In her comment on yesterday's post, Steph brought up the sometimes thorny question of how religious communities do or don't support themselves.
Some classic monastic communities have an ideal of self-sufficiency. Thus a monastery runs a school, or publishes books, or makes fudge to support themselves through their own work.
Franciscans, though, are not monks but mendicants. They are supposed to live in a less secure way that the self-sufficient monastery. Francis recommended to his brothers that they receive their daily sustenance in exchange for their labor, so long as they didn't receive money. If this wasn't enough, they were to beg.
This is more or less how we live to this day. We are supported in part by our own work, and in part by fund raising. In fact, we owe much of our livelihood to the generosity of others.
St. Clare was even stricter with her sisters. Being cloistered, they weren't able to work outside their monastery or beg. And yet Clare insisted that they have no stable means of support through rents or endowments. And it was a hard life, as you can imagine for yourself if you read the Acts of the Process of Canonization for Clare.
So, are we mendicants moochers off the world? Why should people support us with their hard-earned resources? Well, hopefully we offer something in return: our availability, our ministry, our witness to the Risen Lord and the life of the world to come. Of course if our witness to these things become incredible, no one ought to support our life.
The Franciscan ideal is not indepedence but inter-dependence. Hopefully we try to show how resources and economic realites can be used to produce solidarity and mutuality among people, rather than simply individual financial security.
This is the economic sense of what we mean by universal fraternity. Mutuality and solidarity, inter-dependence among persons is ultimately an imitatio Dei, an imitation of the perfect mutuality Who is the Trinity.