Following Mary’s GPS


On August 14, we celebrate the feast of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, patron of the Franciscans of Life, and the 75th anniversary of his martyrdom.  The next day, August 15th, is the solemnity of the Assumption, also known as the Feast of the Dormition of Mary in the Eastern Churches.  For the moment, let’s put the Assumption on the side.  By the end of this article, we’ll see how it all fits together.  Let’s begin with Maximilian Kolbe.

 

  1. Todeszelle_Pater_Maximilian_Kolbes,_KZ_Auschwitz_I,_Block_11We must get past the end of the story in order to understand any saint and his or her journey into the mind of God. All too often we look at the finished product, who the person was at the time of death or in the later years of their life, completely missing a life journey that should inspire us to do better.  Such is the case with St. Maximilian Kolbe.  When you mention his name, everyone remembers him as the priest who traded places with a condemned man Auschwitz and whom the Nazis starved and killed by lethal injection.  This heroic act of faith and charity did not spring up on the spur of the moment.  There was a lifetime that led to Maximilian’s ultimate sacrifice where he unites his life and death to that of the Crucified Christ to give man a chance at new life.
  1. MAX AND MARYAccording to his parents’ and brother’s memories, Maximilian was typical pre-adolescent who had the ability to get under people’s skin like most kids in that age group. His mother often cried out in despair, “What’s to become of you Raymond?  Note:  He was born Raymond Kolbe.  But there was something special about this apparent little magnet for trouble.  His parents had taught him to pray.  As a child, he knelt before Our Lady and asked her, “What is to become of me?”  Our Lady gave him a choice between a crown of martyrdom and a crown of purity.  Raymond chose both.

Here is a learning moment for those who are parents.  As important as it is to reign in your restless children and protect them from getting into trouble, as seemed to be Mrs Kolbe’s daily task with Raymond, it is imperative that we never forget that even those little mischievous creatures that we love and call children were given to us to form so that they can return to God.  The school that any child must attend is the school of prayer.

256px-Luxembourgers_in_England-_Evacuees_in_Surrey,_1942_D11110Raymond, despite the grief that he caused his mother, learned to go to prayer when he didn’t know where else to turn.  This is not something that comes built into a child.  This is the work of actual grace given by God to the parent, which the parent passes on to the child as he promised at the child’s baptism.  In other words, Raymond prayed because his parents had fulfilled the covenant they made when they baptized him, “to bring him up in the faith.”  A child who is brought up in the faith may be derailed, but can find his way back more easily than those who have not grown up in the Catholic faith.  We should pay special attention to those parents who raise saints.  Often, they serve as good models for parenting.

  1. At the age of 15, Raymond decided to join the Franciscans. He enters that branch of the Franciscans known as the Friars Minor Conventual or simply the Conventual Franciscans. Upon entering the novitiate, he is invested in the Franciscan habit and given the name Maximilian Maria.  From that point until his death he will be known as Friar or Brother Maximilian Maria. There is much to be learned here.

Jesus and boyFirst for youth – St. John Paul told the youth of the world, “Do not be afraid of Jesus Christ.” When Our Lady offered Raymond a choice between martyrdom and purity, he chose both.  We think of this story and we swoon over this wonderful little boy who was so pious and so holy.  We completely miss what God wants to teach us.  Those who struggle, as did Raymond, are also called to a life of virtue and sacrifice.  Prefabricated saints don’t need to practice heroic virtue or make heroic sacrifices.  Sinners do.

Raymond admitted that he was a sinner.  He also trusted Christ.  He was not afraid of Him.  If Christ used his Immaculate Mother to guide Raymond to Himself, Raymond was willing to take that step into the unknown and follow her lead.  He didn’t become a Franciscan Friar because this was what he wanted to do.  He may have wished to be a friar.  But he examined his attraction to the Franciscan life in light of the call that Christ made to him through the Immaculate.  Raymond entered the Franciscans because the Immaculate said to him, “Do whatever he tells you.”  She promised to be by his side along the journey.  There was no reason to fear Christ, no reason to fear embracing a life of uncertainty, sacrifice, long days and short nights, penances and many humiliations.  Maximilian teaches us that Christ calls us down paths that he has paved specially for each of us.  Christ never calls you where you cannot walk.

