The View From the Top

Every year in formation, the Franciscans of my province host an event called “Intersession,” a meeting of all levels of formation between the sessions of school for a workshop and time for fellowship (hence intersession and not intercession). Without school or ministry on our minds and removed from our normal routines and comforts, it’s usually a welcomed time of intentional fraternity, prayer, and good ol’ fashioned doing nothing.

In that respect, this year was no different. From Thursday until Sunday, I spent time with the postulants, novices, and simply professed friars, catching up on how their year was going, playing games, staying up too late, and eating more than I would normally like. Basically, what you do on intersession. And it was great.

And yet in another respect, although I had attended it three times previously, this week seemed completely unrecognizable to me.

For starters, it was the first ever interprovincial intersession (gotta love religious jargon…) Instead of hosting it at a retreat center somewhere in Maryland or Pennsylvania like usual, everyone flew out to the tundra of Chicago’s Mundelein  Seminary, and instead of consisting solely of formation students from Holy Name Province, we invited all formation students from all US provinces to attend. Yeah, this was going to be different. Even though some of the provinces were not able to send all of their guys because of the distance, our group of normally 10-15 swelled to 31, not including formators and directors. That’s a significant group.

And a young one at that. For the first time in my friar life—I repeat, for the first time—I attended a gathering of friars and I was not the youngest person. Eight people were younger than me, making me not only “not the youngest,” but in fact outside the youngest 25%! How did that happen?? I was pleasantly surprised at this enormous breath of fresh air, and felt a clear difference in the dynamic of the group. Instead of simply sitting around and talking or watching a movie each night (like normal, and not bad at all), guys played animated board and card games, made a heck of a lot of noise, and even (and no, this is not a mistake), organized a four-on-four basketball game in the on-campus gym. First time for everything, I suppose!

But beyond all that—and those things were certainly significant—the thing that struck me the hardest was looking around and realizing that I was the most senior class in attendance. Like my words in I’m On Deck last year, I realized that “there is no one in front of me.” As young as I am, as unprepared as may feel at times, in this gathering, there was no one with more experience in formation than me. With a small handful of others, I was an upperclassman, someone now 4-5 years removed from the experiences of the new guys and the one answering all the formation questions rather than asking them. I was attending my last intersession.

Like so many moments throughout this year so far, it was a moment of pause . . . of reflection . . . of anxiety . . . of comfort . . . of joy. While my regular day-to-day life of being a friar is not considerably different now, nor will they be much different after I profess my vows, these moments remind me how far I’ve come so far and how far I plan to go in the future.

The view from the top is always the clearest, and only makes sense after the long journey to get there.

6 Comments on “The View From the Top

  1. Br. Casey, Peace!
    Indeed… and good for you! You’re starting to mature more, not only as a Franciscan, but also just as a man. (Always an epiphany when you ask, when did I become “the old guy?”) For us mere mortals, time marches on, and it certainly deepens our “viewpoint” in life.
    We were all young, but not all of us get to grow old. For those that do, yet another gift from God.
    The “Pennsylvania Deutsch” have a saying… “We grow too soon old, and too late smart!” =)
    Maybe The Holy Spirit will bless you and you’ll start to beat that curve and enjoy more and more “wisdom beyond your years.” You’re off to a good start. Carry-on!
    Blessings, Brother.

  2. Brother Case! peace and good!!
    I am a Catholic priest from Spain. forgive my bad English.
    The years are to mature in the love of the Lord … every day is a gift from God. Indeed a gift to know and believe in the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ! Since this knowledge of GOD’S LOVE is from where one relativizes the years … because young is the one who has ahead of a horizon of realization, and Christians have ahead the horizon of eternity to realize us in the love of God. A person can be 80 years old and be young from his experience of knowing himself loved with the horizon of eternity. This was taught me by Saint John Paul II.
    God bless you so that you continue to do so much good for so many who need to know the Love of God.
    Pray for this poor priest.
    David Belmonte

  3. On day at a time, Friar Casey! Please know that you have someone in Wilmington DE who is praying for you each day as you approach final vows, and approach the priesthood.
    Please pray for me, too!
    God bless you in the exact ways you need…
    Mary Ann

  4. As one of the “younger” guys, I wanted to say that you are doing a great job as an upperclassmen!!!! Keep on leading the charge, good brother!!!

  5. I do like your reflections about failure. It’s such a comforting way to know that we as humans are not immune to failure and that failure such as our flaws and weaknesses can be used by God to transform us and make us surrender everything to Him who the end all and be all. Thank you for that wonderful message

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