Asian Franciscan Formators Training (AFFT)

Asian Franciscan Formators Training (AFFT)

Launch of the programme endorsed by FCAO

On 11 Mar 2024, AFFT programme was launched with the release of the introductory video of the first front loading module. This formators course was proposed and endorsed by the Ministers of FCAO (Franciscan Conference of Asia-Oceania) in May 2023.  Br Derrick Yap, Custos of Singapore-Malaysia, was tasked to craft the programme together with a team comprising Secretaries of Formation of EAC (Br Joel Sulse) and SAAOC (Br Charles Bernard) and Br Azeem Lawrence, Custos of Pakistan. Co-ordinating this programme with Br Derrick is Dr Josephine Chin, together with Patrick Tan providing the digital support for the online platform

This programme is primarily conducted online with 2 in-person residency programmes in June and November, book-ending the programme with adequate time for group interaction and practicum.  There are 16 modules in total, modelled heavily on Master in Formation programme at the Antonianum.   

AFFT is the perfect acronym for the programme as it sounds like affect (Latin: affectus), indicating its strong affective emphasis and not merely intellectually downloading information.  The main pedagogic vehicles are video lessons, facilitated forum discussions in small circle groups, personal accompaniment and zoom tutorials.   

For this pilot cohort, there are 8 OFMs participants hailing from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.  In future, the hope is to welcome potential formators from the entire Franciscan Family to participate in this programme.  Minister General Br Massimo Fusarelli, and Asian Definitor Br John Wong both popped into the first Zoom Tutorial to meet and encourage the participants. 


The Five Lents of Francis

The Five Lents of Francis

The early sources about the life of Francis mention five “Lents”.

A Lent to prepare for Easter and one for Christmas

For 40 days before Easter, Francis observed the “Great Lent”, what we know as Lent today. Francis observed a similar period of 40 days of fasting and prayer in preparation for Christmas, beginning after the Feast of All Saints on 1 November. It was at the end of a Lent preparing for Christmas that Francis arranged for the display of the Nativity scene at Greccio. Both Lents were observed by his brothers as well (Later Rule, Chapter 3).

A fast like Jesus’ in the desert

Francis also recommended a fast of 40 days after the Epiphany, 6 January. On this day in Francis’ time, the Church celebrated the Baptism of the Lord (as well as the visit of the Three Kings), so Francis reasoned that Jesus began his fasting of 40 days in the desert on 7 January.

A Lent in summer

In some years, Francis observed a Lent in summer, from the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome, on 29 June until the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (whom Francis called “the virgin made church”) on 15 August.

A Lent to honour Saint Michael

Finally, Francis observed out of personal devotion a Lent in honour of Saint Michael after the Assumption until 29 September. It was during such a “Lent of Saint Michael”, in 1224, that Francis received the vision of the Seraph on the mountain of La Verna, followed by the appearance of the stigmata on his body.

We have indications from the early sources about how Francis observed these Lents: in fasting, solitude, and prayer.

If these Lents are indicative of his usual practice each year, Francis would spend probably three to five periods of about 40 days each in relative seclusion, dedicating himself to prayer and fasting in solitude, sometimes with one of the brothers, sometimes by himself. This would amount to about four to seven months a year in a secluded, contemplative way of life, frequently spent in the hermitages, a characteristic feature of early Franciscan spiritual practice.

Basically, Francis was creating the space and time to step apart and reflect on how God was asking him to deepen his commitment in terms of the ever-changing situation of his life. “When blessed Francis stayed constantly in a place to pray . . . he was always anxious to know the will of the Lord, about how he could please him better” (Assisi Compilation, 118)

From a post by Friar William J Short OFM in the Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition website.

Mother’s Day concert – Bringing to birth

Mother’s Day concert – Bringing to birth

We honour our mothers bringing us to birth. We honour our fathers too, but it is our mothers who carried us as part of themselves, nourishing us with nutrients while taking away toxic waste from our systems. Our mothers fed and freed us when we were still in their womb.

That is how St Francis saw his mother, who fed his dream of becoming the person God created him to be, and freed him from his father’s ambition for him. When Francis was seen straying from this ambition, his father would imprison him in the house cell, and his mother would free him when his father was away.

In the same way, Francis saw himself accompanying his friars, sicut mater (‘like a mother’ in Latin). It may sound strange for a man to see himself as a mother, but it is precisely this uniquely maternal imagery that drives the fraternal relations in our Franciscan communities. We are a community of men who free one another from the chains that bind us, who help one another become the persons God created us to be.

On Mt Alvernia, where Francis received the Stigmata 800 years ago, he had asked for two graces: to experience the pain and suffering on the cross, and simultaneously to experience the joy and love that brought Jesus up on the cross.

Is this not like childbirth? The suffering of birth pangs and the joyful love for the newborn are like two sides of the same coin. One comes with the other, much like the mystery of our life.

So, at this year’s Mother’s Day Concert, we will celebrate the trials and triumphs of motherhood, where a mother brings to birth her children, and the bringing to birth of her own identity as mother and the gifts God has given her for this role.

As usual, the Mother’s Day Concert will be held at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, Singapore. We have prepared a simple and hopefully heart-warming evening of songs and stories, so join us on Saturday, 4 May 2024 at 8pm. Limited edition merchandise and yummy treats made by the friars will also be available. Your kind donation will go towards the Formation and Care for Friars Fund.

Check out this LINK to get your tickets.