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Dennis Geib, 30, from Orlando, FL arrived this morning to begin his year of Postulancy. While the actual beginning date is Saturday, Dennis came early to get settled and to visit relatives in the area. He will be joined this weekend by his classmate Richard Goodin. They will make up the Postulancy Class of 2006-2007. No word from the novitiate, so we presume the Novices are getting settled in for their year. Fr. Fred, our Provincial Minister, saw them last Sunday as he officially received them into the novitiate and he reported that they and their classmates from Sacred Heart and Assumption Provinces were off to a good start.
I had hoped to get this post up last evening, but about mid-afternoon yesterday my office computer was hit by a very nasty virus that wiped out Internet Explorer and then took it over once I restored it. It appears that the vendors of some anti-spy ware want me to purchase their products. They are inundating me with messages, obscene pop-ups, and warnings. All day today and still tonight, Norton is scanning and "fixing" the problem. We'll see how well hopefully tomorrow. :-)
Michael Charron took me up on the idea of suggesting an issue to toss around. He chose poverty and comments on how he is trying to cut back on the use of things. (See his comment on the "Reflection on the Pilgrimage and the Future of this Blog" post earlier this week.) He mentions cutting back on non-essentials and buying only what he needs--then asks what "needs" means. Anyone want to toss in a comment or suggestion? Don't be shy. :-)
Finally, Brother Tom Gerchak, O.F.M. is going to the Jamaican Missions and we will have his Missioning Ceremony at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard, OH this coming Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Anyone in the greater Cincinnati area is welcome to attend. It will be a simple service (not a Eucharist) in which he will be presented with a Mission Cross and we will prayerfully send him off on his new mission adventure. (I'll hopefully get some good pictures.)
Today at 4:00 p.m. the Provincial Ministers of Sacred Heart, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint John the Baptist Provinces will receive their Postulants into the novitiate. The new Novices will live at San Damiano Friary in Cedar Lake, Indiana for one year. At the end of the year of formation they will profess Temporary Vows as Franciscan Friars. As Novices they are members of their respective provinces and can sign "O.F.M." after their names.
Next weekend, our province will receive two new men into our Postulancy Program in Cincinnati, OH. Later this summer, August 12, two of our Temporarily Professed Friars will celebrate their profession of Solemn or life-long Vows at a ceremony here in Cincinnati.
The province continues to grow with the advancement of our men in formation. Let us pray for them as they continue to discern their life as Franciscan Friars. (There will be updated pictures of our men in formation on the "Franciscan Formation" page of this web site after July 1.)
I'm back home in Cincinnati and sitting in my office trying to catch up with mail, emails, and other Vocation Office things that need to be done. I spent the last night of the trip in our Curia Generale in Rome (pictured at left and right) and then made my way home via a nine hour flight on Wednesday. By the time I got to bed that night I had been up for twenty-three hours, but I was certainly happy and content with a wonderful experience over the past five weeks.
What did the trip mean? For me it meant three things: an opportunity, a challenge, and a consolation. The opportunity was the chance to teach Moral Theology in an intercultural, multinational setting at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury, England. As I mentioned in the earlier posts in this series, that was a wonderful experience and a chance to appreciate Franciscanism in a much deeper way. The challenge was twofold: the challenge of traveling alone in two foreign countries (which proved much, much easier than I had expected), and the challenge of teaching Moral Theology in a multicultural setting. Of all of the branches of theology, Moral Theology is probably the most influenced by culture and social conditions. Teaching at the Centre proved rewarding in that the richness of the cultural mix proved a true asset to the overall course experience.
The consolation was the opportunity to be in Assisi for a few days and visit the birthplace of the Franciscan Order and the city and tombs of Saints Francis and Clare. I found myself inspired and deeply moved by realizing that this is where it all began and that this is the setting in which the two great founders of the movement discovered and expressed their faith in Jesus. The question that that raises, of course, is how do I find and express that same faith in the setting(s) I find myself in? While Assisi and the Umbrian area are truly beautiful and pleasant to look at, they were still the everyday context of these saints' lives just as the places in which I have lived and now live are the context of my life. And many of these have been and are beautiful and pleasant to look at even though very different from central Italy. This is where the Lord has put me and the period of history in which he chose that I should live and I need to work out my faith response here as truly as did Saints Francis and Clare in Assisi.
That task of living Franciscan life in our real life situations will be the future of the conversation on this Blog. And here is where all of you come into the process. What aspects of Franciscanism and Franciscan life would you like for us to talk about? The comment feature is open to anyone to ask a question or to suggest a topic. Please avail yourself of this opportunity and maybe we can even get a good dialogue going among ourselves. The focus is to help any and all who are interested in Franciscanism to grow in that specific spirituality--especially those of you who are thinking about possibly joining us Friars and Sisters.
So let us know what you are thinking and what your questions and concerns may be. I have enjoyed sharing the pilgrimage with you. Now it is time to move on.
