the taste for
research and thought, to confrontation and to
dialogue between different positions. In this
way, “studies contribute to the building of the

     Cfr. NMI, 3; VC, 110.
     Cf. VC 110
     RFF, 34.

                             The flavour of the Word

Fraternity”52 and open it up to the broader
fraternity of the ecclesial community and of the
men and women of good will. This fraternal
attitude also constitutes a valid antidote to the
tendency towards competition and self-affirma-
tion in studies and research and is, at the same
time, an incitement to collaboration and
dialogue among the disciplines.

    If the search for the Truth, the Life and the
Good is animated by these presuppositions,
which I have tried to recall in harmony with our
tradition, we will have the basis for a fruitful
and sympathetic dialogue with culture, without
rejections or exclusions53. The Church needs this
prophesy at a time in which dialogue is ever
greater the new name for charity, the guarantee
of peace and justice54. It is therefore important
and urgent to promote the study of philosophy,
religions and cultures within the Order in order
for us to be able to open up in a more rigorous
and qualified way to dialogue and confronta-
tion, in continuity with the spirit and the prac-
tice of fraternity which is proper to us.

    We discover a particular relationship
between the Friars who have a vocation to intel-
lectual activity and all the others. It is important
that all the Entities should have some Friars who
are dedicated to studies in a priority and, at
times, exclusive way. Their research must stimu-
late all the other Friars to listening and dialogue,
just like the work and evangelisation of the
majority must open up and enlighten whoever is
dedicated to study. Is there such reciprocity in
our Fraternity? When Francis wished to under-
stand all his Friars from the point of view of their
activities, he used a series of three words: “I beg
all my brothers (…) those who preach, pray or
work…”55, the preachers, the workers, those who
     cfr. RS, 24
     cfr., EN, n. 20.
     cfr. NMI, nn. 55-56.
     Rnb, XVII, 5.

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pray. Whoever consecrates himself to intellectu-
al work “with fidelity and devotion”, without
suffocating the operation of the Spirit within
him, can become “laborator, praedicator et orator
(worker, preacher and man of prayer)”, all togeth-
er, precisely in and through his work, without
artificial juxtapositions.

   This unity in our forma vitae remains an
urgent appeal to us all. It also begins the assess-
ment of the place of work in our life. Work is a
necessity linked to our profession of poverty and
minority. It puts us into greater solidarity with
many men and women for whom work is no
longer a source of dignity. It obliges us to choose
again the hierarchy of values which supports us56.

    All this makes me think also of the Friars and
candidates who, perhaps, are less taken by study
in the strict sense. Even today we have to recog-
nise that intellectual capacities cannot be
discriminating factors of a Franciscan vocation.
Indeed, it is incumbent on us all to guarantee all
the Friars, without distinctions, a level of train-
ing as to permit each one to be integrated into
the life of the fraternity. We should be careful so
that, because of any over academic concept and
therefore reduced in culture, we do not find
ourselves excluding some Friars, thus damaging
equality between us. We should question
ourselves about the levels of accessibility to stud-
ies in the different contexts in which we live and
about the consequences for vocational discern-
ment and for services in the fraternity.


       a. Listening and seeing

    We live in a civilisation of the image. Reali-
ty, perhaps, has passed us by and we no longer
     Towards the Extraordinary General Chapter, “The Vocation
       of the Order today”, Rome 2005, 26-30.

                             The flavour of the Word

feel at ease in a situation so new as to transform
the very way of perceiving reality. The possibi-
lity to see mankind, things and events in real
time is changing us. At times this reality gener-
ates fear and self-defence in us. We fear that
this civilisation of the image is producing a
enormous reduction in the dimension of listen-
ing. We do not understand the senseless human
need to appear well before others. Is this all
negative? Or can we enter into this turning
point to find some value in it also? How can we
link up listening and the culture of image?

