WHO WE ARE
The Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany (Fraternità Francescana di Betania) is an Institute of Consecrated Life of diocesan right. It is formed by brothers, both clerics and lay, and by sisters who consecrate themselves to God through public wows of chastity, poverty and obedience.
The Fraternity’s distinctive charism manifests itself in prayer and hospitality – distinctive features of Bethany in the Gospels – that we live in the context of a deeply brotherly life. The Blessed Virgin Mary, who embodied hospitality and prayer in perfect harmony, is the model at which we look.
Mary, Ancilla Domini, the servant of God, is the sublime model of consecrated life and is also the door that introduces us into the mystery of Christ. The spirituality of our Fraternity is inspired to the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation, through which, thanks to Mary’s “fiat”, God’s salvation project is realized.
Mary of Nazareth teaches us to combine Martha’s activity and Mary’s silence, showing us that they are not two offices separated in time but two offices that can be reconciled in the unity of life of one person: as long as I receive Jesus as God in my life. The Blessed Virgin Mary, welcoming God in Her womb has welcomed all mankind; in fact, Her receiving God in Jesus Christ has enabled Her to welcome and receive the others. Mary of Nazareth teaches us that Bethany is not therefore a symbol of generic hospitality but is the mystery of reception of the person of Christ and the reception of Him justifies, motivates, supports and feeds all other forms of reception and hospitality.
St. Francis of Assisi, by divine inspiration, imitating the life of Christ and of his disciples, gave origin to a new form of evangelic life that he called “fraternity”.
For this reason he is for us an unequalled teacher of brotherly communion.
Francis considers his brother as a gift from God, regardless of his human characteristics. Each brother is a gift to be received, a spur by God to grow in the love and the gratuity that spring from a humble heart. And for us it is also a model of simplicity that is the privileged way for the unification of man with God, the source of brotherly communion and the remedy against all divisions.
The beauty of a simple life and the wealth of brotherly life, that manifest themseves to the highest degree in the charitable attention toward “the least” of the brothers, are the precious inheritance of the Franciscan tradition.
From Francis we also derive the evangelic joy , that is, the perfect gladness that was dear companion of the Seraphic Father, and that becomes the bright testimony of adherence to the Gospel.
Our Founder and the founding
Nicola Gaudioso, in religion Father Pancrazio, born in Bari November 15, 1926, the youngest of six children, enters the family of Friars Minor Capuchin of Puglia at the age of thirteen, December 10, 1939, the religious habit as a lay brother May 13, 1942 and professed first vows June 19, 1943 to Alessanno (LE). On 23 November 1947 he makes his perpetual profession in the Holy House of Loreto where he arrived last year in the sanctuary service.
Since 1950 became the spiritual son of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, who, following a precise request, in 1959 he wrote in his own hand a program of life on the back of the holy picture that illuminates his spiritual life and becomes a prophecy of the future Charisma Franciscan fraternity of Bethany (FFB):
“Not so dedicated to the activity of Martha to forget the silence of Mary. The Virgin Mother so well reconciles the one and the other staff will be sweet model and inspiration”.
St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
In the last meeting with St. Pio, in July 1968, he shall inform him of the desire of the Lord that he may enter the path to becoming a priest. So, March 18, 1973 between Pancrazio was ordained a priest in Loreto.
The Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany was founded in 1982 by Father Pancrazio. Iniziamente constituted as an association “Casa Betania”, was erected in 1987 by the Servant of God Antonio Bello, bishop of the Diocese Molfetta – Giovinazzo – Ruvo – Terlizzi, as a public association of the faithful. The same Mons. Beautiful in 1992 refer to the Holy See asking for erection at the Institute of Consecrated Life as the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany.
With the permission of the Congregation, on 8 December 1998, Solemnity of the new Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Donato Negro, signs the decree recognizing the fraternity as an Institute of Consecrated Life of diocesan right on and approve the Constitutions experimentally.
P. Pancrazio was Superior General for two terms: 1999-2005, and from 2005 to 2011. From 2011 onwards, continued to live in fraternity Terlizzi, transmitting to each brother and sister, the spirit and charism of the evangelical Bethany. N. P. Pancrazio Gaudioso died Jan. 3, 2016.
The three pillars of the charism
This is the first pillar of our charism because it precedes the others and in a way generates them. To pray is to invoke the presence of Jesus among us, the presence that builds the brotherhood; it is the intimacy of each of us with Jesus Christ; it is the nourishment indispensable to kindle the fire of the true love that makes us capable of an authentic brotherly life. In our Institute much time is devoted to communal prayer, which includes most forms of Christian prayer.
The Eucharistic celebration, peak and centre of the Christian life, constitutes the most excellent form of encounter with God and the highest prayer addressed to Him, as Padre Pio taughtus with his testimony and in a way that cannot be equalled.
The Holy Rosary has a special role in our life of oration, because through it we express our special worship to the Virgin Mother of God and we can unite the meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ and of the Church to the prayer of the heart.
The Eucharistic Adoration, the meditation of God’s Word and spontaneous praise giving are other forms that are present in our life of prayer. Following St. Francis, who often expressed his affections with songs and music, every liturgical action is celebrated with songs.
Hospitality is above all a ‘way of being’ indispensable for a Christian. Christ is the testimony par excellence of a welcoming God, a God who comes forward, speaks and listens, thereby revealing God’s true face: Love. At Bethany Jesus is welcomed as a friend and as a brother.
At Bethany Jesus at once gives himself fully and receives the gift of the others (John 12, 1-3). This is the essence of our hospitality.
Those who come to our houses can find a true and substantial encounter with Jesus in the prayer, sacraments and brotherly life.
Our hospitality is addressed to:
- those who are in search of God;
- those who want to have a deeper experience of God;
- those who are along a path of vocational discernment;
- priests and consecrated who feel weary and often empty because of their many apostolic endeavours and want to recover their intimacy with the Master;
- families, so that they may discover once more the beauty and greatness of their vocation, aware of the high dignity of the family as a community of life and love, founded on the sacrament of Matrimony;
- those who need a retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, to be in silence for a while, especially at the feet of Jesus;
- disoriented young people;
- those who have lost the purpose of their existence.
In the Gospels, Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus: two sisters and one brother who enjoyed the presence of Jesus of Nazareth and his friendship, within a family environment.
Our “Betania” is the home of brothers and sisters who share the same life, invoking every day the presence of Christ.
Brotherly life is the first form of acceptance, that must realize itself in the first place towards the brother and sister that the Lord has placed next to us. So that “brother” and “sister” are not simply a title, but what we really are and what we are called to actualize in our community, among the people and for the Church.
It is the proof of coherent Christian life, it is the right horizon within which to realize God’s love and a mirror where to look at our own miseries and exercise all virtues.
It is also support to our vocation and our primary evangelization commitment, since our being one Institute of brothers – lay and priests – and sisters makes testimonies of communion of us all.