Tonight, we had the privilege of hosting eight friars from our Philadelphia and Camden locations as a part of our gathering of the “Lower Delaware Friars.” Gathering three times a year, each location takes turns hosting the others for prayer and dinner as a way of connecting with the friar community at large. It was a busy and joyous evening to have eighteen people over for prayer and dinner, to catch up on our lives and to share about our ministries. I believe that it is the time we take for community, not our ministry or charism, that makes us “Franciscan.” Take this passage from chapter XII of The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano:
“Go, my dear brothers,” he said to them, “two by two through different parts of the world, announcing peace to the people and penance for the remission of sins. Be patient in trials, confident that the Lord will fulfill His plan and promise. Respond humbly to those who question you. Bless those who persecute you. Give thanks to those who harm you and bring false charges against you, for because of these things and eternal kingdom is prepared for us.”
Accepting the command of holy obedience with much joy and gladness, they humbly prostrated themselves on the ground before Saint Francis. Embracing them, he spoke sweetly and devotedly to each one: “Cast you care upon the Lord and he will sustain you.” He used to say this phrase whenever he transferred brothers by obedience.
Then brother Bernard with brother Giles hastended on the way to Sanitago; Saint Francis with one companion chose another part of the world. The other four, two by two, went to other regions.
Only a short time had passed when Saint Francis began desiring to see them all. He prayed to the Lord, who gathers the dispersed Israel, mercifully to bring them together soon. So it happened in a short time: they came together at the same time according to this desire, without any human summons, giving thanks to God.
Francis could have reached double the amount of people, and could have gotten twice as much done had he sent them individually, but fraternity was more important. It offered strength and guidance to each brother, and it was a witness to the world of the love that was possible in Christ. Because of this, it is very rare for a friar to ever live alone, and it is strongly encouraged that they work together as well.
What I find most compelling about this passage, and exemplified in events like tonight, is that time has to be made for the larger community of friars. After sending his brothers out on mission, despite knowing that they were doing the work of God, Francis desired nothing else but to have them gathered together. There will always be too much work, meetings, baptisms, fundraisers, chores, phone calls, appointments, and so on; but part of being “Franciscan” is making community a priority, even if it means dropping one of the other things for a few hours. Tonight was a great witness to the myself and the other postulants as to the importance of community in our lives, and the great benefit it provides to all in this life.