One Down, One to Go

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As I mentioned in the last post, I had planned on bringing my computer with me on our six day, double workshop trip this week so that I could reflect as it was happening. Realizing Tuesday before we left that it might be more of a distraction than an aid, I decided against it (evident from the lack of posts since then). It has ultimately been a good decision, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use my iPhone to offer a sneak peak as to what’s to come…

Let’s see… There were 56 people from almost a dozen different Franciscan communities present… The building was 8 stories tall on the side of a mountain (the picture above is one of the many stunning views)… Dennis, Sergio and I starred in a talent show act with about 24 hours preparation, Ron did a stand up act, Ramon did a Filipino dance, and Ed sang some songs in Spanish… We spent the afternoon today at a Poor Clare monastery laughing almost constantly… and now we’re essentially the only people in one of the most formidable buildings ever built waiting for a workshop called “The Future of the Church.”

Wow. It’s been an exhausting week so far, and there’s more to come! I promise a full report, loads of pictures, and maybe even a video when we get back…

New Photos Website!

As some of you may have noticed, the Photos tab at the top of the screen is very difficult to format and is often completely jumbled. After a lot of work, I have found an alternative: a Shutterfly website. Similar to Photobucket, Flickr, and Picasa, Shutterfly is a website that allows users to upload and organize pictures easily and neatly. It’s not 100% updated yet, but I thought I would share it with everyone while I’m working on it.

There are a number of ways to find it: 1) type breakinginthehabit.shutterfly.com into your web browser and bookmark the page, 2) go to the old Photos page and click the link, or 3) click “Shutterfly Website” on the right side of the screen underneath the picture of the habit.

I will let everyone know in a new post when I upload new pictures so there’s no need to check it everyday. Hopefully this works out better than the other Photos page did!

The postulants and I are off to back-to-back workshops tomorrow so look for some posts towards the end of the week! Thanks again for reading!

The Lower Delaware Friars

Part of Francis' great witness to the pope was his emphasis on community

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.

The Other Half of the Trip

Once a stronghold for the Franciscans, northern New Jersey used to be place with dozens of churches run by the friars. As the demographics began to shift in the middle of the last century, Holy Name Province began returning churches to the diocese, freeing them up to hold posts in areas with greater need. Of the locations left, we visited Church of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady in Wodridge, NJ, Saint Anthony’s Church in Butler, NJ (both parish and retirement home), Saint Bonaventure Church in Paterson, NJ, and finally Saint Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, NJ.

Despite the relatively close proximity of these churches (within an hour), there was a distinct character to each that I’m sure is a reflection of the congregation and its needs. The activities varied considerably from church to church, ranging from youth ministry to drug counseling, adult education to elementary schools, outreach to contemplation, even ranging a bit between traditional and progressive. It was really interesting for me to see how much of a difference there can be, even in the same ministry (parish) led by the same people (friars of Holy Name Province).

One of the inevitable things I find myself wondering when we visited each new location was, “Can I see myself here in a few years?” (This is often compounded when each community attempts to “woo” us so that we will request placement there one day.) For each of the New Jersey houses, there was at least one thing that was very familiar and interesting, as well as at least one thing that was very off-putting or disappointing. I found both of these aspects to be very helpful: It helped me to remain open to new possibilities, new ministries, and new friars, offering an aspect of comfort along with a strong motivation to improve the aspects I found lacking.

Certainly it’s a long way away, (and trust me, I’m in no position to critique, especially not here) but I found the whole experience to be a great exercise in discernment. It allowed me to think about God’s call to me within a real, concrete possibility. It’s one thing to think in abstracts and to let my mind entertain a world of infinite possibilities, but it’s also helpful to look at already established ministries run by actual friars and discern the my life in each. Overall, I was affirmed once again in my Franciscan vocation and continue to look with eagerness as what lies ahead.

More pictures to come soon!

New York, New York

It's hard to believe that this isn't even half of the city!

Despite Mother Nature throwing us a curveball with ten inches of snow (in October no less!), the Postulants are back safe and sound in good ol’ Wilmington, Delaware. It was a fast couple of days with a lot to share about, but I have to be completely honest: everything we did on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday did not compare to all we did in New York City on Friday. The other days were great in their own way, and my next post will definitely be a reflection on some great ministries in our province, but New York just deserves it’s own post.

Arriving at the parking deck in Midtown Manhattan about 9:00, we began our walk through the city to our first destination, the St. Francis Residences. Started in 1980, this ministry offers permanent housing for the homeless, mentally ill population in the city, with room for 240 residents across three locations. Not only is the housing offered at a dramatically reduced rate, the friars and staff offer medical assistance, dining services, entertainment, and general guidance as well. We spent an hour in the morning touring the building on W. 22nd St. and meeting a few of the residents.

From there, we continued south towards the water for a little sightseeing and a walk on The High Line. Built just a few years back, The High Line is an old elevated train track that was converted into a green walking trail, filled with wild plants, flowers, and well manicured grass. Given it’s location (both in the city and heigh above the street), it is a great place to go for a walk and relax in such a fast-paced city.

After a nice walk and a quick lunch, we started walking north for a bit more tourism. Because I’m a huge fan of the NBC show 30 Rock, I made sure we stopped at the Rockefeller Center on our way by to get a picture and in hopes of spotting Tina Fey. Sadly, I left with only the former. Walking just a block to the east, we found ourselves at the gorgeous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Though both of these destinations were quite breathtaking, and certainly popular for a reason, there is a little known gem right in between them that I found most interesting: St. Francis. Carved into the wall of a shop, he is depicted as a simple man, quietly living out his life of the Gospel in the shadows of enormous power and wealth of both the Church and business. What symbolism of his life and work! I wonder if the person who put it there knew what they were implying…

By then it was time to get on the subway and meet the friars at the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus. Built in 1868, this church has a long history of both growth and decline in a city that is always changing. Taken over by the friars in 1990, it has adapted well to changing demographics and population in the city, and is a key element to the life of the neighborhood. It’s school continues to teach grades K-8, they run a thrift shop, and hold outreach meetings for the community almost constantly throughout the day.

With only a few hours left in the day, we rushed around to fit in a few more sights before we left. Since we were in the area, we walked over to St. John the Divine, an Episcopal church, and easily the largest church I’ve ever seen. From there we took the subway all the way down to the water so that we could take the Staten Island Ferry and pass the Statue of Liberty on her 125th anniversary. (Talk about dumb luck on our part! We had no idea!) And as a last hoorah, we took the subway into the Village for some pizza and Italian pastries.

All in all, we got to see two incredible Franciscan ministries and a great view of the city. A suburban kid myself, the city was a great spectacle and a lot of fun. At this point in my formation, though, it seems entirely overwhelming to think about myself a ministry as large as these, but I’m open to the possibility!

Check back soon to see all the places in New Jersey we visited this weekend, and checkout the updated Photos page for new pictures!