    I recall the biblical dimension of listening,
keeping in mind that in Scripture itself “seeing”
has a great importance, especially when it points
out the encounter with the living God and with
mankind, created in His image. Sure, in biblical
faith, God is audible, but not visible. The authen-
tic response and the fundamental attitude is that
of listening: “Listen Israel”, “listen today to the
word of the Lord”, “blessed are they who listen to
the word of God and put it into practice”. The final
beatitude of John is reserved for those who
believe without seeing57. But this listening reach-
es its highest point and is completed in the
encounter with the Word made flesh. Through
the humanity of Jesus Christ, and therefore of
every human, we can “hear and see”: “Some-
thing which has existed since the beginning, that
we have heard, and we have seen with our own
eyes; that we have watched and touched with our
hands: the Word, who is life…”58.

   The integral experience of faith saves us
from that listening which is lost in the “it is
said” of daily chatter and from that “seeing”
which is the consumption of information and
images. In this way the inauthenticity in which
we are immersed is broken in order to reawak-
en us to the truth. Listening and seeing are,

     Jn 20, 29
     1Jn 1, 1-2.

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therefore, an act of true and proper interpreta-
tion of reality, which is not assailed, possessed
or dominated, but, on the contrary, is accepted,
recognised and promoted.

    This process implies allowing oneself to be
expropriated, an exodus of self. It is, therefore,
a real experience in the etymological sense of
experior, a passage through mortal danger
where a real change of self is realised. Listening
to one truthful word generates a new way of
seeing and always operates a profound trans-
formation. St. Augustine speaks of “giving birth
to new life (parturitio novae vitae)”59, where
listening is “memory of self, memory of God
(Memoria mei, memoria Dei)”. Amazement is
the result of this new capacity to listen.

    Study is one of the paths towards this new
listening to mankind and to the world. It, in fact,
frees us from the fear of the noble effort of think-
ing, while we are often content with repeating
formulas and ideas of others. It frees us from the
fear of silence, in order to stand at a certain
distance from reality. From there, new words are
born in order to give birth to a new life, beyond
the words over used by habit and banality. Such
a journey brings with it the suffering of every
new birth, together with the joy of discovery.

     b. Listening and seeing today

    We live in a time like that of Samuel, of
which it is said that “it was rare for the Lord to
speak in those days”60. God seems to go silent or
almost to be eclipsed by our horizon. Eli the
priest – the institution – does not immediately
identify the voice of the Lord. It is an exercise
which requires a continuous vigilance, a cease-
less interpretation. God calls the little Samuel
in the silence of the night and in human words.
     St. Augustine, Confessiones, VIII, 6, 15, Nuova Biblioteca
     Agostiniana, Rome, 1975.
     1Sam, 3,1.

                              The flavour of the Word

He calls him by own name: it is an awakening
of awareness and the taking on of a new
destiny from which the prophet is born.

    This biblical itinerary can become an exam-
ple for whoever seeks new ways to live in this
difficult time. Study is one of these paths if it
becomes an exercise of obedient listening, of
hospitality towards the other in so far as he is
different to us, of a new way of looking on him.
The cultures which are appearing on the scene
of the world today, the many faiths and reli-
gions with which we are called to dialogue, the
challenges of ethics, of those of the world of
communications, of technology, of genetic
engineering and the many other confronting
perspectives provoke us into it. In the different
countries on the various continents where we
are present these challenges provoke us in
many ways. It is difficult to indicate one path
alone, even impossible. It is a question of
becoming evermore aware of the need to be
educated to listening and to dialogue in order
to learn the art of meeting with cultures.

