Franciscan Brothers - Who We Are - Tamil text
Jesus constantly asks his disciples questions: "What do you think?" "Who do you say I am?" Jesus asks us the same questions; often we don't have the answer. But we all feel an urgent call to a life beyond that which we are living. Life in community brings us closer to the answers - allows us to "live the questions."
"We must endeavour to maintain a constant recollection of the presence of God ..... '
The Principles SSF, Day Fourteen
Our lives are structured around the times when we meet together for formal prayer. In most of our houses, this is four times a day: morning, noon, evening, and night. In some of our urban houses we may meet only for morning and evening prayer, and for the Eucharist.
Our praying together gives our lives a focus. No matter what other things we may do, our very presence at prayer reminds us that we are with God and God is with us.
Through the disciplines of our life together we try to discover if a 'constant recollection' of God's presence is possible.
Jesus is still teaching us to pray.
"To live in obedience, in chastity, and without anything of their own, and to follow the teaching and footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ. "
Francis of Assisi, The Earlier Rule
When we took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, we may have been tempted to believe that a life under vows somehow made us holier than those not living in a religious community. As we continue to live in community, we come to realize that God is not calling us to be some new breed of 'Super-Christian.' We know of many holy women and men who are not sisters or brothers in a religious order. But for us, this is a particular lifestyle that enables us to keep our most important promise - the one we made at our baptism.
Some of us thought, even hoped, that we would be different people after we took the vows. We thought that all our, questions about work, career and status, about love, sexuality, about conscience and our own ideals would magically disappear.
They don't. The answers unfold over time and depend on who we are, where we come from, and the nature of our relationship with God: the grace of community is that we ask these questions, and that we do not ask them alone. We ask them with Jesus. We ask them with each other.
"We will seek to serve all irrespective of creed, offering our service, not as a bribe, but as a reflection of the love of Christ ..."
The Principles, Day Twenty
Jesus gave freely to the Canaanite woman and to the Samaritan leper regardless of their religious standing. Francis preached peace to the Saracens even while they were at enmity with his own church. Our aim is to bring peace, to bring justice, to bring relief, to bring a living faith to those who need it and ask for it.
Our ministries depend on our talents, interests, and on the needs of our community. In the Solomon Islands, brothers go out on missions, grow food, maintain and manage our friaries. In San Francisco, sisters work with refugees and people with AIDS. Jesus calls us to serve those around us, and all of us are involved in some way in our local communities. When asked to define our mission, one brother said that it is 'to love and keep on loving.'
"We will love with a special affection those to whom we are united within the family of the community, ... seeking to grow in love for each."
The Principles SSF, Day Twenty-eight
When we join the Society, the prospect of living with a group of total strangers is more than a little frightening. Over time, we realise our fear is not that we will come to know our brothers and sisters, but that they will know us.
We come from a wide range of backgrounds and cultural traditions; we were all brought up with different ideas of 'the way things are done.' But we work hard to find common ground and to communicate honestly with one another. It's not easy to confront another's anger, to be vulnerable, to admit our own shortcomings, to change. Perhaps the most frightening yet grace-filled moment in community is when a brother or sister looks at one with whom they've had a long disagreement, and sees their own reflection looking back at them. Living with each other can be difficult. But God takes our imperfections and, in the mystery of Christ's body, makes us whole.
"The highest wisdom is that Holy Wisdom whereby the soul is made one with God."
The Principles SSF, Day Nineteen
St. Francis strongly opposed the suggestion that friars should own books or study at a university. Books were rare and very expensive, and universities were only for the rich. Nowadays it is part of our rule to engage in some form of study - some of us through formal schooling or training for ministry, some of us more informally. Our studies - be they religion, history or science, art, music or crafts - are a means of growing in faith and knowledge of God's world.
God calls us to develop our gifts in order to fulfill our real aim: to grow in love and service to the world in which we live.