I had to wait nearly a month between my meeting with Brother Timothy, which I mentioned in the previous post of the series, and my opportunity to spend the weekend with the friars. I have to say that the anticipation was utterly monumental. Day after day, I scoured the web for every piece of Franciscan information I could get my hands on, which was considerable. It was just a way to keep my mind occupied while I had nothing else to do except wait.
When the day finally came and I was pulling up the driveway of the St. Anthony Shrine, my heart was racing. I was filled with a mixture of anticipation and of nervousness. When I parked outside of the chapel, I checked my phone; and I had a message from Brother Timothy. He instructed me to join them in the chapel.
The weekend started by joining the brothers and the faithful congregation for the Stations of the Cross. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve ever done that stations, but this time was special. I was thinking, as we prayed, that it was a lovely way to start the weekend.
The slow and peaceful Stations of the Cross service as a wonderful contrast to the flurry of activity that occupied me for the rest of the weekend. To say that it was a whirlwind would have been a gross understatement. The friars and I prayed together. We worshiped together. We adored the blessed sacrament together. Mostly the weekend was a chance for me to explore some of the various ministries that the province conducted:
- Franciscan Media: The globally recognized print, audio, and video production house for Catholic and Franciscan books, audio books, videos, magazines, etc.
- Mary Magdalen House: An oasis of hospitality providing a safe and pleasant place for persons in need to shower, shave, brush their teeth, use the toilet, have clothes laundered, have use of a phone, and receive mail and messages.
- St. Francis Seraph Ministries: A ministry of the Province of St. John the Baptist of the Order of Friars Minor that nurtures and nourishes the urban poor in body, mind, and spirit.
- Franciscan Education Ministries: The high school and elementary school that is sponsored and run by the Franciscans.
To be perfectly honest, no matter how captivating the mission of the friars was (and it was very amazing), It wasn’t what I was most attracted to. I just found the peaceful rhythm of life and prayer to be nothing short of amazing. They life in such close proximity to the blessed sacrament that they always have the opportunity to be in the presence of Christ. They are never far from the real presence.
The other thing that really caught my attention and my imagination was their complete, intimate, accepting, and unyielding brotherhood and fellowship that they share with each other. I was profoundly fortunate to have it shared with me during the course of the weekend. No matter what they were doing, it was always a very communal event. Every moment was a chance for connection. So, I couldn’t imagine they would ever be lonely (I’m sure it happens, but it seems less likely to me, at this point). After all, they always have their Franciscan Brothers by their sides as their life-long companions.
So, comping out of the weekend, my head was spinning. I was overwhelmed by the experience. It was in love with my understanding of their way of life. Most of all, I saw the amazing good they do and how radically they lived the gospel. How could I not want to be a part of that?
So, naturally, when Brother Timothy invited me to formally begin the application process, I responded with a resounding YES!