Francis of Assisi, the Communion of Saints and His Sons


san franciscoThis is turning into the most amazing “St. Francis Week” that I’ve ever experienced.  I know that some people may not understand this, but there is no magic or mythology here.  The Communion of Saints is real and we can experience it in our lives.  Maybe we can’t experience it often; but it’s there.

On Saturday, another brother and I gave a talk on the Franciscans of Life and Project Joseph, our ministry to dads in crisis pregnancies.  We spoke before an audience of 350 or more people.  In order to prepare, Brother and I coordinated.  Before I knew it, we had fliers, a YouTube channel for the Franciscan Brothers of Life and a link to our web page, which I’m hoping that one of our brothers who is a geek can touch up, because it needs updating.

Nevertheless, during those few days leading up to the conference, Brother was also getting ready to leave town for a few days.  We had to work together, work quickly, work well and pray that everything would go without a glitch.  I should mention that Brother and I have never given a presentation together.

What transpired was incredible.  We not only presented and people loved the presentation, but we enjoyed being together and working on a common project.  I must state here that this brother is young enough to be my son.  I mean truly.  He’s actually three months older than my biological son.   However, no one would have noticed the age difference were it not for our physical appearance.  There was a harmony, comradery, and a sense offrancis and leo mission that held
us together.  It was Christ’s mission.  We were not preparing thing presentation for us, but for Christ and his Church.

The next day, Brother left for NY.  He had to travel to NY for research purposes.  No . . . he was not researching NY.  This was real science.  He was going to be gone from Sunday to Tuesday.   However, before he left, the other brothers texted and sent messages encouraging him and letting him know that they would be praying for his success.  We don’t’ all live in the same house.  In addition, some of our brothers are secular brothers, with spouses and children.  They have lives outside of the Franciscans of Life.  Yet, the Lord brought us together behind this young brother of ours who was leaving on what we considered an adventure that we wanted to support, because we knew that it means a great deal to him and it’s something that he enjoys doing.

Were it not for the Gospel, the Church and our Franciscan family spirit, we would never have met and maybe not even cared.  When all was said and done, the project is so technical and scientific that none of us understood a word of what Brother explained.  From where I’m sitting as superior, I’m seeing Christ and his apostles gathered in brotherhood after the Resurrection.  Christ had fulfilled his promise, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (John 14:18).

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you” (Gen 28:15).

It is the presence of Christ in the lives of sinful men that keeps bringing us back through mutual love and support.

We have brothers in formation to be secular brothers and brothers in formation who will profess the evangelical counsels and are consecrated celibate brothers.  On Monday, Brother Leo, one of our celibate novices and I spent the day together.  We took the time to review the changes that have to be made to our habits to make them more practical.  Then I went for a doctor’s appointment and Brother went with me.  He brought me lunch, which was delicious.

That night, we had formation class for the men preparing for the consecrated life.  We remembered the one brother in NY.  Smack in the middle of the formation class, we decided to call NY to find that our brother was about to pray the Divine Office.  We put him on speaker phone and gathered round to share with him what was going on here in Florida and to find out how his mission was progressing.

This may sound small to many people, but the fact is that this is what speaks to us about Christ and his Apostles.  The brotherhood of the Franciscans of Life is built upon the brotherhood between Christ and his apostles.  The yearning to be together across the miles, the excitement of one brother’s success, and the desire to hear each other is very much the same as that of the Apostles after the Crucifixion when they thought they had lost it all.  They sat in the upper room longing for days gone by.  These men loved each other, because they had been loved by the Master.  They knew what love was, because they learned to love from Love himself.

As we progress along our journey as Franciscans of Life, we enter into a profound relationship of trust, concern, support, and family.  In this family, we find Christ who said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mat 18:20).

Wednesday evening came and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with two aspirants planning the Transitus for October 3rd.   I’m going to ask you to imagine this scenario.  There is the superior general of a young community, but a superior general nonetheless.  There is a certain degree of respect that comes with that office.

But the beautiful part of this was that we began with prayer for the grace to plan the Transitus well.  We want it to be a true memorial of the life of St. Francis and a celebration of the gifts that God gave to the Church through Francis.  The whole time that we’re being very serious and reverent about the parts of the ritual, who’s going to do what and when, I’m also teasing the aspirants about many things, from their antics to the weight of the brother who will play St. Francis and whom we get to carry around.  Of course, the aspirants are dishing it back at me as quickly as I can dish it out to them.

During the course of the evening, I proposed a format for the Transitus, but I asked the aspirants what they thought of each proposal.  They gave their input and we made some changes.  Some things we could not change, because they’re part of tradition; but at least I learned from the aspirants about the importance of working with each other as brothers, allowing the Holy Spirit to move freely and guide us.

Brothers keep their superior company as he catches his breadth.

Brothers keep their superior company as he catches his breadth.

My brothers teach me much more than what I teach them and they don’t realize it.  

We finally ended the evening at 1:00 AM celebrating and discussing our work, spiritual experiences and our journeys.  We even shared our struggles with sin and what we do to overcome them.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because as we get ready to celebrate the feast day of our Holy Father Francis, the Communion of Saints becomes more evident.  We are brought together by the love and respect that he taught us to have for each other and for all of our brothers and sisters. But Francis is not the source of that love and respect.  He is not the source of that joy that we experience in all of these moments of family life.  Francis is the master teacher.

blessing of st francisHe has taught us how to find love, respect and joy in Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ.   From him we have learned how to find Jesus through our brothers and sisters in the Church militant, the Church suffering and the Church triumphant.    In one simple term, our Franciscan experience is one of an apostolic family united with its redeemer through the Communion of Saints.

This Communion of Saints allows us to experience and share with the world the love and peace that Christ and his apostles shared.  The feast of St. Francis is really a celebration of the wonders that God has reserved for the pleasure of the Communion of Saints.

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