From May 1 to 21, 2023, twenty-one Capuchin friars and three Capuchin Poor Clare Sisters participated in an ongoing formation course held in Rome, Assisi and Frascati, promoted by the General Secretariat of Formation. Through visits to Franciscan places, the course aimed to elicit in the participants an encounter with "Brother Francis and not only with St. Francis!"
This program, which was designed to serve as a complement to each circumscription's ongoing formation programs, included a Franciscan spirituality course, visits to several Franciscan places, and a one-month bible course in Jerusalem. The course on Franciscan places was aimed primarily toward those who have completed c. 15 years of initial formation, while the course in Jerusalem was aimed toward those who have already made 25 years of profession.
According to Br. Jaime Rey, Vice-Secretary General for Formation, ongoing formation is important for two reasons: Firstly, “because the world is changing so fast and if we are not up-to-date, then we will fall behind.” It is not only a question of changing in the secular world but also in the world of the universal Church with Pope Francis’ reforms. It is not simply about legal issues but a question of updating our forma mentis, our mentality, to try to update our worldview and then be a more effective help to others. Secondly, in our formation programs, ongoing formation is often missing. The Ratio formationis gives great emphasis to ongoing formation because it can influence the effectiveness of initial formation (Cf. RF 189). Ongoing formation is the mother of initial formation. The first and most beautiful sign of a healthy vocation is a friar who is happy, confident and up to date. In this way we can better understand the deepest essence of our consecration more perfectly.
From the point of view of content, Br. Jaime clarifies that the course is not intended as a pilgrimage or an award for some deserving party, “It is not something just for me, for the personal sphere of my devotion, for my spirituality or simply for making memories”. It is a spirituality course meant for bringing one up to date with existential content and methodologies with the aim of reawakening our charism within.
This year’s course was three weeks long. In the first week, participants visited sites in Christian Rome with a focus on both Capuchin and Franciscan sources. In addition to four basilicas, they visited the Church of St. Felix of Cantalice and the Via Vittorio Veneto Museum. In the second week, the most intense and densely packed, the participants visited Assisi and the main Franciscan sites. After finishing this visit, they toured the entire city of Assisi, the Rieti Valley, Camerino and La Verna.The course concluded in the Frascati friary, where during the last three days they had time to meditate and reflect on the entire experience in terms of their own lives. This time was intentionally scheduled to bring together various aspects of the previous weeks: the celebratory dimension, the reading of Franciscan texts in the places that were visited, the reflections offered, the personal time of silence and reflection and one’s own personal journaling.
At a time when a deep devotional attitude is gaining traction toward St. Francis, this course offers a more historical approach for getting in touch with Brother Francis, a man like us, with his capacity for attaining sainthood and his courage to live the gospel in fraternity.It was indeed a great value for us to deepen our knowledge of the Franciscan sources (personal and hagiographical writings of St. Francis) and of key aspects of our tradition; to rediscover the values of our charism and to seek ways of implementing them in the church and in the world as lesser brothers and sisters, while also cultivating justice and peace. These three weeks prompted a rekindling of our passion for living our Franciscan vocation, thus providing a new spark and perhaps a new momentum in our own spiritual growth.