I am back in Chilworth, England after spending a night in Rome and then waiting at Fiumicino airport for four hours for a delayed trip back to London. Fr. Patrick, the Vocation Director for the British Province, kindly met me at Gatwick Airport in London and drove me back here last evening. I am using the friars' computer so I can relax and take the time to type this post. (I noticed a few typos in the last one which I did hurriedly in Assisi.)
The pictures above are of the interior of Chiesa Nuova which is a little church over the spot where Francis is purported to have been born and reared. I attended Mass there Sunday morning. The picture on the right is of the Porziuncola, the little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, where Francis really founded the Order and outside of which he died. As you can see, the little chapel, which is one of the chapels that Francis rebuilt, is surrounded by a huge basilica which, to me, seems ironically ornate for a memorial to the simplicity in which Francis and the early friars lived at the Porziuncola. (I took the picture in a hurry "on the sly" so it isn't real clear.)
Sunday afternoon I took the train from Assisi to Rome and was again met at the Roma Termini by Fr. Joy Prakash, a friar from India, who proved to be a guardian angel for me on this trip. We took some VERY crowded buses back toward the Curia Generale (headquarters for the Franciscan Order) where I stayed while in Rome and met two other friars for a lovely outdoor dinner. (Brother Jim who is from the Sacred Heart Province in St. Louis, MO and Fr. Finian McGinn, the English speaking Councilor to the General Minister, who is from Santa Barbara Province in California.) When I got back to my room I tried again to get a night shot of Saint Peter's dome right outside my window and this time I succeeded. Yesterday morning I went out the front door of the Curia and took the daytime shot of the back of the basilica. While having breakfast, I met and talked with the General Minister of the Order. He is from Spain and speaks very good English, so we were able to communicate well.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, I fly back to Cincinnati. I will offer a reflection on the pilgrimage when I get settled back into my office on Thursday or Friday. I leave you today with a few shots of Assisi: the dormitory at San Damiano where Saint Clare died, a typical passageway connecting two streets, the Rocca Maggiore as seen from the Piazza of Saint Clare, and a "proof" that I was actually at the Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli wherein is the Porziuncola. (The picture was taken by Ivan, the young man from Australia whom I befriended last Friday.)
Next post from the USA.
Yesterday I spent the morning before the tomb of Saint Francis where I prayed for my family, friends, the friars, Poor Clares, provincial staff, and everyone associated with the Vocation Office. It was a wonderful experience that is hard to describe in word.
Yesterday at breakfast I met two young men from Australia. They asked if they could go to the basilica with me since they were not sure how to find it. We went and I showed them around a bit ands then I went to the tomb. Later in the afternoon Ivan, on of the fellows, met me and we went to Santa Maria Degli Angeli to visit the place where Francis died. Since he had not seen San Damiano, and since that is my favorite place, I accompanied him there--my second trip.
It is amazing how we can met up with people we do not know and share experiences in a single day. God is good and the spirit of Francis is obvious here.
Internet is VERY expensive here, so no pictures today. I leave tomorrow and Monday I will be back in England where I can do a bigger post on this leg of the trip. Sorry that this is so brief.
Yesterday I mentioned that I was at "home" in Assisi. This truly is the home of every Franciscan and Poor Clare. Here are our roots as an Order and as the greater Franciscan movement. I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to be here and to pray at the various places. Today I spent the day at places associated with Saint Clare. I visited her Basilica and prayed both at her tomb and before the very crucifix that Francis and Clare prayed before at San Damiano. It is now hanging in the Basilica. I remembered each member of our province along with the Poor Clares and all those who are in contact with the Vocation Office. Clare took good care of the early friars and sisters; I prayed that she do the same for all of us.
In the afternoon I walked down to San Damiano. When I say "down," I mean down. It is a steep walk from Assisi down into the valley where San Damiano is. Of course, the climb back up is a real killer--especially since I made the mistake of going in the heat of the afternoon. (I'll learn.) San Damiano is without a doubt one of my favorite places in Assisi. It has connections for both the Friars and the Clares since it was there that Francis heard the crucifix speak to him and it was there that Clare lived out her religious life. It is such a warm and meaningful place.
I will pray for all of you at the tomb of Saint Francis tomorrow. Pictures are not allowed in either the Basilica of Saint Clare or of Saint Franicis, so I can only get shots of the exteriors. That is not true, however, of San Damiano. So, the pictures above are of Santa Chiara Basilica (upper left) and of San Damiano outside and inside (below).
I flew to Rome yesterday and took a train to Roma Termini and was met there by Fr. Joy, O.F.M. who is from India. Thank God he was there because the bus trip to the Curia was confusing. I spent some time visiting with the English speaking Council member who is from California. Later, when I went to my room, I threw open the shutters and could not believe what I saw. Right outside my window was the dome of Saint Peter Basilica. I tried taking a picture in the dark, but that did not work. So this morning I took one just after sunrise.
This morning Joy and I were on the streets early heading back to the Termini so I could catch a train to Assisi. Again, when I got to my room I was delighted to see that I was overlooking Santa Chiara (Saint Clare) church and have a fantastic view of the city and the valley below. I took a couple of quick pictures, but I have not really begun capturing the sights for myself and this blog. I have done a great deal of walking today and expect to have sore legs in the morning. The hills here are killers.