    It is undoubtedly urgent to incarnate our
charism in the different cultures in which we
are present and to discover in them the seeds of
the gospel intuition of St. Francis, which is
capable of revealing even new depths in it61.
“Thinking the faith” is then, the prophetic exer-
cise of believers in the service of the liberation
of mankind and of the discernment of the
cultural forms in which we live. We therefore
need to consolidate both the vocational option
and our training. In fact, as my predecessor Br.
Hermann Schalück said, “the presumption,
superficiality and indifference towards the
human and sacred sciences are to be considered
an offence against the gift of life, mankind and
Truth… I consider the presentation of oneself to
serve a noble cause, such as the Gospel and
     Cfr. RS, 16. 26°.72.74

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mankind, without due preparation or without
the capacity to dialogue and to read the signs of
the times, an abuse and lack of respect. It is,
therefore, to be considered a fundamental duty of
each Friar, each one according to his talents, to
dedicate himself to study. Since study, if well
founded on Franciscan values, can really help us
in achieving human, intellectual and spiritual
maturity and in making us capable of accepting,
with gospel intelligence, the Christian and Fran-
ciscan values of contemporary culture”62.

   In this context I will take a look, with you,
at the different ambiences and cultures in
which we live.

   I am thinking in a particular way of the
requirement for listening and dialogue in Asia,
a continent in which inter-religious dialogue
assumes a special place. Our presence in Asia is
small, yet it challenges us to prepare ourselves
adequately because it is, of course, the conti-
nent of the future, thanks to the youth of its
population and to the enormous potentialities
contained in it on all levels.

    I am thinking of Oceania, where the history
of evangelisation lets us known how great the
urgency for the inculturation of the Christian
faith is and in view of which a solid and suitable
preparation is necessary. For that reason, Pope
Paul VI, on visiting Oceania, insisted on the fact
that Catholicism “not only should not suffocate
what is good and original in every form of human
culture, but should accept, respect and value the
genius of every people and cover the unique undi-
vided clothes of the Church of Christ with variety
and beauty”63. On this immense continent we
are forcibly asked to operate in harmony with

     “The promotion of studies in our Order”, in Acta Congressus
     Repraesentantium Sedum Studiorum OFM, Rome 1994, 70.
     Discourse to the Bishops of Oceania (Sydney, 1 December
     1970): AAS 63 (1971), 56.

                                     The flavour of the Word

indigenous Christians in order to ensure that the
faith and life of the Church will be expressed in
forms appropriate to each culture64.

    I am thinking of Africa, that immense conti-
nent which cries out for peace and justice,
forgotten as it is by the international communi-
ty. The affirmation of Paul VI, in his Encyclical
“Populorum progressio”, that “development is
the new name of peace”65 is more current than
ever in this regard. John Paul II, in the Apostolic
Exhortation “Novo Millennio Ineunte”, brought
that cry up-to-date by reminding us that staking
everything on charity is a matter of being faith-
ful to the Gospel66. Africa is rich in cultures and
traditions in which Christianity and Franciscan-
ism are waiting to become more African, of
course. This requires a qualified investment in
reflection and study in order to respond to our
vocation of being “custodians of hope”67.

   I am thinking of North Africa and the Middle
East, where the Franciscan presence in a Muslim
context continues to ask us to make an effort to
know and meet that particular world, now in
the headlines, in the spirit of the meeting of
Francis with the Sultan. This will not be possi-
ble without a rigorous study of the Muslim
world and of the Arab language, without shar-
ing in the life of many people as minors or with-
out accepting and learning to live as a minority.

   I am thinking of Central and South America,
areas of a big Christian majority with their
pastoral and theological creativity. The increase

     cfr. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania,
     2001, 17.
     Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum progressio, 76-80:
     AAS 59 (1967) 294-296.
     cfr. John Paul II Novo Millennio Ineunte, nn. 49-50.
     cfr. RS, 27; John Paul Paolo II, Discourse at the Pontifical
     Athenaeum Antonianum, 16 January 1982, n. 4a: “Like
     St. Francis, you too should be the custodians of hope in the
     world of today”.

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in confrontation with other Christian commu-
nities and with the sects challenges us to renew
our presence and proclamation. The situation
of poverty and of injustice on this sub-continent
still constitutes an enormous provocation to
think about the foundations of peace, justice
and the integrity of creation. This provokes us
into knowing better the mechanisms which
permit so much scandalous misery today and to
think, at this time of globalisation, on the basis
of the teachings of the excluded and poorest68.

