This is the sixth and final episode of an ongoing series. For the previous episode, click here.

“Never go to the restroom in the middle of a board meeting.” These words of wisdom, learned the hard way, are the reason that Fr. Joseph Nangle, OFM and I ever lived together. A councilor of the province from 2011 to three weeks ago, Fr. Joe, then 82, excused himself from a meeting about replacing the current director of post-novitiate formation only to find, when he returned, that he had been voted the one for the job.

“Never go to the restroom in the middle of a board meeting” he told us in a tongue-in-cheek way when he moved into our house. “You’ll find yourself with jobs you never wanted.”

And yet, the job he never wanted is the job that he found himself doing. With great enthusiasm no less. At 82. That’s Joe Nangle for you.

A Franciscan Friar since before my parents were born, he’s lived an interesting, unorthodox, inspiration, radical life that never ceases to amaze anyone. A former missionary in Lima, Peru, Joe has spent the last thirty years living in an intentional community of lay and religious men and women in Washington, D.C., working at a parish, organizing demonstrations, giving parish missions, and furthering the mission of peace and justice in our Church. As long as there is injustice in the world, Joe has a job to do.

For many in our province, Joe is a legend. Fifteen years in the missions. In the room when Gustavo Gutierrez coined the term, “A Theology of Liberation.” A welcomed guest of Fidel Castro in initial peace conversations. Notorious priest of Washington, D.C. blessing the white house with ashes on Good Friday for the sins of the country, arrested for protests, leading demonstrations, and constantly acting as a rabble rouser of our province of friars, Fr. Joe is a one-of-a-kind friar.

And because of his apparent weak bladder, I found him as my director for eight months when the current director was called away for special assignment. What a pleasure. For all that I had heard of Joe, for the little bit I had experienced myself, I simply enjoyed his company.

Now 85, he lives with a passion for this life that people half his age don’t exhibit. He lives and breaths the message of Jesus Christ and won’t stop while there is still work to be done building the Kingdom of Heaven. Old age? Don’t tell him. Retirement? No reason for that. No, Joe is a man who lives with passion and there’s nothing that could extinguish that. And who would want to? A man like no other, Joe lives a life that cannot be replicated, and yet everything about what he does is a perfect example of what “A Friar Life” can be. Serving as the conclusion of (the first season) of “A Friar Life,” this video of his life captures yet another example of what it means to be a Franciscan friar in the world today.

For email subscribers, click here to watch the video of Joe’s life.

This is the fifth episode of an ongoing series. For the previous episode, click here.

In any organization, team, or family, there’s always that one person who does such a fantastic job at what they do and gains such popularity that everyone else around them looks good and shares in their fame. For the Franciscans of Holy Name Province, that’s Fr. Dan Horan, OFM. Author of a blog, countless articles, and more than a few books; professor of graduate education and guest lecturer throughout the English-speaking world; popular preacher and engaging priest booked years in advance; and worldwide expert on Thomas Merton and John Duns Scotus, Dan has gotten his name out there a bit since becoming a friar in 2005… Still unsure whether or not he actually sleeps, he told me once, in a typical Dan way, that he doesn’t “spend day and night tirelessly working to get everything done,” he’s just “very efficient at getting things done quickly.”

I’m not ruling out that he’s a vampire though…

Whatever it is and however he’s able to do it, the truth of the matter is that Dan is a brilliant scholar, a hardworking man, and passionate friar that has always been a joy to be around. Despite his tremendously long list of accolades and accomplishments, he is quick with a joke at his own expense, easy to talk with, and a great guy to share a life with. Come August, after I make my solemn profession, I will have the privilege of living in community with him in Chicago and taking one of his courses at the Catholic Theological Union.

For email subscribers, click here to watch the video of Dan’s life.

This is the fourth episode of an ongoing series. For the previous episode, click here.

When most people think of the essentials of living a Franciscan life there are a few things that come to everyone’s mind: humility, simplicity, fraternity, care for creation, and an intimate prayer life, to name a few. And these are all absolutely right. But having lived this life for almost six years, I can say that there is one often-forgotten aspect that might be most essential of all: joy.

What made St. Francis so inspiring to his early followers, and what has kept this order alive for more than 800 years, is the joy he experienced in life, in prayer, and in his interaction with the world. It’s been said that St. Francis never truly got over the fact that God loved him, that he lived until the moment he died with the unbridled joy of one who has recently fallen in love. Christian life for him was not one of sadness or stoicism, it was a life of profound thanksgiving and constant rejoicing as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sake. While some may not see this in his life of mostly ascetic prayer and fasting, the joy of being a son of the Father was the very reason for everything he did. Even in suffering, there can be laughter and rejoicing because of our eternal destination.