The question for the young person should be, “What is to become of me, Lord?”  This was Raymond Kolbe’s question and the Immaculate responded, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Life is not about what I want to do, but about God’s plan for me.

ST MAX AUSCHWITZ

Second for parents:  The Kolbe parents were committed to raising their children in the Catholic faith, as they had promised at their baptism.  They were also conscious that their children were not their special project, but they were a temporary gift from God that they would have to return when God asked.  However, they had no idea what God would ask of their children, when or how.  They st josephremained open to the God of surprises rather than planning out their children’s lives in advance and trying to steer them into careers and marriages without consulting God’s plan for them.  They educated their children in the faith, provided the academic education available to them and offered them guidance along the way.  But they never owned their children.  Their children belonged to God.  When Christ called Raymond to become Brother Maximilian, it may have not been what Mr and Mrs Kolbe expected or planned, but they trusted.  If this was truly the voice of God calling their son, he would be safe and they could offer him no better assurance of his happiness and salvation.  If it was simply an illusion of youth, God would open their son’s eyes to the folly of his choice in life.  Again, they trusted.

Madonna001The lesson to be learned is that even when we are unsure what God wants  from our children, if the choice is not a sinful one or a danger to to self or others, we can stand back and let the Immaculate guide.  She can only guide our children to her Son.  Her GPS is locked on Christ as the compass is locked on the North Pole.  There is nothing to fear and much to be gained.

This year, during the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, let us focus less on the end product, the martyr and more on the boy, the man and his parents.  Let us learn to follow the guidance of the Immaculate and to trust her Son as they did.  When we commit to following the guidance of the Immaculate, which leads to her son, then the Assumption needs very little if any explanation.  She who leads others to her Son was also called to follow Him in body and soul and will lead all men to the same end.

Shrine to the Immaculate Conception and St. Maximilian Kolbe at the FFV Motherhouse.

Guess what?


Hello friends! Pax et bonum!

We would like to share some highlights from the past few months.

Of course, there has been more going on. 🙂 Lent and the Easter season were spiritually fruitful times full of joy and great moments of fraternity. We also posted two new videos on our Youtube channel (http://youtube.com/franciscansoflife) and several updates and interesting news on our Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/franciscansoflife). We even published our Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciscans_of_Life). Check them out when you get a chance!

These highlights are from our community life and apostolate – more of an “insider’s peek”. As you go over them, please keep us in your prayers. Also pray for the men who are discerning with us, and for all those whom the Most High will invite to join us when the time is right. Pray that the seed of their vocation may flourish for the proclamation of the Gospel of Life to the voiceless. In the territory in which we serve  there is much work to be done 🙂 Please prayerfully consider whether God may be inviting you to walk with us.

 

General Chapter

As per the Franciscan tradition, the brothers held a General Chapter on Pentecost (actually, the Monday after Pentecost).

The Mother House with the new artwork for Pentecost

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The Document of the General Chapter

The tradition of the Capitulum goes back to the 8th Century Benedictines.  The first”General Chapter” for an entire community was celebrated by the Cistercians in 1195.

The IV Lateran Council established in 1215 that all religious communities should celebrate Chapters at regular intervals as a means of promoting reform of religious life. At the time of St. Francis, a General Chapter was celebrated twice a year from 1209 to 1216, once a year from 1217 onward.

This is the highest authority over the community, and the decisions taken by the chapter are binding even on the Superior. At the end, a Document is redacted with the mandates of the Chapter and a summary of the discussions, along with an introduction by the Superior General.

