Why have Postulants and Members?
This chapter is hard to read by many who Practice Creation Spirituality. We remember the many sins committed by so called leaders of the Church who believed that title and office excused their bad actions. This is the first chapter to mention the leadership our Seraphic Father Francis desired us to follow.
Creation Spirituality, we believe in Deep Ecumenism, and that “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world (John 1:4-5,9).”
The first three vows forbid us from adopting this exclusivist worldview (see short vows).
So what is membership?
Membership in the Seraphic Church means that you have agreed to live in the spirit of St Francis, the Angel of the Lord. You agree to walk the four paths of Creation Spirituality, and live in accordance with vows and the Way. It is nothing more than the simple faith of Christ.
Those who do not choose this life are not at fault. They are not greater or lesser than any. We have heard the simple call of the Seraphic Father to build the Kingdom of God in this world.
All who wish to follow this path, they are brought to their Minister provincial. Why? Because all who are accepted as members are the face of the Seraphic Church. The Church is a religious order. Not all who attend meetings or services need to be members. Members take on the responsibilities and practices described in this rule.
Why examine the Postulants?
Postulants are examined concerning the Catholic Faith and the sacraments. Why? Because they will not only have to answer questions about the Faith as read through the Creation Spirituality Tradition. They must be able to explain the beliefs and practices of the Church and if they don’t understand them they will not be able to guide the faithful on the Way. They will also have the opportunity to participate in leading the services and sacraments of the faith.
Many will say that the Seraphic Father would disagree with me, and I would agree. He saw a distinction between the Priesthood and life under this Rule. As the Seraphic Church casts off medieval hierarchy of its past, we see those who have chosen to take up the mantle of Holy Orders as guides and teachers of the Way, not ones who hold a special power over the faithful. In this New Reformation of the church, we must look to the priesthood of all believers proclaimed by St Peter, the first pope.
The Priesthood of all Believers
All believers are members of the royal priesthood in the Kingdom of God. This is not in doubt. No Christian Church today denies this. What is questioned by some is the nature of this priesthood, and the role of ordained priests. Who has the right and the power to ordain? Is it a person or is it God?
Often we forget that the Church of Jesus Christ was built on the twin pillars of St Peter and St Paul, who like Moses and Elijah show us the two modes of ministry in the Kingdom. In the Principles of Creation Spirituality, we affirm that Everyone is a Mystic, Artist, and Prophet (Principles 6,7,8), this is the ministry of us all.
In the Seraphic Manifesto, I wrote:
We recognize the fourfold ministry of the Church in Christ: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness (Pleroma) of Christ (Eph 4:11-13).”
- An Apostle is a messenger or delegate of the Fullness (Pleroma) of the Godhead to the church.
- A Prophet is an interpreter of the oracles and hidden things of the Fullness (Pleroma) of the Godhead.
- An Evangelist brings the Good News of the Gospel to those who will listen.
- A Pastor shepherds the faithful, guiding the flock of Christ gently. As Teachers, they instruct the faithful into the mysteries of the faith (Seraphic Manifesto).
These four gifts underpin the ministry of the faithful. To those who are given the gift to be apostles, pastors, and teachers, these are the ones who would be the ordained members of the church. They are the Elders, St Paul spoke of:
“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed (Acts 14:22-23).”
And if they believe these things and want to observe them faithfully and firmly unto the end, and they have no wives or, if they do, their wives have already entered a monastery, or having taken a vow of continence, permission [to enter one] has been granted to them by authority of the bishop of the diocese, and the wives are of such an age that suspicion cannot arise concerning them, let them say unto these the word of the Holy Gospel (cf Mt 19:21), that they should go and sell all that is their own and strive to give it to the poor. But if they cannot do this, a good will suffices for them.
And let the friars and their ministers beware, lest they be sollicitous concering their temporal things, so that they may freely do with their own things, whatever the Lord will have inspired them. If however counsel is required, let the ministers have permission to send them to other God fearing men, by whose counsel their goods may be spent [erogentur] on the poor. Afterwards let them grant them the clothes of probation, that is, two tunics without a capuche, a cord [cingulum] , breeches, and a caparone [extending] to the cord, unless it seems to the same ministers [that it should be] otherwise according to God. Having truly finished the year of probation, let them be received to obedience, promising to observe always this life and Rule.
And in no manner will it be licit for them to go forth from this religious institute [de ista religione exire], according to the command of the Lord Pope, because according to the Holy Gospel "No one putting hand to the plow and turning back is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Lk 9:62)
And let those who have already promised obedience have a tunic with a capuche, and if they wish to have it, another without a capuche. And let those who are driven by necessity be able to wear footwear. And let all the friars wear cheep clothing and be able to patch these with sack-cloth and other pieces with the blessing of God. I warn and exhort them, not to despise nor judge men, whom they see clothed with soft and colored clothes, using danty food and drink, but rather let each one judge and despise his very self.