Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy to Be a Friar

On August 16, 1964, at the very young age of 19, I completed my novitiate in Catskill, NY, and took my first vows as a Franciscan. Forty five years have certainly flown by and many things have changed in the world and in the Church. I truly rejoice and am grateful for these many years.

What drew me to the friars was not any book knowledge about St. Francis or Franciscan spirituality.that would come later. It was the living witness of the friars at Christopher Columbus High School in Boston's North End who were my teachers. To sum it up they were "real", "down to earth". They were strict, but they cared about us kids and the things that were happening in our lives. I had wonderful parish priests in my life too, but there was something special about these friars that made me want to join up with them.

My instincts as a young man were correct as a realized that the "down to earthness" of these men was a result of their Franciscan charism. Francis of Assisi called his early friars (friar means brother) to walk humbly with people, as equals, as brothers, not as some sort of spiritual superior who had all the answers.

In his Testament Francis writes, "...and the Lord gave me brothers." He did not set out to found a religious order, but simply to follow God more closely in his own way. As he did so others were drawn to what he was doing and asked to follow him.

During my 45 years as a friar I have discovered that it is this brotherhood which makes our life what it is. My brothers are not always the ones I would choose(believe me) but the ones that the Lord has given me. It has been their love, support and challenge that his enabled me to live my vows and to grow in understanding of what they mean. It is because my brother friars have stood by me in difficult times such as deaths in my family and sickness and times of struggle in my own life,with prayers and moral support and encouragement, that I have become the friar that I am today. I can only hope that I have given back to them as much as they have given to me.

It is this life that we share that brings out the special qualities mentioned above in our ministry.

The initials, OFM, after my name stand for Order of Friars Minor. Minor is a designation of social class at the time of Francis. I like to think that it means the class of ordinary folks, not just the powerful ones, though Francis reminds us that they are our brothers and sisters as well.

So join me in thanking God for 45 years as a friar minor, or lesser brother and now that I thank God for the was that so many have been brother and sister to me.

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