On The Road… Again!

I'm starting to get used to living out of one of these!

It case it wasn’t apparent enough, the Postulant year has a lot of traveling: in two months, we’ve been to Camden, Philadelphia, New York City, Cincinnati, Esopus NY, and Margate City NJ, not to mention all of the daily traveling we do within an hour of our house. In keeping with this theme, we’re leaving today for a whirlwind tour of northern New Jersey and New York City in hopes of better acquainting ourselves with the ministries of Holy Name Province. Between now and Sunday night, we plan on stopping at seven different sites run by the province, ranging from suburban parishes to an innercity hotel for the mentally ill.

There’s no doubt that this will be a fast-paced trip and I unfortunately see absolutely no opportunity for posting until Monday. Check back then for some reflections and some great pictures!

Franciscan Funnies

Religious life is not all about work and prayer: laughter and joy are just as key to a healthy religious life, if not more! One of the things I love about the Franciscans is that they are very down-to-earth, enjoy having a sense of humor, and rarely put on a face of false piety. Because of this, we’ve often been depicted as foolish or simple minded in many jokes, looking less serious and organized than our Jesuit or Dominican counterparts. Obviously there’s some historic truth to this, but I think what it says most is that we embrace our sense of humor as much as anyone. I hope that the three jokes I’ve picked will bring a little laughter and joy to your busy day!

Stranded on a deserted island: A Dominican, a Jesuit, and a Franciscan were stranded on a deserted island for many years. One day, they found a lamp buried in the sand, and out popped a Genie. The genie said to them, “Thank you so much for setting me free from my lamp! I will grant each of you one wish to show my gratitude!”

The Jesuit spoke first: “I long to be back at the university where I study and teach once more. Please, send me back, away from here!” Poof, he was gone. The Dominican spoke next: “I long to be back with the people, preaching the word of God in the streets and in the church. Please, send me back, away from here!” Poof, he was gone. After thinking long and hard, the Franciscan spoke last: “I kind of miss those guys. Can you bring them back?”

Power Outage: A Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit were concelebrating the Mass when the power suddenly went out in the church. The Franciscan took great joy in opportunity for simplicity, and sat in quiet prayer in the dark. The Dominican took the opportunity to give an eloquent sermon about how God is the light for the world, leading all out of darkness. Seeing the responses of his two concelebrants, the Jesuit went downstairs to the basement and fixed the fuse.

The First Charism: Saints Benedict, Dominic, Ignatius, and Francis were in heaven arguing over which of their charisms was most primordial. Saint Benedict said: “All the way in the garden of Eden, all that existed was work and prayer, ‘Ora et Labora,’ therefore we are first.” Dominic jumped in, “Hold on. In order for Eden to be created, God had to speak, and so the Word was first. Dominicans are older.” Ignatius, feeling quite confident, said, “But even before that, there was chaos, and the lord gave creation structure and order. The Jesuits are clearly first.” Chuckling to himself, Francis agreed: “You’re right. First came chaos!”

The Test Results Are In…

As if my personality could be contained by letters, numbers, and lines!

Though driving ten hours both ways in a mini-van with five other guys and then spending a week with twenty other men can be an experience in and of itself… there was a more practical agenda to our trip to Cincinnati: Inner reflection and community life. Led by Br. Tim Lamb, OFM, we spent the week taking personality tests and analyzing the results so that we could better know ourselves and our brothers. Here’s what I found out about myself:

Myers-Briggs: Of the 16 possible personality types, mine is INFJ, meaning that I’m introverted, tend to look at the big picture rather than the details, act more subjectively than objectively, and prefer a plan rather than “play it by ear.” I’m told that INFJ’s are driven by their values and take great stock in their insights, leading them to be outspoken about meaningful topics. With a strong compassion for others, IN’s are a bit more inclined to reading people than others, and are good as leading by persuasion. Combined with the emphasis on planning, INFJ’s are usually seen as visionaries that seek social change, for better or for worse (I’ve seen both Ghandi and Hitler as famous INFJ’s). My favorite description of this personality type is that of a “friendly antagonist,” something that I’m sure many of you that know me will find very entertaining.