    I am thinking of the Western World, from the
old Europe to North America, where it is neces-
sary to re-think the very possibility of “saying
God” in a secular world, where the sacred re-
emerges, but faith seems to be eclipsed. The
destiny of the West, after the passing of the
great and insane ideologies of the XX century,
appears to be evermore uncertain and in need
of a supplement of spirit in order to look to the
future, especially through a radical ethical
reflection on the boundaries of life and death
and on a respectful anthropology of the
completeness of the human person, the subject
of unalienable rights, and never reducible to
the dominion of economics or of the private
sphere of the individual.

       c. Listening and seeing
       in order to announce the Gospel

    Evangelisation in such diverse contexts
requires rigorous work of the intelligence. The
Word of God must be announced in words
which are understandable to the men and
women of each era. The Franciscan school is
called on today to give its valid contribution to
the Church in this sense, by cultivating a “think-
ing the faith” in a Franciscan manner and capa-
ble of offering reasons to believe, hope and love
in the present-day context.
     cfr. EN, n. 31; RS, 27.

                            The flavour of the Word

    We are asked not to close in on self, almost
frightened by the complexity, but to consider
the world as our ordinary and blessed place of
life and thought. In it, we should learn to
dialogue, as equals, with everyone, without
claiming privileged positions, but becoming
credible speakers. Have not the great Masters of
the Franciscan School always loved confronta-
tion with systems of different thought, but
always rich in the seeds of Him Who is the
Good? Are these, perhaps, not seeds which are
spread everywhere?

    Down through our history we always
remained open and sensitive to the concrete situ-
ations of history and culture. Franciscanism has
met and influenced figurative art, poetry, litera-
ture, architecture and other expressions of the
human spirit. Faithful to the logic of the Incarna-
tion we are called to continue along this path.
Today more than ever, we do not want to study
in order to occupy positions of influence or
power in society or Church. Our vocation as
minors indicates to us the path of obedient listen-
ing and hospitality towards the other as that typi-
cal of the poor. The itinerary which study inau-
gurates is proper to him who discovers himself to
be poor because he is begging for meaning, is an
impassioned seeker of truth in every manifesta-
tion of mankind and of the world in conjunction
with many people of good will.

    St. Francis tells us in few and simple words:
“be subject to every human creature for God’s
sake”69. It is a question of humble submission to
the historical and human reality which is being
studied in order to love it, to accept it with
respect and to restore it as a gift of God (for
God’s sake). Minority does not permit any claim
of rights over others, whom we are called on to
serve even through our intellectual seeking.

     Rnb, XVI, 6.

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What is learned is to be shared as a common
richness which comes from the Most High. This
is a demanding process in a society and in
cultural institutions which tend to make
specialists into privileged custodians of knowl-
edge which distinguishes them from others.

    It appears to me, then, that as Friars Minor, in
virtue of our very name, we are asked to devel-
op an attitude of life which restores its quality of
humble service to study. We are face to face with
a real and proper convergence between Francis-
can spirituality and intellectual work.

     d. Listening to the Spirit of the Lord

    Listening to mankind and reality in a Fran-
ciscan perspective is nourished by a more
profound listening. Let us recall the exhortation
of St. Francis with regard to work in general: “let
them not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and
devotion to which all temporal things must
contribute”70. Here it is matter of the Spirit of the
Lord and of its “holy operation”. The activity of
the human spirit, if it is deep and true, meets
that of the Spirit of God in man, it does not
substitute it. Whoever respires ‘in the breath’ of
the Spirit remains free and does not become
entrenched in any activity. St. Paul expressed it
well: “Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a
mirror, but then we shall be seeing face to face.
The knowledge that I have now is imperfect, but
then I shall know as fully as I am known. In short,
there are three things that last: faith, hope and
love; and the greatest of these is love”71.

   In the human search for knowledge and
truth there is a parallel and partial realisation of
the search for God. It is the desire which the
Spirit arouses and nourishes in us and which
makes us poor and helps us to maintain the just

     Rb, V, 2.
     1Cor 13, 12-13.