Some of the brothers at the General Chapter

       

Weekend Retreat

The community organized  a weekend retreat which also provided an opportunity for a limited number of inquirers to come and see. The theme of the retreat was Conversion of Manners. Brother Chris provided the canopy and the buckets, and installed it with Brother Leo. Brother Leo rescued it from the stormy winds that followed 🙂 After that, the weather was perfect. The participants gathered on Friday afternoon, shut down and put aside their cellphones, and all contact with the outside world became off-limits.

The outdoors location of the retreat

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Cells 2 and 3.

The retreat included the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, formation, fraternity, times of silence and private prayer, and overnight stay. Visitors were allowed to sleep in their own cella, the same the brothers use. We made sure we washed the sheets ahead of time 🙂 The Superior, as traditional, gave up his cella to a guest – our friend Alex – and slept on the couch.

Visitors also witnessed the Friday night Chapter of Faults, where the brothers accuse themselves before the Superior and their brothers of their faults against the Holy Rule and the Constitutions. Attendance to this ritual is ordinarily reserved to the brotherhood.

It was a joyful and edifying experience. Brother Jay, our Superior, delivered the formation talks. Brother Leo was in charge of the meals.

Br. Leo at work – Max and Tasha stand guard

Brother Bernardo ensured that the citronella candles were lit (he has a thing about our brothers mosquito) and helped take down the canopy at the end of the retreat.

Five minutes later, a storm hit again, with much lightning. Brother Jay remarked that the guys taking down the canopy reminded him of Ben Franklin trying to harness the power of lightning 😛

The Storm!

Solemn Promise

On June 20, Extern Brother Luis Charbel, having completed his formation, made his Solemn Promise to live according to the Holy Rule of Penance and our Constitutions for one year. The Extern brothers do not profess the Evangelical Counsels, but they bind themselves to observe their spirit in accordance with their state of life. They are truly members of the fraternity, and the Constitutions provide separate chapters to guide them. Brother Luis Charbel is an exemplary Extern Brother. His entire family attended the event, which took place at the Chapel of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church during the liturgy of Vespers – including his 28-week pre-born child 🙂

Br. Luis professes his Solemn Promise

 

Project Joseph

The brothers were very excited that Tom, a good friend of the community who had begun his training to be a Project Joseph mentor, completed his training and began serving the dads of the North Dade Center of Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami. The dads are very excited to be able to have a weekend session and this is also the first time that a Respect Life center offers two weekly Project Joseph sessions! Brother Bernardo was assigned as liaison between the mentors and the center director. He reports directly to our Superior, who oversees the entire Project from the administrative office. Keep your eyes on the Florida Catholic for more on Project Joseph  and the Franciscans of Life 😉

Announcement of the new session

Adopt-a-Brother

adopt_a_student_brotherWe want to express a heartfelt thank you to our friends and benefactors who have participated and still participate to our fundraising to cover the education of our brothers.

Graduate school in Spiritual Theology and Education is an expensive proposition for our emerging community,  but these are skills that we need to serve the voiceless in our ministry. We do not charge the Church or the people whom we serve. Following the Testament of St. Francis, the brothers work to provide for their needs and, only when necessary, they beg. Our monthly income keep our simple living quarters and car up and running and cover for food and medical expenses.

The Adopt-a-Brother program is still up and running. You can read more about it here. We post updates on our Facebook group and we will notify when we have reached our goal. We only ask for as much as we actually need. 🙂

motherhouse

The FFV Motherhouse

The statue of Our Lady at the Motherhouse. It is the same image from the Miraculous Medal which all the brothers wear.

 

Pesky Flies Don’t Rant


Have you ever listened to someone when they are angry and ranting? If you have never had such an experience, you’re either deaf or you live under a rock. Rants are part of the human condition. I would say that rants are part of human communication. They allow the listener a peek into the heart and soul of the other, the person who is ranting.

ranting

You see, when people rant, they are only partially in control. Very often the emotions move faster than the rules that govern social discourse; the result is that you reveal yourself in not so politically correct ways, but probably in the most humble way possible. Humility is the exercise of truth governed by trust. You trust that the person who sees and hears you as you truly are also loves you as you are, not as he or she imagines or desires you to be.

