Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lord, Who Am I?

The breeze rushed over head, as she frolicked through the leaves. My lungs expanded, as she filled me with life. The sun's warmth touched my cheek, as he danced in and out of the trees. The passing stream spoke, as it tumbled over the rocks. I felt her midst dampen and cool my skin. The ground beneath me was firm and solid and yet tickled my toes with her blades of grass. Next to me stood the tree, strong and outstretched, as life danced about him. I fell to my knees. "Lord, Who am I?" I said.

Moments before I had stepped out into the midday sun with my guitar strapped to my back. I had started to softly strum and sing to the tree a traditional Navajo prayer.  I then felt an interior voice say, "Stop! Listen to how we praise God." In that moment all of creation was praising God through simply being what God had created it to be. It needed no words, no song, or dance, it simply was.

Creation was calling forth my authentic self, "Who are you, my son?" Franciscan theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus from the 13th century believed each created thing, in its own special way, was the total image of its creator. It expressed not some aspect of God, but his beauty as a whole.  By simply being a tree, the tree offered praise to God.  I was being called to simply be, Scott.

Unfortunately, I like other men, learned from an early age to hide our true selves for fear of not fitting in or being different.  Soon I lost sight of who I was and thus the image I was created in; the image and likeness of God.  As I began to discern my vocation to religious life, those old feelings surfaced, again.  

I became nervous to share my journey with my friends, my co-workers, and even my parents for fear of what others might think.  According to the National Religious Vocation Conference study on new members to religious life, I was not alone in feeling this way.  One study participant shared his initial fear:
"...And of course the support of family, friends, which was surprising.  I think I put more pressure on myself when I was trying to break the news to my parents, to friends.  I almost felt like people would think, "Why are you doing that?  That's weird."  But surprisingly more people are a lot more supportive than I thought."
Our founder St. Francis of Assisi shared these feeling, too.  Thomas of Celano recalls one particular moment in the life of St. Francis:
Once on a pilgrimage to Rome, out of love for poverty he took off his fine clothing and dressed himself in a poor man's clothes.  He happily settled among the poor in the square in front of the church of St. Peter, a place where the poor are abundant.  Considering himself one of them, he eagerly ate with them.  Many times he would have done a similar thing had he not been held back by shame before those who knew him.
The key phrase is "he would have done a similar thing had he not been held back by shame..."  Overcoming shame is something Francis had to deal with as he began to discern and live out his new way of life.  We can be afraid to appear different; afraid to appear holy or committed to the gospel.  If that controls our responses, we can miss the many opportunities to respond to the gospel.
 
Francis overcame moments of shame by leaving his familial surroundings, where people knew him and where he was too embarrassed to act on the stirrings in his heart.  He found new friends (beggars, lepers, the poor) to experience and respond to following Christ.  He consciously put himself in circumstances where he was forced to feel different about himself.  In time he returned to his old friends and community; stronger and more committed to Jesus.
 
The friars understand these feelings, too.  We've all experienced them to some degree.  Which is why we provide discerners an opportunity to leave their familial surroundings and experience life within a friary (house where friars live); to experience our prayer life, and our ministries with the poor and homeless.  We provide a space to gather with new friends, your fellow discerners, so as to act on and test the stirrings of your heart to follow Jesus.

Our vocation director and friars are here to support you.  We can arrange opportunities to experience a "Come and See" retreat, join a monthly discernment group, or immerse yourself in one of our outreach ministries to the poor and homeless.  In other words, we invite you to try on the life, test the stirring of your heart, respond to the movements of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ in a more radical way.  Be not afraid.  Come and see.  Others including, St. Francis of Assisi have come this way, too.

May God bless you and keep you on this journey of faith called life!

Peace & all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM




The Province of Saint Barbara's postulants spend the weekend camping in Tillamook, Oregon.  Experiencing the beauty of creation and entering into a space of contemplation and prayer can help you discern the will of God.

