This past weekend, all of friars in pre-Novitiate, Novitiate, and post-Novitiate formation, as well as the formaters and a member of the Provincial Counsel of Holy Name Province, had a grand get together at the Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Marriottsville, MD. Known as the “Formation Intersession Program,” this three day meeting is a yearly tradition of our province that seems to fulfill three main goals: 1) To allow for fellowship and interaction between the men in formation, 2) to teach the men in formation something related to Franciscan theology beneficial for spiritual and communal growth, and 3) to inform new members of the happenings of the province, both financially and statistically, in a sort of “State of the Province” address. Overall, the weekend was excellent at fulfilling each of these goals, and with the exception of the food poisoning I got Friday night, everything went really well! (Dont worry, it wasn’t that bad and I’m completely fine now!)
Getting to know our new brothers. Unlike many of the workshops we’ve attended thus far, there was actually more “free time” on this one than anything else. With most of our afternoons and nights free, we had plenty of time to chat, go out to eat, and even watch a movie on the projector one afternoon. Given that the majority of us have had at least one common formation director or formation house, we all hit it off almost immediately because a lot of our experiences (as well as a few misfortunes!) were common among everyone. Add to it a group of very humorous, brotherly, guys, and you get a weekend long laugh-fest of stories, jeers, and rivalries fit for the friars.
Besides simply having a good time, there was a serious purpose for bringing us together: we are the future of the order. Turn the calendar ahead 20-25 years and this group of men will be very core of the province, running ministries and dictating the vision for its future. As a postulant, this can no doubt be an overwhelming responsibility to focus on right now. But at the same time, I think we all realize that its a reality in our future, and it’s comforting to know that we’ll have such a strong group of men along for the ride.
Franciscan spirituality of the Trinity. What does it mean to believe in a triune God? More times that not, do we even distinguish between the three, or do we simply think of God as a homogenous, ambiguous “being”? Such a theology would not Franciscan (or even Christian for that matter). Though being of one essence, God has revealed Godself through history and scripture as three distinct beings, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Call me dense, but until this weekend, I had never put two and two together to realize that since each one is in its own ways distinct, so too should our relationship to each person be unique: God is Father, God is brother, and God is spouse. Each requires a different approach, thus yielding a different experience of the divine.
The “mystery” that leads from this is pretty obvious: how does one God exist in three persons while still being only one God? One way of trying to explain it is the ice, water, and vapor analogy I used in my post, “I think of it like a…”: same chemical, three different forms, all of which can exist simultaneously. But from a “Franciscan” perspective, the question itself is posed wrongly: rather than how can one God exist in three persons, someone like St. Bonaventure would ask how can three persons be one? Some will say it’s the same question, but there are different implications to both. The former, starting with one and splitting into three, must focus on the existence of God, how God is, so as to understand how God can be split in three; the latter, focusing rather on three being one, must focus on the relationship of God, how the three distinct persons must be in relationship with one another in order to be one. The relationship between the three leads one to see the self-communicating love that exists with God, leading to the statement, God is good.
The “State of the Province” address. Much like the yearly State of the Union address given by the President of the United States, were given two lectures on Saturday related to the financial and personnel situations our province was facing. Obviously these sections were a bit dry with information (and obviously quite private to non-friars, so I’ll be vague), but they were also very helpful for looking at the future. It’s not a secret that the world is changing, and with it, religious life as well. There are going to be different problems our generation will face than the ones before us did, and it’s great foresight of those in leadership today to prepare us for them as early as possible. There was nothing revealed in either lecture that was a complete surprise, nor was there anything that made me develop much anxiety about the future. Altogether, it was great to be left in the loop and to have the opportunity to ask questions and begin brainstorming with other future leaders.
Given the fact that the food poisoning was a bit unexpected, I didn’t get to take a lot of the pictures I had wanted to. Also, given the internet struggles lately, it’s been difficult to even load a picture for the title of the post, but we’re working on fixing the problem soon!