A Reflection on Franciscan Brotherhood
I've stayed close to home this weekend. Academics tied me down as I marked term papers and prepared for my classes this week. I also did some mundane activities like cooking and doing laundry. We actually had a dry, sunny day yesterday which makes doing the laundry much easier. There are no dryers so things need to be either hung outside (on a line where they dry in a few hours) or on a make-shift line in one's room (where it takes a couple of days). So far this year I've been able to use the outdoors. Thank God.
One of my students told me that a Chinese Friar studying here has some home-made movies of his friary in China. Since he and I live in the same dorm we were able to get together last night and look at the pictures. But more importantly, I had a chance to watch him as we viewed the movies and to listen to him talk about the brotherhood back home. I went to my room very moved by his love for his home community and his excitement about sharing his life with me. This friar has been solemnly professed for four years and ordained for three. He is a young man just getting started in life and is filled with hope and enthusiasm for our way of life and the Church. The life of the friars in China is not easy, but it is obvious that they share close bonds among themselves and truly live a faith-filled life.
The thought also crossed my mind that while we are from two very, very different cultures and generations, we share a common faith and a common life as members of the Order of Friars Minor. We wear the same habit and celebrate the same sacramental life, but we live in very different conditions (due to both cultural and governmental situations). Our diets differ and many of our customs vary, but it was good to see pictures and movies of the friars praying, working, studying, recreating (the younger friars like basketball and ping-pong), and celebrating the Feast of Saint Francis much as we do--and did when I was a young friar. Formation and Franciscan life seem to have similarities all over the word.
In a couple of weeks, each of us will return to our respective friaries (both under the patronage of Saint Anthony, by the way) and resume our community and ministerial lives. But I will return with a new awareness of what it is that I have given my life to--a world-wide movement that is committed to living the Gospel of Jesus according to the vision of Saint Francis of Assisi. How that medieval Italian mystic has captured the hearts of people all over the world. Because of him, a young man from China and I can call each other "brother" and truly mean it.