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note in the autonomous work of the human
spirit. In truth, “thinking the faith” is a highly
spiritual and Christian exercise: it unifies the
person and helps him to remain with “the heart
turned to the Lord”, by being transformed into
charity which thinks while loving and loves
while thinking. It encourages a depth of vision
which agrees to grasp the unifying thread in
phenomena and facts which appear jagged and
disconnected at first sight. It allows the believ-
er to recognise God’s plan of salvation working
in history and to adhere to it through life.

   As our Brother Giacomo Bini used to say so
well: “the long history of the different expres-
sions in which the Franciscan charism is embod-
ied clearly shows the fruitfulness of the relation-
ship between intellectual commitment and seri-
ous spiritual experience: the intelligence receives
new strength in the search for truth on the basis
of the experience of God; and the truth found
demands to be shared, proclaimed. There is no
authentic experience of God which should not be
transformed into new light by the intelligence
and into a new impulse through proclamation”72.

    This broad perspective opens us up again to
the missionary call, which we still feel to be
current after 800 years. While new areas are
opening up to the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
the only Saviour of the world, and to the
implantatio Ordinis, especially in Asia and
Africa, I ask all the Friars to feel they are direct-
ly responsible, so as to have the audacity to set
out once again to live and announce the Gospel
when and however it should please the Lord73.

     “Greeting of the Grand Chancellor for the inauguration
     of the Academic Year 2000-2001” to the Pontifical
     Athenaeum Antonianum, in Liber Triennalis 1999-2002,
     Roma 2003, 47. cfr. also RS, 15.
     cfr. Rnb, XVI, 7-8.

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     a. The Universities and the Study and
     Research Centres

   Our Order has 14 Universities, ecclesiastic
and civil, two Research Centres, the Scotus
Commission and the College of St. Bonaventure
in Grottaferrata, the Pontifical International
Marian Academy and another 32 Study
Centres, and on the 11th January last the late
lamented John Paul II granted the title of
Pontifical University to the Antonianum.

    The journey from the distant 1887, the year
of the inauguration of St. Anthony’s College,
has been long, often tiring, yet of growth. The
intuition of the Minister General, Br. Bernardi-
no Dal Vago da Portogruaro, has been shown to
have been more than prophetic. The Order
needs, today as at the end of the XIX century, a
“General Study Centre”, not exclusively it is
true, but at the service of all in the city of Rome
in order to promote a Franciscan vision charac-
terised by a universal zeal turned to the whole
world and to all people, of whatever country,
colour or sex, open to the vision of a universal
fraternity of the children of God, recognising
the dignity and value of each one. Respect for
the individual and integration into a great
human and Christian family, are the character-
istics of this Franciscan universalism, a univer-
salism which is built through communication,
sharing, dialogue and solidarity. If this univer-
salism is asked of all our Universities and Study
and Research Centres, it must characterise the
Universities and Centres in Rome much more.

   The particular place that the Pontifical
University “Antonianum” occupies in the Order74

     GGSS 112-114.

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and my personal conviction about the impor-
tance of study in order to guarantee the Friars
a quality of life and testimony in view of a
profound and authentic “re-foundation” of our
Order, has spurred me to write this letter. Now
I am forced to reflect briefly on the value and
tasks not only of the Antonianum, but of all our
other Universities and Study and Research
Centres, where we wish to become engaged as
Friars Minor, not only to maintain them but to
strengthen them in number and, above all, in

    Study, research and teaching, understood as
the path to the Life, the Truth and the Good, as
listening to and dialogue with others, find in
our Universities and Study and Research
Centres a special place for elaboration and
promotion. These Centres are essentially
animated by the spirit of study, of the methodi-
cal search for the Life, the Truth and the Good,
present in all the infinite ambiences of reality,
and of their transmission through teaching. It is
for that reason that the Friar Minor seeks to
meet God in the complexity of the human expe-
rience and discovers all disciplines which try to
give meaning to our life and mission to be like
allies in this search.