Having been at the receiving end of rants many times in my life, rants by family members, colleagues, superiors, and even brothers in my own community I have learned to appreciate them rather than build a wall between the frustrated ‘ranter’ and me.

OK, I confess. I just made up a word: ranter. Now get past your linguistic indignation and stay with me.

While I’m sitting there listening to my brother rant on about something, it can be the flavor of ice cream, I’m aware that rants don’t have to be rational. But while I’m apparently listening to the rant, the truth is that I’ve learned to close my ears off to the rant. I open my eyes to other things and listen to those instead. It has often been a humbling experience. Allow me to explain.

My brother is ranting because something is bothering him. Why else rant? This does not mean that his annoyance is justified. Sometimes our annoyance is either irrational or exaggerated. But that’s not important and this is where we go wrong. We begin to look for the rationality in the other person’s discourse and being unable to find it, we return rant with rant.

Ignore the steam and focus on the heart...

Ignore the steam and focus on the heart…

On the other hand, observing Jesus in the Gospels and St. Francis of Assisi in his dealings with the first generation Franciscans, I noticed that they look at the heart of the ranter and listen to his inner voice.

Christ, very often, tells the Pharisees that they are closed minded, hard-hearted, proud and ignorant. But he never tells them that they are irrational, exaggerating, rude, or obnoxious. That’s not to say that they were not. It just means that Christ finds the truth about a man in his heart, not in his emotional outbursts. When he looked into the hearts of some of the Pharisees, he saw some serious character flaws.

At the same time, when he looked into the heart of some other ranters and whiners, he saw an innocence, ignorance, or uncertainty that kept him coming back to them and inspired him to call his apostles, “Friends”.

I noticed the same behavior in our holy father St. Francis when dealing with the early brothers. While one group ranted about the rule being too impractical and another group ranted about the first group being too liberal, Francis never returned a rant with a rant. He never lost his cool. He never told them to go away. He politely listened and said what he felt needed to be said and went on his way.

Through the years I’ve contemplated how Jesus and Francis responded to rants. I’ve integrated these observations along my parents’ style of communication; I’ve come to the conclusion that a rant can be like heart surgery . . . usually a great discomfort, but lifesaving.

Recently, one of my brothers was ranting at me (the reason is irrelevant and no, I did not kill the cat…). As he went on and on, I heard what he was not saying. He was hurt by something. I had failed to respond in the manner that he felt I should. Therefore, he was hurt by my behavior, because I came across as indifferent to something important to him. While we all claim that we are not concerned with what the world thinks, we all know this is not true. We care very much, especially those people with him we share the world the closest. As I thought of this, I realized that had it been someone else who ignored that which was important to the brother, it may have annoyed him or even made him angry, but it would not have hurt. What I was listening to was not a rant. The rant is the noise made by pain.

Before we go on to think that we must yield to everyone who rants, out of pity for their pain, let’s clarify something. Some people are in pain because their expectations are unreasonable or even irrational. Others are in pain because they never bothered to share their expectations, concerns, fears and loves with the other person. Suddenly, something goes wrong and they explode, leaving the other person feeling confused or even angry in return.

The point is that when someone rants at you, try to see his heart and listen to his pain. Then you can decide for yourself whether he is being reasonable or not.

In my particular case, during my last encounter with a rant, what I saw was a wounded heart, because I had failed to do something that would have validated my brother. As he ranted, I examined my conscience and realized that I had failed in spiritual friendship. I know this mean intimately. I should have responded to a sensibility of which I am well aware. I also heard, “I love you,” under his rant. “If I didn’t love you, I could care less how you respond to my feelings.” To me, there is nothing more humbling than being loved.

The next time that someone rants at you, try to SEE what’s in the heart and HEAR the emotion communicated by the soul. You may find that the person ranting at you is your best friend, not a pesky fly.

friend_the_fly

Br. Jay

The Surpassing Invisible Beauty of Truth


When we observe works of art, in particular sacred art, we are necessarily brought out of ourselves into a new perspective.

