Constituted to Renew Society
In the midst of conflict, bitterness and sorrow spread through practically the whole world, the Third Order of St. Francis is " a ray of sunlight that penetrates a dark and turbulent sky, inviting mankind to love and brotherhood, charity and justice," Mgr. Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, said in a letter to the Franciscan Tertiaries who concluded a quinquennial congress recently in Pittsburgh.
" This is the tinte," the Delegate wrote, " when the Third Order, by its very nature, is called to make its greatest contribution to the world." He concluded his communication by urging the Tertiaries to " leave to this troubled period of history a deep impression of your Franciscan spirit."
The letter compared present days with the beginning of the thirteenth century which was also a time of extreme moral disorder, marked by violence, immorality, selfishness and seemingly irrepressible hatred. Society, even though adhering to the tenets of the faith, had practically abandoned Christ in its daily life and its social relations, enslaved as it was by litigations, by avarice for material gain and by base passions.
HIS AFFECTION FOR NATURE " To break those bonds," said Mgr. Cicognani, " the Poverello of Assisi made Christ, as it were, reappear in the midst of the people. He preached Christ and restored Him to the private and public life of the people, especially through mortification of the senses, detachment from wealth, and the most generous and ardent love of fellow creatures.
" His tender affection for inanimate nature and for animals was not, as it is often wrongly interpreted, an empty sentimentalism, but a means of enkindling greater love for God.
" The miseries of the time of St. Francis are to-day thousands of times worse and more widespread. They have contaminated the very air we breathe, and so extended the kingdom of death. that one is almost tempted to despair.
" To continue the renewal of society in conformity with the spirit of the Gospel, St. Francis instituted his Third Order. This is the time when, the Third Order, by its very nature, is called to make its greatest contribution to the world. Its purpose is Christian perfection, through the spirit of prayer, the spirit of mortification and Christian
charity that is living and active."