Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Than a Next Step

The following is an article I was asked to submit for the Capuchin Franciscans' website. It is a reflection on the transition from candidacy into postulancy. For those of you familiar with my writing, this piece may strike you as self-consciously and uncharacteristically pious, and so it strikes me, too. Perhaps I was writing with a very particular type of Catholic audience in mind. Perhaps I am cloaking my Pietist leanings in romantic sentiments!
Many friends have congratulated me for taking the “next step” in my journey of faith. Indeed, I am becoming a Capuchin Franciscan friar because I believe there is no surer way to follow Jesus faithfully than to walk in the footsteps of Francis. It may truly be said that in joining the Capuchins and beginning postulancy, I am undertaking an expedition to uncover the footprints of Francis and the revolutionary path he pioneered.
But there is more than this. Today I am a postulant because it is not enough for me only to find the path, to retrace Francis’ steps. Any seeker can do that. Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven is like “a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). Well, out of joy for finding the path, I move to the margin of the road I have been travelling and merge onto the way of the Poverello.
But there is still more than this. The Gospel is not only to be believed but also lived. Discipleship is faith put into practice. It is not enough for me to say, “There is a path, and I see it leads me straight and true.” Francis knew the way of Christ does not admit of tourists or museum curators. Therefore, becoming a Capuchin Franciscan friar is not merely the “next step” in the journey back to God—it is a change in the way I walk. If it is true that we make the road by walking, then nothing less than a radical re-ordering of my steps will enable me to tread in the tracks of the one whose pilgrim path was often muddy and rough.
But, thanks be to God, I won’t run this race alone. First of all, the Spirit of God will always guide my feet. Second, the word and works of Jesus Christ abide, and Jesus’ gift of himself in the Eucharist nourishes me for the journey. Third, God has given me brothers, companions on the way. My encounters with the Capuchins throughout candidacy intensified my desire to enter religious life because I have seen the friars’ love for one another, and I trust that by this love God is changing these men and, through them, the world as well.
Now, after many years of friendship with the friars and a year of deep discernment as a candidate, I am ready to walk humbly with God from within the fellowship of the Capuchins. Please pray for me and my brothers in the postulancy program. May God’s kingdom come speedily, and God’s will be done in our world as in heaven.

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