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Yet we often hear the claim that modern art is disconnected from beauty and, by extension, is unable to communicate the beauty of holiness. Pope Benedict XVI explained this as follows:

“We are experiencing not just a crisis of sacred art, but a crisis of art in general of unprecedented proportions. It is a symptom of the crisis of man’s very existence. The immense growth in man’s mastery of the material world has left him blind to the question of life’s meaning that transcend the material world.”

Atlas-Statue-Rockefeller-Plaza-Fifth-Avenue-HDR

Modern man defies the transcendent

Unfortunately, many have ran with similar statements too quickly and too far, arriving to claim that modern art is “ugly” and that modern sacred art is nothing but “secular (profane) artworks embedded in sacred spaces”.

Consequences of iconoclastic mindset

The iconoclastic mindset

Others, connecting many more dots than what prudence dictates, have claimed that modern art is ugly because modern souls belong to a global society falling into apostasy. At the extreme end of the spectrum we find the histrionic-schismatic mindset of those who claim that “the ugly images found in Novus Ordo churches are the final offense of the devil, an outrage that sums up all lesser offenses because it represents his goal of obliterating the image of the holy ones in the Church”.

Sadly, the proponents of these and similar statements are indeed upholding a tradition, but not the tradition of Catholic sacred art. They are, in a sense, the modern version of the ones who raised up their scandalized voices to the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Their claim? Michelangelo’s work was too modern.

Paul Barolsky, a  specialist in Italian Renaissance art, explains that contemporary critics of “the first modern artist” accused the Last Judgment of being disconnected from the norms of classical form and violating religious decorum.

Last_Judgment_Sistine_Chapel

However, “The images are not photographs…their whole point is to lead us beyond what can be apprehended at the merely material level to awaken new senses in us, and to teach us a new kind of seeing, which perceives the Invisible in the visible. The sacredness of the image consists precisely in the fact that it comes from an interior vision and thus leads us to such an interior vision. It must be a fruit of contemplation. Art is always a gift. Inspiration is not something one can choose for oneself. It has to be received. Before all things, it requires the gift of a new kind of seeing”.

Many modern art forms, even within sacred art, accomplish this wonderfully even though they may depart from more traditional artistic styles. They are not “modernist”, nor do they belong to that school that religious illustrator Matthew Alderman has called “the Other Modern”.

The Franciscans of Life are patronizing the work of a local artist whom we believe is a representative of the above, and we will feature his artwork for sale on a dedicated section of our website http://www.franciscansoflife.org The proceeds will go towards the education of our student brothers. This young artist specializes in concept illustration, book covers, and fictional fantasy. He has displayed remarkable talent in the production of sacred art using traditional and digital mediums.

Artwork in the community room at our mother house.

Artwork in the community room at our mother house.

St. John Paul II reminds us that modern artists are, just like artists of all ages, men passionately dedicated to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty, admiring the work of their inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation. While acknowledging that in the modern era a new kind of humanism marked by the absence of and opposition to God has gradually asserted itself, the Church has not ceased to nurture great appreciation for the value of art, even beyond its typical religious expressions…for even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice to the universal desire for redemption.

Julian_Pentecost

Pentecost

The pontiff reaffirms that just as the Church needs art to make perceptible and attractive the world of the invisible without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery, art also needs the Church for the great source of inspiration offered by the religious theme. This partnership has been a source of mutual spiritual enrichment and has led to a greater understanding of man, and to an opening of the human soul to the sense of the eternal.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si, reminds us that we must be able to look even beyond the traditional means of the craft:

Julian_Corpus_Christi

Corpus Christi

“Technoscience, when well directed, can also produce art and enable men…to leap into the world of beauty. Valuable works of art no make use of new technologies. So, in the beauty intended by the one who uses new technical instruments and in the contemplation of such beauty, a quantum leap occurs, resulting in a fulfillment which is uniquely human.”

