What does Franciscan mean?

St. Francis lived during a period of widespread corruption and depravity throughout the Roman Catholic Church. St. Anthony of Padua, an early Franciscan, famously left his monastery, being at that time an Augustinian monk, for these reasons. Had he given up his affluent life of wealth, personal prerogative, and worldly pleasures for this?! But learning of the newly founded Franciscans, he saw that there was a way ahead for a young man or woman intent on a call to holy life. He had met young people like himself, from affluent families, who wanted something better, something purer. Indeed, the whole European lifeworld of this period was filled with people who were disillusioned with the Church, who wore white garments signifying purity and who called themselves Albigensians ("our origin is purity or whiteness"), also known as Cathars because they wished to be cathartic, to purge the Church of corruption and perversion.

St. Francis' love of the Church prohibited any thought of his entering what amounted to a "New Age religion"; still, the state of the Church was unacceptable to him. What could he do? He would become the real Church, the Church of Jesus and the Apostles. and live the life they had lived. He and his followers would adhere to the original Church, the primitive Church of the first centuries A.D. Their Rule of Life would be the Gospels. Their goals would be to live the Beatitudes. Their life would be simple, pure, loving, and faithful. His insight would change the world, for no single life, aside from the life of Jesus, has touched so many people in the way they lived their lives. Franciscanism itself was, and we pray remains, a holiness movement ever striving for simplicity, purity, charity, and faithfulness.

The earliest spiritual adventures of love carried into the world by the Franciscan apostles were recorded and gathered into a collection of stories, the Fioretti, or "Little Flowers" (the Hawaiian phrase is Na Pua Li'i). The phrase suggests infinite variety in shape, color, fragrance, and character as well as seed that blows all over world. Since that time, millions and millions of flowers have come to bloom as men and women have chosen to follow St. Francis in countless religious orders, congregations, societies, and communities — secular, religious, and lay; single and married; Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Old Catholic, Polish National, .... the little, poor man (Il Poverello) has captured the imagination of people all over the world. For people understand suffering; it is part of their lives (for many, the main part), and they also understand the life of joy that triumphs over it. This is the Gospel life, the life that has been set before us as the royal road. And it extends everywhere even as it leads to one place, which is our lasting happiness.

Here in Hawai'i the culture is deeply grounded in

Aloha
The term aloha is taken very seriously in Hawai'i. The large daily newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, reported that Gov. Neil Abercrombie had lost his re-election bid to David Ige because Gov. Abercrombie "had lost his aloha." As with all translation, the meaning eludes English, but it includes decency, fellow-feeling, love, fellowship, compassion, mercy, kindness, welcome, sentiments upon parting, . . . It is more than a word. Hawai'ians encourage each other in the good life by saying, "Live aloha!"

Malama honua
This ideal calls us to reverence all created things — the living sea, teeming with life of all kinds; the birds of the air; the creatures of the field; and the soil itself. Hawai'ians have a spiritual conception of the land, invoked by the term the a'ina, or land, for they live in the foothills of Heaven. Reverence for the land is expressed in the phrase malama a'ina. A'ina carries the deeper sense that the land is sacred.

Kokua
As one lives aloha, an obligation of decency and helpfulness extends to help one's neighbors who are, in turn, enjoined to help still others. This help, which is the literal meaning of kokua, is practiced widely, and love of neighbor is commonly seen in Hawai'i.

Pono
Pono might be seen as the aloha and kokua that obliges upon one's self, which, like the a'ina, is also sacred. It means rectitude, right action, morality, excellence, orderliness, . . . . Hawai'ians say to each other "Pono!" meaning, "Do right!"

Franciscans who find themselves in Hawai'i instantly experience the genial peace and gentle qualities of this place and, then, learning a little about the culture, realize that they are in a place that matches their own values. For all of these things are Franciscan, or Franciscans are all of these things. Recent radiocarbon dating of the earliest Polynesian navigators shows that the original Hawai'ians, as these Polynesian settlers were known, arrived to these island during the thirteenth century. The thirteenth century also marks the beginning of the wanderings of the Franciscan Friars Minor.

We invite you to learn more about who we are.


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