Personal Reflection:

According to the National Religious Vocation Conference new members to religious life found that meeting with members of the religious order and visits to communities were the most helpful activities when discerning a call to religious life.  Do you have plans to attend a "Come and See" retreat or a monthly discernment group?  If not, what's holding you back?  Feel free to share your answer in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pray for Us

Each year, members of the Franciscan family around the
world gather to remember the passing of St. Francis:
his transitus, into eternal life on October 3rd.
I spent the day in prayer with my family; visiting each one and praying an “Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" with them.  I brought flowers for each of them, too. It was a nice day spent at the cemetery. Did he say, "Cemetery?" Yes, I did. My family has a strong devotion to the communion of saints. 
 
When it came time for my admission interview weekend with the Franciscan Friars of the Saint Barbara Province, I naturally visited St. Peter's Cemetery.  I prayed with my relatives to ask God for guidance and direction. Who better to pray for me, and with me, than the ones who rest eternally in God's presence? As I visited each grave, I recalled their own journey in life.

I reflected on my great-grandmother, Helen “Bee” Macnab. She was a woman of faith, who was awarded the Benemerenti Medal. A medal instituted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832 and is conferred on those who have exhibited long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church, their families and community. "Lord, may I serve your Church and family with the same fortitude as my great-grandmother," I said as I visited her grave.

I visited my great aunt and uncle, Helen and Pix Medler. Helen had a great love of the Mother of God. "Pray that I might have the same zeal for her," I said. I spent time with my great uncle Bob Macnab who had a great love of life. "Pray that I might find the goodness in all of life and like you celebrate it," I said as I stood over his grave.   As I visited more graves I continued to pray and reflect on their lives.

My trip around the cemetery ended at the grave of my grandfather, Francis William Macnab. As I stood there, I recalled one of my last conversations with him. We had just finished celebrating Mass in his hospital room. "He would make a good Franciscan wouldn't he, Bill?" said Fr. Gus, a Franciscan, to my grandfather. I stood there and nervously laughed. My grandfather eyes widened and said, "Yes, he would." Soon afterwards the hustle and bustle in his room started.  He waved me closer and said, "Follow your heart, my grandson, and it will lead you to Him." A few weeks later he would pass away.

I had forgotten that moment until I was standing at his grave, praying with him for my admission interview weekend. "How could I have forgotten that moment," I said to myself. Yet, here I was, ready to leave tomorrow for my admission interview. I was nervous, and it would be his words, spoken so many years past, that would bring tranquility and direction to my heart. "Follow your heart, my grandson, and it will lead you to Him."  In that moment, I sent up a pray of gratitude for my grandfather’s continual presence and guidance within my life through the communion of saints.

Today, I’m in temporary profession as a Franciscan Friar of the Province of Saint Barbara.  God continues to call and I continue to draw strength and support from the lives of my family and the communion of saints.  Now, as a Franciscan Friar, I also have the lives of the Friars who have gone before me, too.  Each night ever friary (house were friars live) reads aloud from the Necrology (book of friars who have passed away) about the Friars who died on that day.  We recall their life, ministry, and sacrifices.

I encourage you to recall the stories of your ancestors.  Remember their giftedness, strength and faith.  Incorporate their best qualities into your life.  Learn from their mistakes, too.  Finally, ask them to pray for your discernment process.  Who better to pray for you, and with you, than the ones who rest eternally in God's presence?  While your at it why not spend some time reading about the lives of the saints, too.

May God bless you and keep you on this journey of faith called life!

 
The Province of Saint Barbara's postulants carve pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns to greet children trick-or-treating on Halloween.  Halloween (a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening"), is a yearly celebration observed on October 31, the eve of the Catholic Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints Day).  A day Catholics celebrate the lives of the Saints known and unknown in Heaven.
 
Peace & all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


P.S.  Consider reading the book "Francis: The Journey and the Dream" to learn more about the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi.

