Just before our OFM Chapter of Mats in Loretteville, Quebec, I sat to be interviewed by Salt and Light Media. This was not our first conversation, so the reporter had been given already, from me, a sense of the occasion. As we spoke he was, in his head, continuing to formulate the story and questions that would feed the spin. One word that was a particular preoccupation for the reporter was that of “unity”. And his most pointed, memorable, and frankly disturbing (to me at the time) question was this: “Why is unity important?”
The question caught me off guard because “unity” is not the word we have been using to describe our Order’s restructuring process in Canada. As Franciscans, it is, in my view, a given that we are one, the important question is “Why, or at least how, are we united?” And, to drive home this point the word we have been using, and is, in my view, more appropriate, more representative of the subsidiary and incarnational nature of our Canadian Franciscan restructuring process is that of “diversity”.
As Church, we are a diverse communion of Spirit-animated disciples. We are, we believe, united and diverse. But, more importantly, we are by the Spirit.
Today is the feast of the Canadian Franciscan Province to be; united, diverse, and animated by the Spirit we hope to become (the friars have just learned that the new Pan-Canadian Franciscan entity will be called the Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit).
Imagery from all three readings for Pentecost provide a wholesome framework for what we Canadian Franciscan Friars are becoming. In Acts, for starters, the spirit divides Galileans into many languages – although they are not really divided at all, they are, rather, being equipped for mission. Though the friends of Jesus are one, both in history and in what they preach, His disciples, with the help of the Spirit, will do so in a variety of ways.
Variety is expressed, as well, by St. Paul. In 1 Corinthians, he speaks of a variety of gifts and members, all animated by a single Spirit that is Holy. Together, they work toward a common good.
And, of course, there is the Gospel. Jesus today, as always, points to what the Spirit, who is Holy, does in our lives. Himself an example of the Spirit’s Good-News, Jesus comes upon his friends where they have locked themselves away for fear of their past. From fear Jesus lifts his followers to send them out with that which animates him first -the Holy Spirit of peace and reconciliation.
As Christians, if we truly believe in this narrative, we are all too raised, healed, and sent in this same way. We are united, not only by our history, but more importantly by our mission to proclaim the Good News to all peoples, of all languages, cultures, and traditions. We are a people of the Spirit, made Holy by the one who unites commissions.
As one people then, as one Canadian Franciscan Province, we are without question, diverse. But we are very obviously united. If only we recognize how, and embrace why we are one, we will do for others what Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, does for all of us.