    I wish to encourage, in our Universities and
Centres, the study, research and teaching of all
disciplines. Among the sacred ones, I remind
you of the importance, for us Friars Minor, of
listening to, knowing, loving and studying the
Word of God contained in Scared Scripture
above all. Let us not limit ourselves, however,
to the sacred sciences. We are also asked to
open up to the disciplines that refer to
mankind: Psychology, Pedagogy, Economics,
Political Sciences, Sociology, Anthropology,
Social Communications, Literature, Arts,

     cfr. RS 119.

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Philosophy and History; and those which refer
to creation: the exact, natural and environmen-
tal Sciences76, since “nothing that exists is
foreign to the interest and the love of the Friar
Minor”77. Study, research and teaching, if lived
as “as an itinerary and way to be enlightened by
God in mind and heart”78, will lead us to Him.

    For this reason, study, research and teach-
ing, the purpose of every University and Study
Centre, are essentially an experience of life.
None of these activities is, for a Friar Minor
student, professor or researcher, a distinction
through which to make his own self more
attractive. Rather is it effort and passion for the
true, the good and the beautiful, which give
shape to our interiority, meaning to our human
and religious existence and motive to our voca-
tional choices79. The ultimate objective of study,
research and teaching in our Universities and
Study Centres and for all Friars Minor, who
dedicate themselves to them, is not, therefore,
the acquisition and offering of information, and
less still that of having a title, but rather that of
seeking the Life, the Truth and the Good in
ourselves and in others. It is certainly not
enough to be well informed. Only the transfor-
mation of the mind and heart will lead to real-
ly fruitful study, research and teaching.

    Our Universities and Study and Research
Centres are asked to offer their own contribution
to the elaboration of a culture at the integral
service of man, capable of going beyond the
criteria of practicality, productivity or competi-
tion, which are not foreign to the Universities
themselves. Following the centuries-old tradi-
tion of the great representatives of the Francis-

     cfr RS 48-69.
     RS 48.
     RS 13.
     cfr. RS, 11.

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can School, our Universities must stake every-
thing on the “diaconia” of knowledge at the ser-
vice of mankind, overcoming in this way that
power of science which exploits mankind.

   On the other hand, all the Franciscan Study
and Research Centres are called on to transmit, in
an updated manner, the cultural, philosophical
and theological heritage of the “Franciscan
School”, convinced that “the dramatic questions of
humanity at the beginning of the third Christian
millennium can be dealt with from the great store
of Franciscan theology and wisdom”80. This
requires, undoubtedly, a critical and assimilated
study of the Franciscan cultural tradition. To
study it out of curiosity is sterile, to study it in an
apologetic way is harmful triumphalism. It is
necessary to assimilate it critically in order to illu-
minate, with a real and proper act of hope, the
great questions which our times are putting to us.

   Open to fruitful dialogue with cultures, our
Universities and Study and Research Centres
have the important task of creating bridges
between them and the Gospel. John Paul II
said to us: “Working out a fruitful meeting
between the Gospel and the different cultural
expressions of our time is the task of your
Universities and Research Centres in order to
approach present-day man… Following the
example of St. Francis and the great cultural
tradition of the Franciscan Order, let it be your
programme to put the Gospel at the heart of
contemporary culture and history”81.

   Openness to the complexity of human
knowledge leads to listening and dialogue, as I
have tried to recall in this Letter. The true intel-
lectual is always able for humble and coura-
     John Paul II, “Message to the participants in the Interna-
     tional Congress of the OFM Universities, Study and
     Research Centres “, 19 September 2001, in Acts of the
     International Congress of the Universities, Rome 2002, 25.
     Idem, 25.

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geous questions in paying sincere attention to
the arguments of those who have different posi-
tions. This attitude prevents us from falling into
various kinds of ideology, which claim to make
an idea, or a part of it, exclusive and are the
result of the false security of a faith which is
afraid to think and thinks of being able to jump
over the questions and ambiguities present in
reality. This is a considerable mission which
remains open to our Universities and Study and
Research Centres82.

     b. Other areas of cultural
     preservation and development

   Besides the Universities and Study Centres,
we have other praiseworthy cultural institutions
in the Order, which have to be guarded and
promoted in the older Provinces and to be devel-
oped in the more recent ones. I ask you firmly to
read this part with your attention fixed on arti-
cles 118-141 of our Ratio Studiorum.