There are few people I know that live with as much optimism and joy as Br. Angel Vazquez, OFM, one of our student friars studying in Chicago. Angel is the type of brother who is always at the center of a loud conversation, always with a smile on his face, and always bringing levity to a tense situation. I had the joy of living with Angel for a year and enjoyed his presence greatly. He lives his emotions on his sleeves and doesn’t hold back, and is a great instigator of friar game nights and outings to keep us a lively bunch. In a world where everything means so much and we’re given so much serious responsibility in people’s lives, it is Angel’s joy that reminds me how essential it is to our charism: we could not do the things we do unless we had the joy of being loved by God. Unless we’re able to step back from time to time and laugh until our stomachs hurt, we’ll never make it in this life.

This is the third episode of an ongoing series. For the previous episode, click here.

Fr. Bill McConville is a formidable man. Intellectually, he is a well-read scholar that can speak intelligently on everything from 17th century literature to medieval philosophy to modern world history. Professionally, his resumé is as solid as it gets, having lectured and taught at many distinguished schools before serving as a president of a university. Socially, he speaks with a powerful voice and tremendous confidence, attracting the company and respect of a wide array of people. And of course, physically, he is not exactly the average 70-year old, still training heavily and toning his body to peak condition.

In many ways, as even he would put it himself, he has lived a privileged life. From an early age, he was simply good at things and people wanted to be around him. Success by association.

And yet, no one knows more than him how flawed he truly is and how much he needs Jesus in his life. Despite all appearances of perfection—including what can be considered a fairly healthy ego—what has impressed me most in the last year living with Fr. Bill is not what he can do, it’s his willingness to openly share what he can’t. Of all the friars I’ve lived with over the past six years, I have not met a friar willing to be as vulnerable with the community and share who he truly is. At 70 years old—a lifetime behind him with more accomplishments to shake a stick at—he is a man continuing to battle himself in this life of conversion.

For me, that’s an essential piece of what it means to live A Friar Life. Called to humility before our Lord, there is no room to rest on our laurels and expect to be revered because of what we’ve done: our journey of living as Christ in the world is never complete.

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This is the second episode of an ongoing series. For the previous episode, click here.

Few friars command a presence quite like Fr. Patrick Tuttle, OFM. Capable of rousing a packed Church with a spirit-filled homily in the morning, inspiring a board room of executives and donors to support the mission in the afternoon, and bringing down the house as a larger-than-life DJ for receptions and fundraisers in the evening, there are few social situations in which “Fr. Pat” fails to thrive. If he’s around, you can bet that there’s energy in the room.

At 18 years old and just entering college when I met Fr. Pat (or FP as we called him) in 2007, I didn’t quite know what to make of him. Here was a man unlike any other priest I had ever met. On the surface, he was younger than any priest I had ever known, he wore funny clothes, and his homilies were not only “tolerable,” they were actually inspiring, moving, and dare I say… entertaining! But there was so much more. As much as his charismatic and extraverted public persona attracted attention and defined his reputation, I became interested in Fr. Pat because of the intensity and integrity with which he lived his life for the Christian mission. Never satisfied with “good enough,” he challenged the students of Furman University Catholic Campus Ministry to approach every situation with nuanced answers and hard work. Often apologizing for nitpicking our answers to questions of faith or approaches to campus issues, he never let us settle for half-truths or easy answers that left certain people out, diminished the wonderful intellectual tradition of the Church, or short cuts that didn’t truly finish the job. The people of God, I will paraphrase him saying, deserve our best.

It is not a stretch to say that I am a friar today because of his influence in my life. Inviting me to a leadership position during my freshman year, encouraging me to spend a summer living and working at his church, and constantly asking, insisting, nagging, pushing, and demanding that I consider becoming a friar (seriously, it was a bit embarrassing at times), Fr. Pat saw it as is personal mission to make sure the friars didn’t die out on his watch. Seeing potential in me, he nurtured a vocation I didn’t know I even had until I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Who knows where I would be had he just taken “no” for an answer…

Luckily, we will never know, and in this universe Breaking In The Habit still exists to tell the story. As with Br. Fred’s video, there was simply too much to share of Fr. Patrick’s life to fit into one video but I hope it serves as another adequate piece of our lives as friars.

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