It is therefore our hope that we will look at all expressions of modern art, and particularly at sacred art, with a renewed understanding of man’s quest for the beyond. There is much to be appreciated, as long as we are capable of casting aside prejudices and overly zealous attitudes.

Art indeed “goes beyond the search of the necessities of life…it expresses practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight, [and] sacred art is true and beautiful when it evokes and glorifies ….the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love”.

These words come from a relatively recent book, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but reflect a wisdom that is timeless. We find it echoed by the same Michelangelo, who affirmed that “every beauty which is seen here by persons resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come”.

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St Joseph and Christ in the Workshop

 

Adopt a student-brother


Brothers and Sisters:

Graduate formation in spiritual theology and education for one of our brothers is an expensive proposition.  However, these are skills that every brother needs to serve the voiceless in our ministry.

We’re asking our friends to adopt one of our brothers.  It will cost approximately $5,000.00 to put him through graduate school.  That’s $5,000.00 that our fraternity does not have.

Our monthly income from our stipends is $2,610.00.  With this we support three brothers living at our motherhouse.  This pays for rent, electric, telephone and internet, food, medications, car maintenance, co-pay at doctor offices and everything else that is needed to run a house.

Currently, we have one brother who has begun graduate school in education and spiritual theology.  This brother mentors expectant dads through Project Joseph.  He serves as the liaison between FIU Campus Ministry and Respect Life South Dade.  Brother also does hospital ministry and teaches Sacred Scripture to youngsters.  He assists the immigrant poor collecting clothing for them, directing them to community resources no matter where they are in the United States and even paying for their bus passes so they can go to work.

Through these services the brother brings Christ’s brotherhood and concern for humanity to the world.  Like Christ, who washed the disciples’ feet at the last supper, Brother continues to wash the feet of the voiceless.

We’re asking all of our friends to make a comfortable donation to help us cover the cost of education.  You can do through our Paypal account at the bottom.

May God bless you for your generosity.  We will inform all of our friends when we have reached our goal.  We only ask for as much as we actually need.  The brothers keep nothing in savings or other accounts.  We depend totally on what Divine Providence can provide for us through the People of God.

Fraternally,

Brother Jay, Superior

PayPal

Published in: on May 26, 2016 at 8:55 PM  Leave a Comment  

Video: A Year with the Franciscans of Life


Published in: on April 11, 2016 at 11:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

Wait for us in Eternity


MOTHER ANGELICA

The Franciscans of Life give thanks to Almighty God for having called another holy Franciscan to Himself.

We mourn the loss of a heroic and exemplary Franciscan in this life; but we celebrate her entrance into eternal life.  We offer prayers for the repose of her soul and we count on her prayers for our salvation.

Run Mother . . .

and don’t look back!

Published in: on March 29, 2016 at 1:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

Celibacy: a Jewel of Great Price


The question has often been raised by parents and friends. “Why would a ‘normal’ healtFrancis_and_Pietro_Bernardonehy man choose celibacy and chastity over a woman?” Another popular question, “How can you live without a woman?”
There are people who believe that such men do harm to themselves and eventually to others by engaging in gay sex or pedophilia. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There are married men who engage in both behaviors. Neither promiscuity nor marriage are “cures” for gay sex or pedophilia. In fact, these two behaviors do not belong in the same sentence, because they are not related.

To understand celibate chastity one has to understand love, marriage, and covenant. The man who chooses a celibate chaste life is not running away from marriage, love, and commitment. He is turning to something that he has found, that being the jewel of great price. He is overwhelmed by the love of God.

HeFrancis_leper can love another person and be intimate. However, when he experiences the love of God, he is filled with peace, interior silence, joy, and courage that he has never experienced. His life is different and he wants more. He cannot turn back to the love and intimacy of human romance, not because human romance is bad, but because he has found something even better than good. He has found Him who is the perfect lover: God.

When he compares his current state with his previous life, he discovers new things about himself. The first thing he discovers is that he has a courage that he never knew he had. He can stand up to those who try to control him. He is no longer afraid of bullies. And he makes choices and takes risks that he never took before.
Secondly, he finds that those romantic feelings he once had were truly beautiful and profound shadows of what consecrated life would later offer. Those experiences foreshadowed his romance with God.

