A few months ago, I posted a video entitled, “What Happens When We Get Old?” a reflection on having retirement houses for men who have served the Church their entire lives. I pointed out that, even though unable to engage in active ministry, these men were still friars and continued to live as the rest of the active friars do, praying, eating, and communing together as a fraternity. Regardless of their ability, they’re still brothers.

What I didn’t mention in that video, though,  is how this is all possible.

In this week’s “A Friar Life,” I present Br. Bob Frazetta, OFM, the guardian of that house, to show that not all of friar life is focused outwards. Sometimes, the ministry of a brother is to the brothers. Br. Bob spends his entire day making sure that this life is still possible for our elderly brothers, taking care of the bills, organizing recreation, leading prayer, and shuttling the brothers to where they need to go.

As you can imagine, it is not the most glamorous of positions; guys don’t exactly join the friars for this job. And yet, it is a critical part of our lives. Sometimes, we are called to do what is not glamorous, what is not popular, what will not make us “liked” by the outside world, but to simply serve our brothers who have served so many. As much as we think of the friars as out saving the world, it wouldn’t be possible without men like Br. Bob working internally.

And for that, we thank him.

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These are surreal times, they are. I am in quite the liminal state, passing between what seems to be entirely different lives. For the past couple of month, I have felt caught between two worlds: the world of formation with the friars and the world of being a priest. With each new day passing, part of the previous world passes away, and part of the new world comes into focus. For someone that naturally lives in the future and moves on quickly, the last few months have been especially difficult to keep my feet on the ground in the present moment.

On Tuesday, the ground disappeared. We have reached full liminal state here.

You see, on Tuesday, I finished my last day of class. Ever. I am no longer a student of any school, and I have no intention of ever returning in the future. As I write this, in fact, the students of my former school are gathering for graduation… as I make one final exercise of protest, sitting in my room writing, editing a video, and packing rather than attending.

Yeah. I’m done with school. And you can’t make me go to graduation.

For the next three weeks (and undoubtedly a few months thereafter as my paperwork for faculties awaits processing…) I will find myself without a clear identity, without a direct purpose, and, interestingly enough, without a home. No longer a student, not yet a priest; no longer a resident of Chicago, not yet moved in to Georgia. It’s a weird state to be in. While what I share in this video is a lot of excitement, I can’t say that I’m exactly giddy, nor am I nervous. After a long semester, a long year, a long 8 years in formation… I find myself a bit tired, and a bit unsure.

Not unsure of my vocation. No, not that. Just unsure of what I should be doing in this exact moment. Being in between two worlds, I have a (literal) pile of things that need taken care of immediately (packing, cleaning, editing videos) and yet nothing pressing at all; being in between two worlds, I don’t really have any serious responsibilities to take care of, which means that I have nothing to keep me sharp and on point. Maybe I’ll edit a video… or maybe I’ll just lie on my bed in the midst of a half-torn-apart room and take a nap.

(Which is, by the way, why the next “A Friar Life” may not be ready tomorrow. Just warning you.)

I’m happy and excited about a door closing in my life, happy and excited about a door soon to open, but find myself in between, tired and a bit apathetic. And I’m okay with that. Over the next month before ordination, I will wrap up things in this house, move my stuff into my new house, take a few weeks vacation, and take a week of silent retreat. I will undoubtedly pull back my social media activity in that time (although not entirely), and hope, after my liminal cocoon, be back this summer a somewhat different person.

Peace and good to everyone!

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This week on the podcast, Br. Tito and I discuss song lyrics we find interesting.

The issue of communion, particularly “who is allowed to receive,” is a topic that I run up against often. Many people have questions, and I am happy to talk about it.

That said, I find it to be one of the most frustrating topics to discuss. I can talk myself blue in the face and make no progress. There is a disconnect in communication, it seems, and I never seem to be speaking the same language as those who are curious.

