Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Lord Gave Me Brothers...

St. Francis of Assisi understood that God is Trinity, a communion of persons in love.   When the friars are in communion with each other, their relationships image the Triune God, and become their primary form of evangelization.  Therefore, Franciscans cannot consider themselves authentic Friars Minor without there being a relationship of real communion with the other friars.  This isn't always easy.

As friars of many cultures, elder and younger, both lay and ordained, we work to respect and value our diversity and individual differences.  

By its very nature, our religious life foretells the glory of Heaven.  Our fraternity-in-mission is a witness to this future glory.  In the Bible Jesus offers the image of a wedding feast as a metaphor for understanding the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Heaven, two different houses will come together and become one in God.  Our fraternity-in-mission models and celebrates this reality on earth.  We come from a diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and generations, and through our care and love for one another we remind humanity of what one day we hope to all experience in Heaven.

This is the value of our fraternity-in-mission.   It prompts and embraces all people to be open to the possibility of relationship where there has been no relationship before.   It inspires us to nurture peace in places of distrust and violence, where fear of "the other" too often dominates.  It is an affirmation of the value of cultural diversity, shared leadership, and the creative expression of the love of Jesus Christ.  If you are interested in this way of life you'll need to test your abilities and clarify your desires to live within this type fraternity.

In discernment you'll need to arrange opportunities to spend time with us.  Join us for evening prayer or our community Mass.  Eat and laugh with us at dinner.  Spend a weekend with us.  Visit our ministry sites with other friars.  Spend time recreating with us.  We like to have fun.  It will be in the context of sharing your life with the friars that you'll be able to discern your desire to live in fraternity.

As you experience fraternal life you'll again need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in our fraternal life. As you reflect on your experience you'll ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart?  These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experiences and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experiences with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experiences and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

At this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of fraternal living with a diverse group of men.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to live and share your life with us a religious brother or priest.  Fraternal life isn't always easy, but it's the joy of being brothers to one another that sustains and nourishes us.  It's a great life.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Personal Reflection:

What are you looking for in fraternal life?  What is important in your vocation search?  Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422


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