Francis_blessingHow does he know this? He no longer question himself or his relationship. He is truly loved by God and he freely returns that love. He no longer wonders whether his beloved will change his mind. His relationship is no longer about liking what he feels or what the other feels for him.

His relationship with God is dynamic, because it is about surprises. God surprises him by filling his time, so that time seems to stand still God also surprises him when he looks back on his life and sees how much he has grown and how far he has moved from where he was.

Former relationships are now the old school where he learned the joys and sorrows of love. Now he feels ready and willing to live with the joys and tears that are part of loving God and being intimately loved by Him. Those old relationships were a training ground for what was to come.

One does not choose chastity and celibacy because he failed at romance, though it may have felt that way in the past. In hindsight, we realize that the past taught us that we could experience the joys and tears of love and continue loving and giving ourselves by the grace of the Beloved with whom we finally settle down.

contemplation

What happens to a man who enters the Franciscans of Life?


To answer the first question, NOTHING.  We stopped torturing people a long time ago.  Having said that, you may find that you go through a transformation that you never thought was possible.  “I can never do that.”  Many people say.

The first thing one learns is to share.  For us, this means living in very small spaces.  You thought that an airplane bathroom was small?  Check out our sleeping arrangements.

WP_20160201_009These are our sleeping quarters, also called cells.  No brother owns anything, not even a room of his own.  A large room is divided by curtains, as you would see in a hospital.  Behind each curtain there are two beds for two brothers, bunks.  There is an aisle along the length of the bed that is 18 inches wide and another curtain, behind which there is another cell with two more beds the same size.  The brothers always remember Jesus’ words, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

WP_20160201_004Every brother is assigned a flat sheet and a single blanket.  We use only what we need, not what we like.  We don’t use comforters or fancy bedspreads.  The money that can be spent on those items can just as easily be put into our apostolate among the voiceless, even if it’s just paying for gas to get from point A to point B.  After a few days, one becomes so accustomed to this arrangement, that we no longer miss our old bedroom in our former home.  The community house becomes home and the cells become our bedrooms; but they are more than that.  It is here that we experience the intimacy and poverty of the fraternal life that St. Francis so loved.  Like Christ and his Apostles and like Francis and the early brothers who shared huts, the brothers practice charity and detachment.

The cells are in the enclosed part of the house where no outsiders may enter, male nor female, not even our moms.  While in the cells, we avoid unnecessary conversation so that in solitude and silence the soul may be more attentive to the voice of God speaking from within.  The cell and the enclosure are only external reminders of an internal attitude that every brother should have.  Each of us carries within him an interior cloister where only the soul and God interact.  This awareness is the summit of poverty, when you own nothing, not even your inner space . . . everything belongs to the Beloved.

WP_20160130_004In the sleeping area there is always a small oratory.  An oratory is not a chapel.  The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved there.  Oratory comes from the Latin word oratio, meaning to speak and to pray.  Oremus,”Let us pray.  Let us speak with God.”   The brothers last conversation before retiring is with Jesus and His Immaculate Mother.  His first conversation of the day is also with the beloved Mother and Son.  During the day, the brother sneaks into the oratory, like a lover sneaking along the hedges to have a quiet words with his sweetheart.  Christ and the Immaculate are our sweethearts.