The problem, I see, is that I can never get people to break out of a fundamentally private, individualistic notion of faith. Many think that because they believe in the real presence of the Eucharist and are approaching the altar with good faith that they should be welcomed. Who are we do “deny” them entry to Christ. “I am a follower of Christ. I believe in the real presence of the Eucharist. Why can’t I receive?” It seems wholly unChristian, just the work of an exclusivist Church that wants people to jump through hoops.

At work here, whether fully expressed or not, is a very problematic Eucharistic theology, at least from the Catholic perspective. Driving one’s desire to attend and receive is the notion of the Eucharist as a holy commodity, a “thing” that will bring us closer to God and make us better people. Even the way we speak of it betrays this idea: “We go to mass to get grace.” (For further evidence, notice how many leave right after receiving communion rather than staying for the closing prayer and blessing.) While others might be gathered in the same place for the same reason, at its core, Mass is nothing more than a very holy convenience store: we come in, follow the protocols, wait in line, and get what we want. There could be 1000 people or just me, it wouldn’t matter. We come to get Jesus.

From that mindset, I completely understand their frustration. It does seem exclusivist for the Church to restrict this. If Mass is nothing more than a believer wanting to come to Jesus and receive grace, then who are we to deny them that opportunity?

Of course… Mass is much more than that.

And here’s the point that I work so hard to get people to understand but find myself constantly running into a wall: the Eucharist is not a private act. Personal, yes. Absolutely. It is deeply personal. But there is hardly a less private act in the entire life of the Church! What we do, we do together. What we receive, we receive together. In the Eucharist, we receive the body and blood of Christ, yes, but we also give of ourselves to God and one another; we lay our sacrifices on the altar, pray in one voice, confess our need for mercy, and share peace with one another. The Eucharist is not simply the reception of a commodity, not simply about what God does for me; it is a communal celebration in which we gives thanks for what God has done for us.

Christian life is not a solitary act but one that is innately communal. When we speak of the body of Christ, we of course mean the Eucharistic species we receive from the altar, but we must also speak of the community that does the receiving: when we take Christ into ourselves, we become that body, united with Christ and one another. This act of receiving serves as a covenant in blood for those who receive, symbolizing the one baptism that we all share, but also constituting the one community that we make. That’s the beauty of the sacraments: they make present what they symbolize. In this case, what the sacrament makes present is not simply the Eucharistic species, but the community, bound by the blood of the lamb.

If someone is not a part of the community, doesn’t want to be a part of it, or has actually hurt the community, how can they take part in a celebration that symbolizes and constitutes community? That is the question we as Catholics ask when people who do not regularly come to Mass want to receive. It is not enough to believe in the real presence just as it is not enough to call him “Lord”; even the demons recognize this. To be a part of the celebration, one must break out of their private, individualistic notion of faith and realize that faith is inherently communal; they must make a commitment beyond themselves to be a part of the larger mission of Christ; they must be willing to pour out their own blood, lay down their own lives, and carry their own cross for the person to their right and to their left.

Anything less, really, and all the Eucharist becomes is a private commodity meant for me. Surely, it’s more than that, right?

For those who have followed me from the beginning, you know that my Franciscan journey has been one of managing my idealistic notion of what this life should be with what I (and my brothers) are actually capable of. I have chosen to speak about this much less in recent years, partially because the issues are no longer new, partially because the mission of Breaking in the Habit has changed, and partially… because the idealism of the beginning has been replaced with acceptance, for better or for worse.

Such is the case for us all, I guess.

But just because I don’t talk about my struggles of living this life as much—keeping my disappointments and aspirations a bit more hidden—doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. On a regular basis, if I am honest with myself, I find that I am a complete letdown to the life that St. Francis began (not to the Order as it exists today. There is a big difference.)

That’s not to say that there isn’t some hope in this still. Even as I fall short, I still find myself further along the path than I was or would have been without this life. And for that, I continue.