To all the Brothers of the Order of Friars Minor Dear Brothers,
Assisi, 4th October 2023
May the Lord give you His peace!
The World Day of the Poor is again before us, the seventh so desired by Pope Francis and I would like to bring to our attention the Message that the Pope wrote for the occasion on the 13th June on the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, brother and friend of the poor. The invitation is to read it personally and in fraternity, with our lay people and collaborators, «to discover ever anew the heart of the Gospel».
Francis said in Greccio: I want to see the poverty of Jesus!
We are living the Centenary of the Nativity of Greccio (1223-2023), in which Francis wanted to see with his own eyes the “lowly” life of Jesus of Nazareth, which struck and wounded him forever. At La Verna he sang “You are Humility”, because the humble life of Jesus reveals the Father. The Sunday of the Poor precedes that dedicated to Christ King of the Universe: the Gospel presents us with Jesus who reigns from the wood of the Cross and not from thrones of presumed human glory.
Francis recognized as a gift from the Lord the fact that in the lepers’ school that which was bitter for him was changed into sweetness. It is natural to feel a lot of difficulty in approaching the poor and their condition. It is not enough to appeal to human capacities for empathy and solidarity. We need that passage which is the fruit of the Spirit. For this reason the Pope writes in his Message that on this Sunday «we gather around his Table to receive from him once more the gift and strength to live lives of poverty and to serve the poor».
Keeping to the path to learn second-handedly how to live sine proprio according to our profession and serve the poor is the fruit of the holy working within us of the Spirit of the Lord. Constant listening to the Holy Scriptures, participation at the Eucharist, a virtuous life in charity opens us to this. Without this dimension of faith we remain deaf to the cry of the poor or we make it one of our activities, which may sometimes even allow us just to show off.
I invite myself and all of us to verify the forms of service to the poor from this theological root of our life. Insensitivity to the appeal of the poor indicates a kind of deafness to that of God and vice versa.
Francis: yes! “The Rule” with the Gospel: and this is the Rule and the life of the friars minor!
We are living the Centenary of the Rule (1223-2023), intended to jealously guard our possibility of living the Gospel, which is the «uncomfortable» word that opened Francis to God, to himself, to his brothers, to the little ones and to the poor. These are not an appendix to the Gospel, but are at the very centre of it: let us think of the Beatitudes, of the poor life of Jesus and His Mother, of the little ones who approached him. The Gospel encourages us and reminds us, as Pope Francis writes, that «We are living in times that are not particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor. The pressure to adopt an affluent lifestyle increases, while the voices of those dwelling in poverty tend to go unheard. We are inclined to neglect younger generation, those who are most vulnerable to anything that varies from the model of life set before tale to the cultural changes now taking place. We disregard anything that is unpleasant or causes suffering, and exalt physical qualities as if they were the primary goal in life. Virtual reality is overtaking real life, and increasingly the two worlds blend into one. The poor become a film clip that can affect us for a moment, yet when we encounter them in flesh and blood on our streets, we are annoyed and look the other way. Haste, by now the daily companion of our lives, prevents us from stopping to help care for others».
It is true that meeting people who live in different situations of need gives us a new light in listening to the Gospel and allows us to persevere on that path of continuous conversion which is at the heart of our vocation. I recognize with gratitude that there are many amongst our brothers and fraternities involved in meeting and sharing with the «lepers» of our time. At the same time, we need to verify how much we know and understand of the situations and the places in which we live and which affect many people, generating inequalities, poverty and misery. Without this contact with the reality that surrounds us, we close ourselves in environments that distance us from the real condition of people. From here we risk taking for granted amongst ourselves, lifestyles that are so guaranteed and autonomous in the management of time and goods that they hurt those who have to fight for daily sustenance. The choice to live sine proprio requires from us a profound conversion today.
A gesture towards the poor
For this reason, on the occasion of this Day of the poor, I ask the fraternities to verify their knowledge of the environment and the people amongst whom we live. Along with this, I ask you to make a gesture of service and sharing with disadvantaged people and situations as a brotherhood. It may be challenging, but it is possible. Let us dare more, so as to see the poverty of Jesus and taste the joy of the Gospel.
I, the General Minister and servant of the Order never tire of asking for you the Spirit of the Lord to rekindle the passion and joy of our vocation as brothers and minors, so as to illuminate the lack of hope that often threatens us. Whoever wants, please tell me about the gesture performed, in writing, even with photos (firstname.lastname@example.org), as a testimony of good things to be spread.
Dear brothers, «We are called to discover Christ in the poor, to lend them our voice in their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to understand them and to welcome the mys- terious wisdom that God wants to communicate to us through them».
With the Blessing of Saint Francis and my own fraternal and affectionate greeting.
Br. Massimo Fusarelli, ofm
Minister general and servant
 See Phil 2.6-8
 See Regula Bullata 10, 8
 Message #4
 Evangelii gaudium, 198