Sense of History Among Young Franciscans

Salah satu sumber Sejarah Ordo Fransiskan s.d. Munculnya OFM Kapusin. Karya J. Moorman, Uskup Ripon. (Oxford, 1968).

Salah satu sumber Sejarah Ordo Fransiskan s.d. Munculnya OFM Kapusin. Karya J. Moorman, Uskup Ripon. (Oxford, 1968).

After sharing of the experiences as a teacher with the young Franciscan sisters (OSF) in Banyumanik (Semarang) for a couple of days, i.e. from January 13 to 16, I accompanied the young Franciscan brothers for learning from the richness and deepness of the past. Actually together with six brothers of the first year (four brothers live in Jakarta, and the rest from Jogjakarta), who are still studying at Kentungan and Rawasari, I read more and more some Franciscan sources in conjunction with its history. All classes took place at Driyarkara School of Philosophy from January 20 to 25.

In the first class I presented some sources to know much better our Franciscan history. One of them informed that an available Franciscan source at this moment is still translated by Friar Jan Ladju OFM. It could be Lazaro Iriarte’s book and I supposed it is entitled Franciscan History: The Three Orders of St. Francis of Assisi. (Translated from the Spanish by Patricia Ross; With an Appendix, “The Historical Context of the Franciscan Movement” by Lawrence C. Landini O.F.M.). Chicago, Illinois: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983. For sure, this book is one of the sources. If I want to learn better the history of our Franciscan Order from its origins to the year 1517, however, I would prefer to indicate that the study of J. Moorman is the best one, besides the researches of D. Nimmo, N. Muscat, T. Lombardi, H. Holzapfel, M. Carmody, etc.

From my point of view as a friar with an academical background in Church History, for studying the Franciscan history we should take care seriously the question of sources. Because this history has not been produced by us, Indonesians, and more than that it comes to us from the West, particularly from European country, Italy. At this moment we stand in great distance between Saint Francis’ time and our era, at least eight centuries. For our usage in these days, I have succeeded to collect some sources, and we call this effort as “the convergence of sources”, and by doing so our Franciscan history becomes more objective.

As far as I know, there is a big danger if we learn a history and we use one only source. As if it uses one single mind for evaluation and presentation, and we know immediately that this way is out of date and far from the scholar way. For that reason in the first place I have emphasized the importance of knowing and using the sources, even the authentic ones. Through the way of thinking we could more and more elaborate the past as one of the fertile inspirations of our daily life at this moment.


A history of Franciscan Order should begin with Francis of Assisi. It is the abvious and absolute starting point! We have now, however, many works in correlation with the poor Francis. As we understand that the main biography can we pick up from the work of Thomas Celano, especially the First Celano. We have a good memory that the Second Celano has been accused as the work that was strongly influenced by Joachimism. And for that accusation, many friars who have authority at their hands decided for removing completely that work, and giving the trust to Bonaventure to rewrite the new biography of Francis. Fortunately, only a very small number of friars who were disobedient in regard that decision. Later we know this attitude has saved our Order from the unknowingness!

We are fully aware that the question lies in relation with the concurancy among the brothers, in which some “schools of sanctity” flew over the history of the Order. The hidden agenda that we found in these intrigues is how to eliminate at least for giving a small space to the spirituales movement. At that moment a great number of friars tended to the school of conventualism, following Bonaventure as “the second founder of this Order”. In fact, the high tensions we could search quite easily in the pilgrimage of the first decades of this Order. From my point of view, the reform and divisions in our Order emerged from the absurd dichotomy in which each part rooted in and on behalf of the Francis’ spirit. Saying the truth, it expressed the incapability for giving the best solution to the conflict that was taking place. And more than that some factions in this fraternity also promoted the radical interpretation to the spirit of Francis and his works (regula et testamentum). It is quite unique that an interpretation in the long way of history changed to be the cord that captured many friars’ heart. Who can claim that an interpretation as well as a view deserve to be practiced and becomes “a mustness” for all friars without any exception? Or, can we agree with the fact that the truth means “all thing” that the majority believed and practiced?

One day I heard that the reform and division in our Order expressed the immensity of Francis’ charism that could not be borne only by one Order. It demanded at least three Orders as the First Order. His spiritual heritage is always relevant to all seasons, even after eight hundred years! Surely, it is a way of positive insight. We may have been right to focus on the brutality besides the beauty in the long historical way. Many survivors suffered from the “persecution” which is taken into practice by some friars in the one side, but in the other side there is a row of the blessed Franciscans until now. No matter of fact that all stories and cronics of our Order tell again and again the dark side if the Order is to be whole. This is what we call the vitality and dynamism of our life.


In a certain occasion I suggested the young Franciscan brothers to pick up the core of the historical values. As a teacher, who enjoy to be a teacher, I try to make the Franciscan history as one of the leit-motiv for renewal our style of life. It is no doubt that in the past there were many dark sides, but the history still notes that the bright and the light give the great victory. Our Order did not surrender unconditionally! From generation to generation, Franciscan Order did not give up. Never! This is the way to be a mystic and at the same time a prophet.

The significant events are still flowing in conjuction with the contribution of friars in the high eduction (or university), diplomatic career (for example John of Monte Corvino, John Marignolli, etc), being “the instrument of peace” in the conflict area between Christians and Muslims, giving the courage to impact the lay people to follow Jesus Christ in the way of Saint Francis, daring many (young) Franciscans to sacrifice themselves by taking part in the effort to improve the quality of life, in being a simple and humble brother, going to all over the world for proclaiming the Good News, in serving all creations to live the ecological way of being. In short, there is no limit to be a Franciscan.

The history of Franciscan Order advices us to be the communicative persons, to reopen our simple narrowness by an attitude for readiness to work together. By doing so, we give each other the sense of passion, solidarity, and the meaning of being neighbor. This is the spirit of fraternity that Francis of Assisi entrusted us.

After more than fifteen years in doing and making history I am still convinced that the biggest challenge today is how we can realize ourselves as a religious Franciscan. It is the question of our identity. Practically in my reading, the history of our Order expressed vividly the searching of that identity and how to be faithful to the identity along the time.

Finally, I would like to express my debt of gratitude for young brothers: Haward, Tri, Fendy, Max, Fidel, Rio, who have given a such courage to me for sharing of being Franciscan. Through this effort all of you put me in a risk: how to live the spirit for making a bridge between having and being. It is surely the sense of history. ****

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