The use of the internet cafe is a little expensive, so I will try to keep up to date, but I may have to wait and do the bulk of the pictures when I get back to England on Monday. You are all in my prayers.
I left Canterbury this morning around 9:30 and arrived in Chilworth about 11:15 after a very pleasant drive. The weather today is beautiful and the scenery was just a nice. The taxi driver was a pleasant chap and we got on well.
Right after settling into my room I went looking about and found the small friary chapel with the cat napping comfortably on the bench. I was in there again about five hours later and it was still sound asleep, but did wake up long enough for me to scratch its chin and ears.
The church and friary here in Chilworth were built in 1890. As you can see, they are both beautiful. They are set in the country with lots of green area and woods around them. This was for many years the Novitiate for the English province. Today their men go to a common novitiate with the Irish province in Ireland.
Tomorrow I will take a train into London to Gatwick airport and fly British Air to Rome for a quick overnight at the General Curia (the headquarters for the Franciscan Order). Then on Wednesday I will take a train to Assisi and remain there until Sunday when I begin to make my way back here to Chilworth and then back to the USA on the 21st. So there is much to this trip yet to come. The first phase was the longest since I taught a three-week course. But this second phase is very exciting as well.
I'll fill you in when I get to Assisi.
Last night as I was sitting in the little chapel in my dorm building (pictured at left with photos of the dining and common area of the house below), I was thinking that when I was ordained on June 10, 1972 I would have never dreamed that I would spend my 34th anniversary in England. But here I am, in England and preparing to move on to Chilworth, Rome, and Assisi beginning Monday, June 12th. Then, as I walked into the sacristy this morning I was surprised when I was asked if I would like to be main celebrant because of the anniversary. I had no homily prepared, so I just reflected on how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and in the life of the Church when we allow him to do so. I see much evidence of that in my years as a priest.
The time that I have spent here at the Franciscan International Study Centre has proven to be a spiritually rewarding experience. I cannot put into words how welcoming the friars, staff, and students have been. I feel very much a part of things because that is how the folks here have viewed my presence--they see me as part of the overall group that makes us this centre. People come and go here, but their presence is valued while they are a part of the group. And that is very much an exercise in Franciscan living. I have dramatically felt the value of collaborative ministry. The professed Franciscans (friars of various kinds and sisters) have shared the Franciscan vision with the laity to form a truly Franciscan enterprise. It can be done and it creates a very positive environment when done well.
Today we have been blessed with a seminar on Saint Clare and this evening we have a big barbecue put on for the Centre by the "Friends of the Centre." Tomorrow I visit with Peter Muhwati and his family in Ashford. Peter is one of our Postulants who is about to enter the Novitiate who, while being from Zimbabwe, also has a family home here in England. Who would have thought last year when I was planning to teach here that one of our Postulants would also have family in this area.
The next posting with be either from Chilworth England or from Assisi (I doubt if I'll have time or an opportunity to spend time at a computer in Rome). So, I'll be back either Monday or Wednesday of next week. Keep the comments and emails coming. I enjoy the connection with home.
As I mentioned when I began this blog and prepared to leave Cincinnati for England and beyond, I view the trip as a pilgrimage. Our Franciscan Order as well as our Province of Saint John the Baptist are on pilgrimage to 2009 when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the approval of our Franciscan Rule and the beginning of the Franciscan Movement. In earlier posts I have described the multicultural character of the Franciscan International Study Center where I have been teaching. Many different communities of men and women Franciscans are represented here and that add a richness to the classroom, public prayer, and communal living. It has been great.
This morning I taught the last two hours of the course in Moral Theology. The students seemed appreciative of my efforts and the Centre has invited back next year to repeat the Introductory Moral Theology course and to team teach a course on Marriage with Philippe Yates, O.F.M., the local canon lawyer and principal of the school. I have learned much, exchanged some good times with students and staff, and look forward to returning next spring. The one event remaining is a celebration of the new edition of the writings of Saint Clare and a Centre-wide barbecue tomorrow. I have to end this experience with a big meal. That is only appropriate for a friar. :-)
While I intend to put a more complete reflection on this first phase of the pilgrimage in a post either tomorrow or Sunday, I do want to reflect this evening on the experience of teaching morality to an intercultural group of students. There is probably no area of theology more influenced by culture than morality. While the teachings of our faith and the ethical principles derived from our faith apply to all, the principles and values are lived out concretely within the various cultural settings. Even the examples I used in class to emphasize a point came from my own cultural experience. So trying to listen to the students' experiences and still teach a course that I have often taught in the States proved very enriching--and actually less challenging than I had expected. It was obvious that we all shared a common faith and a common Franciscan vision, and that is what held things together--inside and outside the classroom. People come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, but we are all one family in the Lord.
The photos are of the Centre Chapel and a small garden off the refectory along the corridor leading to the Chapel.