    The libraries and the archives are to the fore.
It is not a matter of museums, but rather of
places where the book and paper heritage is
guarded being made accessible and made into
movers of research and intellectual development
linked with the questions of our times. In many
Provinces the necessary re-dimensioning of
Houses runs the risk of having a notable cultur-
al heritage lost or of not being safeguarded suffi-
ciently. I remind the Ministers and Custodes that
the care for these institutions touches on the
interests and future of the entire Order and is not
only a private affair of the individual Entities. It
is necessary to provide for the libraries and
archives, even in collaboration with civil and
social entities, and to avoid the abandonment,

     About the areas of study, a comment on the RS, cfr.
     Stefano OPPES, OFM, “Formation and study in the new
     Ratio Studiorum of the Order of Friars Minor”, Antoni-
     anum LXXVII 1(2002), 13-23.

                            The flavour of the Word

neglect, dispersion and the falling into oblivion
of our library heritage by favouring their custody
or transfer within the Houses of the Order,
particularly to the Study Centres.

   The same is valid for the cultural heritage
constituted by many of our Houses, Churches
and the works of art which are contained in
them. There is need for some imagination and
care in finding ways of preserving and focusing
attention on this heritage, without transform-
ing ourselves into inactive custodians of muse-
ums. Art is, undoubtedly, a privileged means
for dialogue with contemporary culture and,
along paths yet to be found, of evangelisation.

    In order to promote such attention it is also
necessary to take care of literary, artistic and
technical studies. It is a matter of real need so
that research does not become an instrument of
possession and dominion, but of an humble
approach to the great mystery hidden in every-
thing. This Franciscan experience of study and
artistic activity does not present us with the
image of the Friar Minor as one who wishes to
conquer in order to be able to increase techni-
cal or financial profit, but as a being who is
touched, moved and impressed, a being taken
up by wonder at the True, the Good and the
Beautiful, which are inherent in things.
Through the via pulchritudinis we can develop
essential elements of the Franciscan vision of
the world, of mankind and of the mystery of
God, and meet together with many men and
women of our times.

   Another field which I must recall is that of
social communications. It is already a matter of
a true and proper “place”, a unique agorà
(meeting place) in which present-day men
meet in new ways and with unforeseeable
developments. I therefore ask the Ministers and
Custodes, and all the Friars, especially the
younger, to know, study and enter into this

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world, not as intruders, but as those who know
how to be at home everywhere that the fully
human is present.

    I cannot avoid recalling the importance for us
in this headquarters of guaranteeing researchers
and scholars of history, literature, philosophy,
theology and Franciscan tradition, not only in
direct regard to the origins, but for the whole
trajectory of the eight hundred years during
which our tradition has been kept alive. Institu-
tions like the Scotus Commission, St. Bonaven-
ture’s College of the Editorial Friars of Quarac-
chi and of the Pontifical International Marian
Academy, in particular, are asking for Friars, seri-
ously prepared and open to external collabora-
tion, in order to ensure their continuity.


   Coming to the end of this Letter, I simply
wish to inform you that, at this moment, I
consider it fundamental to have greater close-
ness between the Friars who dedicate them-
selves to evangelisation and those engaged in
study, research and teaching. Their joint pres-
ence during the course of Franciscan history
cannot be considered a misfortune, but rather a
richness. It is rather the divorce and opposition
between the two which constitutes the misfor-
tune, as we often verify in our history. As a
result, study, research and preaching were

    Many Friars destined for evangelisation
were considered dispensed from study and
many among the scholars believed they were
relieved of evangelisation. It is time for recon-
ciliation. If the Friars seem to allow themselves
to be completely absorbed by ministries and
services, it is necessary to remind them of the
need for study: a suitable intellectual prepara-
tion is fundamental for any apostolic activity
whatsoever. At the same time, I feel the need to
remind those who dedicate themselves to
study, research and teaching as a matter of
priority, that these activities cannot be separa-
ted from the gift and the obligation to live the
demands of our forma vitae in happiness.