FIRO-B: The three pairs of numbers on the bottom of the page represent my expressed and desired amounts of Inclusion, Control, and Affection. The first thing you’ll notice is that I changed my control scores to make them higher. Typical… and ironic. Like most, I have a need for affection but am very hesitant to show it, and have a high desire to be included in others’ plans, whether I have to make the first move or not.

Leadership Matrix: The final test is depicted by the zigzag line in the center. Based on four categories, Assertiveness, Sociability, Emotional Response (to change), and Readjustment (or how much outer authority is preferred), the scale ranges from Low to High based on one’s preferred leadership style, with the red line representing work and the black line representing home. The high A suggests that I like to take control, but the even higher S means that I do it in a persuasive, rather than dominating, way. I’m confortable with change, but am more willing to look to the authority of others before acting.

Though I find these results to be fairly accurate to my own perception of self, I think it’s important when taking them to remember that they’re only an outward expression, even symptom, of a much more complex inner self. To use these results as a form of categorization or even limitation of relationships would be of no service to anyone. To prevent this sort of thing from happening, it’s important that we use the results as a very basic first step in truly getting to know ourselves and our communities. The better questions might be: Why am I driven by my intuition rather than my senses? Why do I find it difficult to be in situations without a clear plan or leader? Why am I hesitant to show affection but have no problem receiving it? If we don’t move beyond the simple “what” of these results into a relationship that seeks to know “why” a person scores the way they do, we are living a superficial relationship at best, and risk limiting our relationships to boxes and easy categorizations at worst.

For us in community, the test results are in: how are we going to use them? How would Francis use them?

“And The Lord Gave Me…Cousins?”

My future “cousins”

There is a friar in our province that shared with us a bit of playful advice prior to traveling to Cincinnati and meeting the other postulants: “Just remember, the guys from your own province are your brothers. The ones from the other provinces are just your cousins… you don’t have to love them as much.” Even typing here in the room, by myself, I find myself laughing out loud.

Though this friar was [mostly] kidding, this sort of statement is clearly a sentiment held historically among the provinces. Almost every American province was founded independent of one another, and because they were originally organized based on language and culture, not geography, there was little cooperation even between different friars living in the same city. Over time, each province began to develop a distinct personality, each of which was Franciscan, but each of which was unique to each other. Even today, despite losing the majority of our cultural ties, there is still a distinct philosophy to each province that is evident in the way new members are formed, which ministries are emphasized, and so on. They’re part of the same family, but probably don’t have the same parents as us.

To say that I didn’t notice these differences, even in a short week, would be a lie. After meeting 15 different guys from four other provinces and hearing about their experiences in the past two months, the friars they know, the ministries they offer, and their plans for formation, I can see very clearly a difference in culture. But to say that we are all fundamentally different, enough so to reserve for each other the title of “cousin” rather than brother, is simply nonsense. The existence of workshops like these and an inter-provincial Novitiate next year says to me that the leaders of each province think the same.

All-in-all, I found this week to be a great experience in community building. I found the differences based on province, as well as different individual personalities, to be both challenging and enriching. I met people that I’m very exited to get to know better and live with; I met people that I could not stand to be near and dread the idea of living with them. In both cases though, I had to remind myself that brotherhood is not about being best friends or hanging out with like it’s a freshman dorm: it’s about upholding one another in faith and sacrifice, mutually existing for the sake of the Gospel.

When Francis famously wrote, “And the Lord gave me brothers,” I can imagine him with great elation, overjoyed with the joy of such a gift. I can also imagine him saying it with a bit of sarcasm, wondering why his life was burdened with such annoying men all around him. I imagine he spoke from both perspectives throughout his life as a brother. In the end, though, he never said, “And the Lord gave me cousins.” They were all his brothers, as all of these men will be mine.

Road Trip!

Yeah, it's a long one today.

So it's 5am here in Wilmington and we are packed and ready to go on our first long road trip! Hopefully arriving before dinner tonight, we'll be in Milford, Ohio until Friday afternoon for a profiling workshop. What's different about this workshop is that it is a gathering together of only OFM Franciscans in our first year. I'm excited to get to meet all the other Postulants across the country, as it is highly likely we'll be living together next year at the Novitiate.
I'm not bringing my computer with me so don't expect a post until at least Saturday! Have a great week everyone!