TUNIC_SMOCKWe don’t have closets, since we don’t have many clothes.  We share a row of hooks where we hang up our formal and work habits.  We also have a pair of grey pants and a grey banded shirt.  Here you see a typical work habit for a postulant.  Novices and professed brothers wear it with a cord or without a cord, depending on the task at hand.  The work habit it short.  It does not reach the knees.  It’s our version of grunge clothing.  Nothing is ever wasted.  Our Constitution reminds us that like  St. Francis, we follow the poor and suffering Christ who walked to Calvary in  shredded clothes, except for his sacred seamless tunic.  When a garment is too damaged to wear, it is cut up and used to patch up other work habits.  It is not unusual to see our brothers wearing patches on their work habits or displaying grease stains from an engine.  These stains are tough to wash out.  But we manage.WP_20141209_001 (1)  We don’t have cooks or housekeepers.  Those are chores that we do ourselves.  The brothers take turns cooking, scrubbing and cleaning.  Those brothers who have never done it before or don’t know how are taught by more experienced brothers.  WP_20151212_004St. Francis said that we are to be “minors”.   During the Italian Middle Ages there was a social class known as the Minores.  It seems that these men and women were of the lower class of serfs and peasants.  Even among the peasants, there was social stratification.  Christ reminds us that we have been sent to serve, not to be served.  “Go out and do what I have done for you.”

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It’s time to leave.  A brother may be going to class at the university, while another is going to the hospital or to hospice and another brother is on his way to do counseling or education with dads in crisis pregnancies or going to visit a newborn baby that was going to be aborted.  The brother is always there to say “Hi Little One”BABY M-2 (2)

Life calls out to life  We even have two pups.  The black and brown handsome fellow is Max, named after St. Maximilian Kolbe. max_and_tasha The little fawn cutie is Tasha, named after a character on Star Trek Generations.  Yes, we have former Trekkies among us.  The brothers may not watch television.  Start Trek is out of the question.  Besides, who has time.

No day is complete without prayer and the
Holy Eucharist.Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates Mass for Nascent Life

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In between we manage to insert
an hour of private prayer at 5:30 AM, the Liturgy of the Hours: morning, midday, evening, night and midnight.  There is always time for the Holy Rosary.

profession of vows

I VOW AND PROMISE . . .

Dancing Friar

COME AND SEE

Brother Bernardo Makes Vows


After three months as an aspirant, three months as a postulant and 12 months as a novice, Brother Bernardo D’Carmine made temporary vows as a Franciscan of Life.

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The vows are obedience, poverty, chastity and a fourth vow to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  Brother made vows during a solemn celebration of evening prayer (vespers) on January 18, 2016 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Presiding over the Liturgy of the Hours was Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner.  Deacon Scott also preached the “exhortation” reminding us all that one man’s conversion can change the Church and history, referring to the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi. DSC_0027

The first step is to embrace the poverty of Christ and his most blessed mother.  He also reminded the Franciscans of Life that we are an outgrowth of a long and venerable family that is more than 800 years old, with more than 100 different congregations, orders, societies and institutes.  Today, there are almost one million Franciscan men and women around the world, secular and religious, lay and cleric, men and women.  It all began with one man who responded to Christ’s call to “rebuild his house.”

Deacon Scott witnessed the profession, but he did not receive the vows.  Brother Jay Rivera, superior of the Franciscans of Life, received the vows.   Mrs. Tina Handal led the singing with the litany of Franciscan saints and blessed.  She did an outstanding job for the Lord and the community that was present.  She has an incredible spirituality and a voice that expresses it beautifully.    Extern brother, Chris Handal and regular brother, Leo Ballanger were the witnesses to the profession.  Present were friends of DSC_0073Brother Bernardo’s from his days at university, other friends from the area and his mother, Mrs. Angela Torres.  The group was small.  The ceremony was simple, dignified, reverent and above all, prayerful.

Brother Bernardo will continue graduate studies in computer science, computer engineering, theology and philosophy.  In addition, during the period of temporary vows, the brother continues his Franciscan formation with studies in Franciscan history, spirituality, rule and constitutions, Franciscan pastoral practices, and Sacred Scripture.  Along with classes at the university, several hours per week active in the apostolate, a life in community, the brother is also homeschooled in Franciscan studies and Scripture. The years as a “student-brother,” as we call those in temporary vows, are very busy and exciting years.  The most exciting part of all is the brother’s knowledge that his life now belongs to Christ and to the voiceless.

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Litany of Saints

Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 8:18 PM  Leave a Comment