Many people look at St. Francis of Assisi as someone to be admired, but too difficult to follow. We often hear, “St. Francis was a saint; I’m not.” That’s the point. St. Francis was not born a saint. He grew physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. He became a saint through his efforts and the help of Grace.
Today, the Franciscans of Life seek only one thing. As the psalmist said, “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple,” (Psalm 27:4).
We’re a brotherhood of married (Extern Brothers) and celibate men (Regular Brothers) that seeks to recover the original way of life of the early Franciscan family, both the friars and the secular penitents.
Regular Brothers vow obedience, poverty, and chastity. We live in a community house. We are consecrated to the Immaculate and we make a fourth vow, to proclaim the Gospel of Life. Regular Brothers comes from the Latin “regula,” those who live in brotherhood guided by a rule of life.
We consecrate ourselves to live in the “house of the Lord” all the days of our lives. Every brother crucifies himself next to Christ calling out to his Redeemer, “Remember me . . . “(Luke 23:42).
Ancient rabbis taught that, after the coming of the Messiah, all sacrifices would cease except the Todah (the perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving), which would never cease to be offered throughout all eternity. The sacrifice of the cross is the Todah. Christ’s blood can roll backwards to the first sinner and forward to the last.
“You cannot glory; that, however, in which we may glory is in our infirmities, and in bearing daily the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Admonitions V, St. Francis of Assisi).
Like the “Good Thief”, St. Dismas, every Regular Brother entrusts his eternal life to the perfect sacrifice offered by Christ yesterday, today and tomorrow. The brother consecrates himself to live the Gospel living the Rule that St. Francis gave the Brothers and Sisters of Penance as our Constitutions explain it for us.
We strive to live the Gospel in an intense life of prayer, penance, and poverty. We freely exercise our ministry to the voiceless, paying special attention to the preborn child and his family, the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers, and the immigrant poor. (Constitutions, Part II, Chap one, Parr 1). http://www.franciscansoflife.org/Constitutiones.pdf
The Regular Brothers day has a fluid structure, not unlike that of a Benedictine day, but in a smaller family unit which is by its very nature very informal. The vows are a means to an end. We vow to strive, with the help of Grace, to live the virtues of obedience, poverty and chastity in the manner that St. Francis lived.
Our effort is sustained by the common recitation of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Lectio Divina, spiritual reading, silent prayer in solitude, keeping a log of our faults (the Culpa) and keeping a journal of God’s activity in our lives. Community worship, prayer, Eucharistic adoration, meals, recreation and apostolate are essential to the primitive Franciscan life.
Discipline is an essential element of our life. Every night, we proclaim our faults before our brothers and open our hearts and minds to hear and heed whatever correction they may offer in charity.
Blessed is the servant who bears discipline, accusation, and blame from others as patiently as if they came from himself. Blessed is the servant who, when reproved, mildly submits, modestly obeys, humbly confesses, and willingly satisfies. Blessed is the servant who is not prompt to excuse himself and who humbly bears shame and reproof for sin when he is without fault, (Admonition 23)
We make proper use of the time that God has given us, with full knowledge that only God is the Lord of Time, not man. Therefore, time is not man’s property to waste.
St. Francis taught the first-generation Franciscans that silence is a necessary part of our way of life. While we do not observe a strict silence as do Cistercians, we do observe exterior silence to achieve interior silence.
“Blessed is that servant who does not speak through hope of reward and who does not manifest everything and is not ‘hasty to speak,’ but who wisely foresees what he ought to say and answer,” (Admonition 22).
Finally, fasting and abstinence on Wednesdays and Fridays are essential to the way that we live and to the discipline in which we need strength to grow in virtue.
“Living this Rule transforms us in, with, and for, the Love of God so that we, in humble ways, begin to transform our world by serving as the voice of the voiceless and offering penance for those who do not do penance. A penitential life resounds a constant invitation to prayer and self-mastery
Prayer, fasting, abstinence, temperance, and a solid, family based Christian response to others drive all our daily activities in the home, fraternity and the world,” (Constitutions, Part II, Chap Six, Parr 49).
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