Sound Familiar?

Can you picture a friend in this life?

At this point, it’s been 20 posts since I started blogging, and so far I’ve shared my story of being called to faith, introduced a few topics that I’m discerning, given some detail to the daily life of a postulant, and given a brief look to the future. All things considered, even without knowing me personally, those of you who have read my blog up until this point have a basic understanding of who I am and what my calling is.

Which leads me to a question, and a break from my normal style of post: do the things I share about myself and my vocation sound familiar to any of you? Is there someone that you know that thinks about the same things, wants to make a difference in the world, and maybe even looks good in brown? The reason I ask is because I find this life to be the most joyous and fulfilling option out there, and I want to share it with everyone! It’s amazing to think that there are others, like me, that would have never even considered it without the suggestion or support from a friend, and yet are tailor-made by God for such a giving and joyous life. If that’s the case for someone you know, PLEASE TELL THEM! I am so glad that God worked through others to help me get to where I am, and I know so many others that think the same.

I’d be ecstatic if you went out on a limb and forwarded this blog to potential guys, even if you think they wouldn’t be interested. (I listened to “you’d make a great friar” for more than a year before I actually heard it for the first time! Some of us are more stubborn than others…) Though I started this to keep in touch with friends and family, I realized pretty early that it could be an aid for those discerning, for those who my have questions, and for those who had never really been introduced to the friars to get a glimpse of the life; it’s certainly something that I looked for in my process. Who knows! You may be the person they look back to and thank for leading them to such an incredible life!

If you think something a bit more professional or “official” would work better, by all means, check out what the province has to offer. Fr. Brian Smail, the vocations director, is really on top of using all sorts of mediums to attract young men, and it’s no surprise that there is so much interest over the past few years. There is a vocation’s blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Podcasts made by Br. Dan Horan, youtube videos, and of course, the main information website. Check them out and see what you think!

I hope that you’ll think deeply about aiding in the vocational calling of both men and women around you, and won’t be afraid to speak up when you meet a great candidate. I know it’s a bit different than my normal posts, and I thank those who read anyway, but I just feel so passionately about this decision that I want everyone to know that it’s an option. Thanks for humoring me!

As a final note, if you’d like to receive an email notifying you whenever I post, you can sign up for a subscription on the right side of the screen. All you need is an email address.

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“Franciscan” Cinema

As we begin to investigate the plethora of material about Francis in order to better know and follow him, we begin this week with cinema: Brother Sun Sister Moon, Francesco, and Into the Wild. All of the movies share a “franciscan” spirit, but differ greatly in style and content.

I’m sorry to all of you that grew up in the 1960s and 70s, but this movie was awful. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (the same guy who did Romeo and Juliet), everything about this movie reflects the hippie culture in which it was made. Focusing almost exclusively on Francis’ connection with nature, the movie is filled with scenes of him running through flowery fields, smiling and singing to animals, and carelessly and aimlessly frolicking through life like someone on psychedelic drugs. I found him to be very socially awkward and out of touch, two things that Francis very much was not.

Undoubtedly aware of the frilly, hippie-like depictions of Francis that are very common, Francesco attempted to place Francis, in all of his raw humanity, accurately into the 13th century world. Using fairly graphic images, it follows him through his experience of pride and indulgence in his youth, barbaric tragedies while he was at war, and real struggles with pain, lust, confusion, and ridicule after his conversion. There is a relatable humanity in his experience, and a realism in his conversion. Poverty appears to be the most emphasized aspect of this movie, but it does an adequate job of showing the development of brotherhood (even showing the disorganization and mutiny that ensued, showing the real human problems that he faced).

The last movie we watched was not about Francis per se, but dealt with a number of issues that Francis did in his early life. Into the Wild is a movie about a college graduate that feels alienated by his upper middle class family, confined by society’s definitions of “free,” and “happy,” and in search of a life with deeper meaning than money can buy. Without telling his parents, he gives away his money, burns his social security card, and sets out to live in complete isolation from all forms of society, finding life outside of society to be the height of existence (in a nonconformist and escapism sort of way). As a rugged individual too guarded for intimacy, he begins to shape the lives of those he encounters, but refuses to see any one of them as more than utilitarian in his own life. It’s only at the very end of his journey that he realizes, “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Each movie had a quality to it that I found very endearing, while also having some major flaws. From what I read about Francis and what drew me to this life, was that his conversion was motivated by love of his brother and sister, seeking to be a humble servant to all as Jesus did. Though he expressed this by regaining touch with God’s creation, lowering himself in status and power, and leaving his old self behind, he did not find any one of these things to be an end in themselves. Some aspects of the movies captured his humanity quite well, depicting him as an ENFP (or at least that’s how I see him); other aspects romanticized him a bit too much, stripping him of any flaw or human quality. I think the latter is a great detriment to his life. Ultimately, each captures a unique aspect of the great man that I find so inspiring and hope to be worthy of following some day.

A Day Off… kind of

I didn't even have to fake being sick!

