Circular letter from the father
A community of monks in the world
The Community of the Sons and Daughters of God (the CFD – la comunità dei figli di Dio) is a “public association of the faithful” by decree of the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli, January 6th, 1984.
Members live the mystery of adoption as God’s children (Gal,4:5, Eph,1:5, Rm,8:15+23) in the world according to monastic spiritual tradition.
Members don’t live in hermitages or in solitude, but as ‘monks in the world’, among people in life. They work as men and women of all ages in ordinary jobs, married or single. They are united in one family through one consecration, through which they give and entrust them selves to the Eternal Word, to the Blessed Virgin, and to the Church.
When Father Divo Barsotti moved to Florence from the diocese of San Miniato in 1945, he was received by Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa (1872-1961) at the request of the politician and future Mayor of Florence, Servant of God Giorgio La Pira (1904-1977). He stayed in a convent near the Porta Romana. Four laywomen, already strongly united in faith, asked Don Divo to be their spiritual director. He devised a rule of life for them, which included praying the Liturgy of the Hours, keeping the Presence of God constantly in mind, and studying and meditating on the Holy Bible and the great works of Christian Tradition from the churches of both East and West. He specified contemplative prayer as a vital part of the baptismal call in every walk of life. The ladies called him “The Father”.
They met as a group weekly, and made a retreat every month. Don Divo’s name for the new religious family was “The Community of the Sons and Daughters of God”. The name describes the Church herself. The Community grew in the 1950s with groups forming in Viareggio, Venice, Palermo, Modena and Naples. As the structure of the Community took shape, monastic houses for monks and nuns developed along traditional conventual lines, making it a “religious family” of various states of life –men and women, young and old, celibate and married. Today the Community of the Sons and Daughters of God is in Australia, Benin, Colombia, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
The Community has a structure in four branches: - Lay faithful who live in the world, both married and single, who, after a suitable period of preparation, consecrate themselves to God in the Community. This is the FIRST BRANCH of the Community. - Married persons or couples who desire a committed family life following the evangelical counsels and thus professing the vows of poverty, conjugal chastity and obedience. This is the SECOND BRANCH. - Those who, though living in the world, wish to give themselves to God in the state of celibacy, profess religious vows of poverty, perfect chastity and obedience (THIRD BRANCH) - Finally, the FOURTH BRANCH, for brothers and sisters who live religious life in houses of common life and leave everything to live in small fraternities with a typical monastic way of life: prayer, silence, work, study. Even diocesan priests may join the Community, whilst maintaining their own identity as secular priests and becoming part of either the first or third branch.
The SUPERIOR of the whole community (defined by Canon Law as the Moderator) is a brother priest of the fourth branch, elected every six years, who governs the Community side-by-side with two lay consecrated members, one man and one woman (the Assistants General). Together they form the PRESIDENCY. Other central organs of government are the Assembly General and the Council of the Community. Those who are locally in charge of different Familes, which are set up by region, are the FAMILY ASSISTANTS.
Joining the CFD
To join the Community, one goes through a preliminary period called aspirancy. In this period, the interested person is entrusted to a mentor who explains the Community’s aims and means to the aspirant so that serious and well-founded discernment may be conducted, discernment required for a calling to this kind of religious life.
The spirituality of the CFD is monastic. Especially in Eastern Christianity, the state of monastic life is understood as the full development of the grace of Baptism. To be a monk means to tend towards an ever fuller development of one’s baptismal vocation, a vocation that is common to all. On this basis, Fr Divo Barsotti, drawing from Eastern Christian spirituality, especially Russian spirituality, held that it is possible to propose the monastic ideal to persons living in the world, in the form of “monasticism of the heart” or “internalised monasticism.” For this reason, the means the Community offers for one to respond to this specific vocation are precisely those of the great monastic tradition: sacramental and liturgical life, prayer and listening to the Word of God, fraternal life. According to an established programme, members of the Community meditate EVERY MONTH A BOOK OF THE BIBLE in such a way that the whole Bible is read in a period of six years. Members live a SACRAMENTAL AND LITURGICAL LIFE as far as possible. Members recite daily at least some hours of the LITURGY OF THE HOURS. Every week consecrated members meet in small GROUPS. In these meetings, members pray together, receive biblical formation, absorb the spirituality of the Founder, share with each other and help each other to go deeper into the heart of the spiritual life. Every month there is a larger meeting between all the groups of the area (GATHERING) and a half-day RETREAT in which the religious dimension of silence is emphasized. Finally, during the year several COURSES OF SPIRITUAL EXERCISES lasting five days are given in different regions of Italy and a pilgrimage is conducted to get to know better certain sacred places that are particularly significant to our spirituality.
Have faith. I have no fear of Death; I have already experienced a foretaste of communion with Him through those I have loved. Have faith. God will not fail you.