h2. The Society of St Francis and its Three Orders

The Society of St Francis is a worldwide Anglican Religious Community, made up of women and men from all walks of life who seek to live out the Gospel values of Christ, in the spirit of St Francis and St Clare. It consists of the First Order brothers and sisters (SSF) who live according to the rule of St Francis, in community, and in the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Second Order sisters (OSC) live a contemplative life of prayer according to the rule of St Clare and in the same vows as the First Order community. The largest group of members of the Society of St Francis are the sisters and brothers of the Third Order (TSSF). They live in their own homes according to a personal rule of life which reflects the spirit of the three evangelical counsels vowed by members of the other two orders. Third order members have been a prominent face in society and church life.

h2. The Spirituality of St Francis

St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He lived at a time when Church and State were undergoing a major upheaval, not too dissimilar to the world today. The gap between the rich and the poor was widening, and the church’s response to this was being questioned by people, like Francis and his followers. Francis was troubled as to how to make sense of all that was going on around him and he asked God to show him the answer to his troubles.

In the little ruin church of San Damiano, Francis heard the words of God. ‘Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin’. At first Francis believed this meant the literal rebuilding of the church of San Damiano, and he set about that task. It was only later, through experiences such as meeting the leper on the road, that he came to understand this to mean not just the literal church building, but God’s house—the world.

How was he to do this? There is a story told in a text called The Anonymous of Perugia where two men came to Francis and asked how they should follow his new way of life. Francis and the two men (Br Bernard and Br Peter) went to the church and sought God’s answer in the reading of the Gospels. There they read ‘go sell everything and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven’; ‘whoever wishes to come after me…’; and ‘take nothing for the journey…’. This, Francis said, is how he and those who came to join him would live their life. Inspired by these words, and the desire to live lives as closely as possible to the life of Christ, Francis, Clare and all Franciscans ever since, have sought to live their lives according to the Gospel values of Christ.

h2. Franciscans Today

Franciscans today continue to live the call of Christ to care for the least among us. Some are called to a live a life in community in vows, others are called to live a secular life in their own homes and professions. The heart of Franciscan life, however, is summed up by Francis himself ‘the brothers [and sisters] should preach always and if necessary use words’. That is to say, being a Franciscan is more about what you do, than whether or not you live a religious or secular life. All Franciscans, by nature of their common vocation are called to serve God and Humanity. Therefore Franciscans naturally find themselves involved in work and or activities which challenge the materialism, self—centredness and injustices that have crept into our society, whilst being reminded that God is the centre of our lives, and personal prayer and the liturgy of the church is the basis of strengthening our relationship with God.

h2. SSF Companions

Companions of the Society of St Francis are women and men, children and teenagers, who wish to support the work and objectives of the Society of St Francis. Conversely, members of SSF desire to support Companions in their own personal journey with God.

A Companion takes no vows, nor are they expected to live under any rules of the three orders of the Society of St Francis. They simply promise to pray regularly for the Society of St Francis, and to support the Society and make its work and ideals known in whatever way they can. There is also no expectation that Companions will join one of the three orders of the Society. However, some do find that becoming a Companion is the first of many steps in discerning their vocation.

The relationship between Companions and members of SSF will depend greatly on the level of involvement that a Companion wishes to have. However, the fundamental basis of the relationship between Companions and SSF brothers and sisters is that of mutual prayer, friendship and support.

Some areas that SSF Companions have been involved in past include:-

* organizing local discussions on Franciscan Spirituality.
* inviting brothers and sisters of SSF to speak at their parishes and other groups.
* writing articles of interest to Franciscans, the Church and the wider community through newspapers, newsletters and magazines.
* organizing special liturgical celebrations in their parishes, e.g. World Environment Day services.
* working alongside members of SSF in projects of mutual interest, e.g. water projects in the Solomon Is.
* living with members of the SSF community for short periods of time either on retreat or as Companion workers, assisting with the day—to—day running of the Society.
* participating in the prayer life of the Society by attending some or all of the SSF Daily Offices.
* assisting with workshops run by the Society.
* To pray regularly for the Society of St Francis.
* To support the Society and make its work and ideals known in whatever way they can.