   I would like, through this text, to initiate a
dialogue on the topics I presented in it. It is
close to my heart that this dialogue should
continue on various levels and in diverse
cultural contexts, in the Entities, in the local
Fraternities, in the Houses of Formation, and in
our Universities and Study Centres. It is a
dialogue which should lead us to going further,
so that we can look with trust and lucidity to
the future which awaits us and which is already

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beginning among us. I certainly do not have the
pretension of having said everything or of
having said it well. The dialogue among us will
be able to complete the text.
    I invoke the blessing of the Lord and of our
Seraphic Father on all those who are in search
of the Truth, the Life and the Good and on all
those who have an attitude of meeting, of
listening and of dialogue.

Rome, from the General Curia of the Order
13th June 2005
Feast of St. Anthony of Padua,
the Evangelical Doctor

               Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM
                                Minister General

Br. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM
Secretary General
for Formation and Studies

Prot. 095700

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Sacred Scripture
   1Cor      First Letter to the Corinthians
   1Jn       First Letter of John
   1Sam      First Book of Samuel
   Jn        John
   Lk        Luke
   Mt        Matthew
   Ps        Psalms

The writings of St. Francis of Assisi
   Adm       Admonitions
   LtOrd     Letter to the entire Order
   Rb        Approved (Later) Rule
   Rnb       Non-approved (Earlier) Rule
   SalVir Salute to the Virtues
   Test      Testament
   2Test     Testament of Siena

Other abbreviations
   1Cel     First Life by Br. Thomas of Celano
   3Comp The Legend of the Three Compan-
   AAS      Acta Apostolicae Sedis
   AnPer The Anonymous of Perugia
   AO       Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum
   EN       Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, Apos-
            tolic Letter, Rome 1975.
   GGCC General Constitutions of the Order
            of Friars Minor, Rome, 2004.
   GGSS     General Statutes of the Order of
            Friars Minor, Rome 2004.
   LgP      May the Lord give you Peace, Docu-
            ment of the General Chapter 2003,
            Rome, 2003.
   NMI      John Paul II, Novo Millennio
            Ineunte, Apostolic Letter, 2001.
   OF       Ongoing Formation in the Order of
            Friars Minor, Rome, 1995.

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     RFF      Ratio Formationis Franciscanae,
              Roma 2003.
     RS       Ratio Studiorum, Rome 2001.
     VC       John Paul II, Vita consecrata, Apos-
              tolic Exhortation, 1996.

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Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
1. The Word,Fraternal life and
   announcement in St. Francis . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   1. The grace of our origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   2. Francis, a man “without culture”? . . . . . . 8
   3. Books and preaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
2. The Word in the
   History of the charism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
   1. The encounter with cultures . . . . . . . . . . 15
   2. Listening becomes dialogue . . . . . . . . . . 17
   3. A fraternity which announces . . . . . . . . . 18
3. The Word in the encounter
   with culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
   1. Studying as a search for the Life
       and the Truth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
       a. The process of self-expropriation. . . . 24
       b. Without fixed abode . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
       c. The happiness of the truth . . . . . . . . 26
       d. An anticipation of the future . . . . . . . 27
       e. As brothers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
   2. Study as listening to and
       accepting the other . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
       a. Listening and seeing . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
       b. Listening and seeing today . . . . . . . . 32
       c. Listening and seeing
            in order to announce the Gospel . . . 36
       d. Listening to the Spirit of the Lord . . . 38
   3. Structures and Means at the service
       of studies, research and teaching . . . . . . 40
       a. The Universities and the Study
            and Research Centres. . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
       b. Other areas of cultural
            preservation and development . . . . . 44
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Index       . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52


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