As I said in Far From Routine, we have a “plan” for each week; whether or not we stick to it is a completely different story. Part of this plan is that Saturdays and Sundays are left as free as possible, requiring us to attend mass, prayer, and meals, but allowing us the freedom to do whatever we need to relax and recharge. Since we’ve been either traveling or in workshops each weekend since we arrived, today became “kind of” one of those free days. We started with prayer and mass this morning, but don’t have any responsibilities until evening prayer, dinner, and a movie about Francis later tonight.

Which leaves me with a million dollar question: what should I do with my day “off”? At the risk of scheduling my whole day with work, I’d like to take advantage of the rare freedom to get some things done that I’ve been putting off.

As if I were still in school, there is a tower of reading (both personal and assigned) that I would like to catch up on. This includes: Where is God by Jon Sobrino, a reflection on the earthquake that hit El Salvador in 2001 and an incredible work in theodicy; Francis of Assisi- The Saint- Volume 1, a compilation of the early documents written by or about Francis, including the famous biography by Thomas of Celano; Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes, two of the most critical documents that came out of the Second Vatican Council, and documents that I’ve skimmed before but would like to read in full; and always, The New American Bible, something that I would like to make time for every day.

Remembering that I’m not still in school, I will not, however, be spending the whole day catching up on reading, no matter how high the stack gets. I’ve just heard from one of the postulants that we’ve finally found the key to the giant bell tower at our church, and we will be exploring that later. I will of course be bringing my camera, and hopefully there’s a great view from the city worth posting! I’d also like to do a bit of exploring of the city, possibly even having lunch downtown somewhere. Wilmington is small, and despite what our neighborhood looks like, the downtown is kind of nice.

At some point during the day I will have to do a bit of real work, as indicated in the “kind of” part of the title. Each of us has a set of chores that need to be completed each week, and given our busy schedules, there’s not a whole lot of time to do them except on our day off. I’m in charge of the second floor hallway, the recreation room and bathroom, and the staircases. It’ll be a bit of work, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to (or feel like) finishing it all today, but they’ll get done. I think it’s an important part of community for each of us to share a significant portion of the work, no matter how new or old, qualified or unqualified.

Last but certainly not least, I would like to set aside part of my day for intentional prayer and reflection. Even in religious community, it can be easy to check prayer off the list each day (or to even skip it) and move on quickly to the next thing. There are a list of topics that I have been paying particularly close attention to, and I would like some more time to pray about them. Check back later tonight to see which one I chose to focus on!

And with that, it’s time to get off the computer and start enjoying my day! Have a great day and thanks for reading!

New Community at the Castle

Mount Saint Alphonsus was built in 1907 as a seminary

Given the history and nature of religious orders in the United States, the majority of the communities spread across the country are either headquartered or have distinct roots in the northeast. Thus, one of the advantages of having our formation process in this area is that there are numerous groups of men and women at the same stage of formation as we are here in Wilmington, allowing for us to form a larger network of support and overall growth.

For example, this weekend we attended a workshop organized by the Religious Formation Conference (RFC) in Esophus, NY. About 20-30 men and women (ranging in experience from 2 days to 3 years in formation) spent the weekend learning about different prayers, discussing our experiences in small groups, practicing each prayer in private, and getting to know the groups and individuals represented on a personal level.

The workshop portion of the weekend, and by that I mean the organized activities, was a bit broad and lacked the depth that I was expecting (if I can be completely honest). The speaker was obviously experienced in each of these prayers, and had a lot to offer. The problem was that she tried to fit a lot of different types of prayers into a day and a half rather than focusing on just one prayer and giving it a lot of attention. Part of it is certainly the limitation of the group: because it is made up of a wide range of experience levels, and because each religious order has different expectations for their formation students, there needs to be a broader, one-size-fits-all atmosphere in order to include everyone.

This is not to say that I was disappointed in the experience; far from it! What was missing in the organized activities was more than made up in private conversations, fellowship at meals, new relationships, and my own personal broadening of “vocation.” In talking about our religious calls, our vocation processes, the struggles we were facing, and our visions for the future, I found myself taking part in the “catholic” aspect of our church: though unified in our call from God and mission to uphold the life of the Church, we went about expressing each of these in entirely different ways. I was fascinated beyond imagination to hear about the different spiritualities, how each group was coping with a changing world, the vision of the founder, and their day-to-day lives.

In hearing each of them speak, I was also more than reaffirmed of my own Franciscan spirituality, the order I am joining, the way we do things and the way we don’t do other things. There is certainly a reason why people join one group over another! As we go to these workshops throughout the year, I have no intention of switching groups or changing spiritualities; but I do hope that in building these relationships I may be able to enrich my faith with new ideas, as well as to enrich others’ with a Franciscan way of looking at something.

Given the title I chose for this post, I couldn’t close without saying a world about the retreat house. WOW! Just look at it. It’s enormous! It was built in 1907 by Redemptorist Congregation as a seminary for its aspiring priests. I’ve added my own pictures to the shutterfly page, and you can learn more about it’s history here. We’re going back in November, so look forward to pictures of the place surrounded by fall leaves!