As stated previously, the level of involvement is left to the person themselves to decide. The level of commitment is bound only by time and imagination, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The brothers and sisters are happy to assist where and when possible, and are pleased to be asked to be involved in projects organized by Companions.

h2. Becoming A Companion

Becoming a Companion is a very simple process. There is no fee involved and no great promises are expected – simply a desire to serve God and humanity. Once a person has decided that they would like to be a Companion, they contact the Companion Secretary and express their desire to become a Companion. The Companion Secretary will then arrange for the person to be admitted as a Companion using the enclosed Admission of a Companion Service.

If the person wishing to become a Companion lives in an area where there is a member of SSF, they will be invited to do this privately, or as a brief addition to one of the Society’s prayer services.

If the person wishing to become a Companion lives in an area where there are no SSF members, then they will be invited to make this commitment themselves, or if their parish priest has an understanding of the life and ministry of SSF and the role that Companions play in this, then they might like to do this with their parish priest, again privately or as part of parish prayer services.

If the later is the case, and the Companion comes to visit one of the SSF communities or events, they might like arrange to have their commitment renewed using the Renewal of a Companion’s Promise.

Once the person has been admitted as a Companion the Companion Secretary will arrange for the person to be placed on the Society’s newsletter mailing list, have their name added to the Society’s intercession list, and for them to receive their Companion Cross.

h2. Companion’s Cross

Companions Cross

Every person admitted as a Companion will receive a free Companion’s Cross. The Companion’s Cross is in the shape of two crossed arms over a Tau Cross. The Tau cross is a symbol of Franciscans. Francis used the Tau cross as part of his signature. It is said that this cross is more accurate than the one used to crucify Christ, rather than the more well— known Roman cross we are used to seeing as a symbol of Christianity. The two crossed hands depict the wounds of the crucifixion. One is depicted as a bare arm, this is the hand of Christ, whose hand was pierced with the nail. The other, which depicts an arm covered by a sleeve, is the hand of Francis, who is said to have received the wounds of Christ, the Stigmata on Mt La Verna, in 1224, two years before his death.

h2. The Companion’s Promise

* To pray regularly for the Society of St Francis.
* To support the Society and make its work and ideals known in whatever way they can.

h2. Admission of a Companion

Do you promise to be a faithful Companion to all of Creation and its Creator, and in particular to the sisters and brothers of the Society of St Francis?*I do.*Will you pray for them, holding their communities, their daily lives, and all those with whom they come into contact with, in the all encompassing love of God?

*I will.*

Will you continue to find ways to share the unity, love, joy and life which God holds out to us in Christ, just as Francis did?

*I will*

Name, we welcome you as a Companion of our Society of St Francis, and thank you for your gift of friendship and support.

(prayers and blessing follow)

h2. Renewal of A Companion’s Promise

Do you promise to continue to pray regularly for the sisters and brothers of the Society of St Francis, to support and make its work and ideals known in anyway you can?*I do.*Will you continue to find ways to share the unity, love, joy and life which God holds out to us in Christ, just as Francis did?

*I will.*

We accept your renewed promise and thank you for your gift of friendship and support.

h2. Contacts

*Companion Secretary*Br Bruce-Paul SSF
Email: brucepaulssf@gmail.com
Ph: (02) 4994 5372
*Brisbane, Qld.*

The Society of St Francis
The Friary
115 Cornwall Street
Annerley Qld 4103
Ph: (07) 3391—3915

*Stroud, NSW.*

The Society of St Francis
The Hermitage of St Bernadine of Sienna
PO Box 46
Stroud NSW 2425
Ph: (02) 4994 5372

*Hamilton, NZ.*

The Society of Saint Francis
Friary of the Divine Compassion
PO Box 13-117
Hillcrest Hamilton
Aotearoa New Zealand
Ph: +64 (0) 7 856 6701

*Web Site*

http://www.franciscan.org.au/