Personal Reflection:

According to the National Religious Vocation Conference new member to religious life are more likely to say that they were attracted "very much" by the life and works of its founder.  Are you attracted to the life of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi?  What about their lives or works speak to you?  Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Lord Gave Me Brothers

The music starts, 50 middle school teens and I begin the ancient dance around the circle of metal folding chairs.  This isn't the musical chairs of your youth, but a newer version, which seems to require body checking.  The music stops and the leader yells, "Elbow to chair!"  I begin the push inward as the teens jockey for the few available chairs.  One 7th grade girl goes flying, stunned from hitting my 6'5" frame.  She'll think twice again, from challenge me.  I quickly take a deep breath and survey the room.  Everyone seems to be uninjured.

The music begins again.  My dance moves hit the floor with each pounding of the beat.  Sweat beads from my brow in anticipation of the next chair I will conquer.  Around and around we go, when will the music stop?  "Tongue to chair!" yells the leader.  Audible groans fill the room, but my pride pushes me forward.  My tongue stretches as it licks the first obtainable seat.  "Yes, I'm safe!"  I suppress the thought of how many butts sat in this chair today.  Seconds pass, and awareness of this distasteful situation comes to my taste buds.  Quickly I search the room looking for the one person who'll understand my strange circumstance.  "When did my life become, this?"  I said to the other parish youth minister.

Who else would of understood my current situation, but a fellow traveler headed on the same journey.  Our journey of discernment is not meant to be taken alone.  We are called to journey with others.  It is in relation to others that we discover how best to live out our common vocation: " To Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)"  In relating to others we discover our unique way of giving and receiving love.  Therefore, discernment always takes place in the context of community.  It is not, "God and Me," but "God and Us."

While discerning a call to religious life you will have the assistance of a Vocation Director, a Spiritual Director, fellow discerners and other friars to walk with you.  Each will provide a unique perspective on your journey. 

The Vocation Director not only assist you in discerning a call to religious life, but is also discerning on behalf of the community, if you have a calling to life as a Franciscan Friar. He will ask, "Are you a good match with us?"  You might actually be a great husband in the waiting, or possibly a great Jesuit or Dominican.  If that's the case he'll point you in those directions.

You'll need a good Spiritual Director who is versed in helping others discern a call to religious life.  You can ask our Vocation Director for help in locating a good spiritual director in your area.  You can also visit the website Spiritual Directors International for a list of trained and certified spiritual directors.

Consider purchasing the book "Ten Evenings with God."  This book is written by the Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, OSF.  She is a professor and chair of Spirituality Studies at the Washington Theological Union and has written a simple book that takes the frustration and panic out of life's decision and shows us to seek God's will means to know God.  This would be a great resource to use with your spiritual director.

Search out others who are discerning a call to religious life, too.  The Province of Saint Barbara can provide you with opportunities to attend a discernment group or attend a "Come and See" retreat with other discerners.  Your fellow discerners have the potential to become some of your best companions on the journey.  As many a friar can testify during their own time of discernment.

Lastly, know that other friars are willing to walk with you.  Ask our Vocation Director to arrange for you to meet other friars in your area.  They will invite you over for evening prayer, dinner or other special occasions. 

Remember there is no failing the discernment process.   If you discern a calling to religious life; your discernment was successful.  If you discern a calling to married life; your discernment was successful.  There is no failure.  There is only success and the friars will be happy to journey with you as you discover the best way to live out our common vocation to love God and our neighbor.

Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


 
The Province of Saint Barbara's postulants and friars end their monthly house chapter meeting with doughnuts and a prayer.  Every month the friars gather together
to support one another, review their life together, make adjustments to
calendars,
and enjoy each other's company.

Personal Reflection:

According to the National Religious Vocation Conference new members to religious life found that the Vocation Director and other team members played a critical role in their discernment process.  Have you or do you plan to contact a Vocation Director to help you in your discernment process?  If not, what's holding you back?  Feel free to share your answer in the comment space below.


P.S.  Listed below is the contact information for our Vocation Office:

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org