Purpose: To provide structure, formation, and activities for youth who want to “train," through the example of St. Francis, in the “manly virtues, so that they may give proof of innocence of life and the integrity of morals,” by becoming, “accustomed to the holy discipline,” of the Seraphic Order.
Marian Seraphic Youth is a new initiative approved by his Excellency Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington September 17, 2019, feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis, to help facilitate growth in virtue of young men according to the example of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi. In his encyclical, Rite Expiatis, Pope Pius XI teaches that, “there has never been anyone in whom the image of Jesus Christ and the evangelical manner of life shone forth more lifelike and strikingly than in St. Francis. He who called himself the ‘Herald of the Great King’ was also rightly spoken of as ‘another Jesus Christ’, appearing to his contemporaries and to future generations almost as if he were the Risen Christ.” 1 Pope Pius XI continues to elucidate and expound on the Saint’s many virtues, drawing greatest attention to his love of poverty and his detachment from earthly things in imitation of Jesus and Mary, as well as his profound humility and purity, while noting that he, “loved singularly” the “beauty and cleanliness of purity” 2 --both of body and of soul, so very much forgotten today. Finally the pontiff explains that, “St. Francis, trained in the manly virtues... was called providentially to a work of reform for the salvation of his contemporaries and to assist in the work of the Church Universal.” 3 This work of reform, made possible through the virtue of St. Francis, precipitated a “profound impulse toward a saving reform of human society,” and “innocence of life to blossom forth once more in a union with the spirit of penance,” and therefore, “in a word, the ‘face of the earth itself was changed’.” 4 “As a matter of fact,” the pontiff continues, “by his practice of all the virtues in a heroic manner, by the austerity of his life and his preaching of penance, by his manifold and restless activity for the reformation of society, the figure of Francis stands forth in all its completeness, proposed to us not so much for the admiration as for the imitation of Christian peoples.” 5
Could not this ideal of St. Francis, if we reflect on the historical moment in which we find ourselves culturally and ecclesiastically, prove the perfect backdrop for youth activities? Youth need to play and they need to do this with other youth who are striving for the same Christ centered ideal. Youth need virtue, though they also need a situation in which to practice these virtues, to learn and to practice them along with other youth in an environment in which they can grow and be fortified in them. In the same encyclical, Pope Pius XI proposed that all Christians should fill the ranks of the Third Order of St. Francis,6 --which has been referred to, by Pope Gregory IX, as the “soldiers of Christ and the new Maccabees.” 7 “As regards those who cannot because of age join the Third Order,” the pontiff continues, “they should be enrolled as ‘Cordigeri’ (Cord Bearers of St. Francis) so that even from childhood they may become accustomed to the holy discipline of this Order,” 8--and all this for the effort of restoring the Christian society. “Some will say, perhaps,” he says, “that to restore Christian society another Francis is needed today. But We say, do what you can to make men take up again with renewed zeal the ancient Francis as their teacher of piety and sanctity; do what you can that they intimate and follow the example which he has left us, that they accept him as a man who was ‘a mirror of virtue, a path of righteousness, a rule of morals.’ If this be done, will it not in itself be enough to heal and even put an end to the corruption of our own times?” 9
Therefore the Marian Seraphic Youth is proposed here to provide for youth a structure allowing them to “become accustomed to the holy discipline” 10 of the Seraphic Order and above all the Third Order. Growth in holiness through structure and discipline in daily life is the primary focus offered to all members, entailing certain obligations, though never under pain of sin. Like the Third Order of St. Francis, a form of life will be learned, prayers undertaken, and other obligations accepted, such as the enrollment in the Cord of St. Francis. In addition, monthly Seraphic formation meetings will be held consisting of Catechism and apologetics as well as talks on the life of St. Francis. Furthermore, there will be other spiritual talks especially geared toward the development and formation of virtue, so that “they will succeed in promoting the common good provided they…, become like their Father, St. Francis, by giving proof of innocence of life and integrity of morals.” 11 Similar to the Third Order this program contains varying levels. Firstly, there will be a free and open enrollment to any Catholic youth with the consent of his parents between the age of 10 and 17. 12 After a short time of formation on the meaning and spirituality of Marian Consecration the youth will make the act of total consecration to the Blessed and Ever Virgin Mary, thus making them eligible for various works in age appropriate apostolates. Again after some formation, those who would like to enter in more rigorously may request to begin “Novitiate” in preparation for full membership, and enrollment into the cord of St. Francis which carries with it further obligations of morning and evening prayers and other prayers for poor sinners as requested by our Lady of Fatima. In addition to the monthly meetings and by-monthly outings, a yearly retreat will be held for a minimum of three days, but no more than five days, as well as a multi-day summer outing (or camp) for members only.
1 Encyclical. Rite Expiatis, Pius XI, April 30, 1926; n. 2
2 Ibidem, n. 26.
6n. 46, also see Auspicato Concessum of Leo XII n. 25 and Sacra Propediem of Benedict XV, n. 1, each “exhorting the Catholics of the entire world to affiliate themselves with eagerness or to remain faithfully attached to this Franciscan institution, which...responds marvelously to the needs of society.”
10 See the above footnote 7.
12 Notwithstanding other criterion set forth by of the Covington Diocese Curia.