Friday, September 16, 2011

Discernment Weekend

Beginning this afternoon and continuing through Sunday afternoon, I will be attending the candidate discernment weekend with my fellow postulants and a number of friars. We will be staying in Inwood, upper Manhattan, at the friary of Good Shepherd Parish, which the Capuchins have been operating for the last few years.

We expect, at this time, 14 men to attend who are exploring whether the Franciscan way of life is the way they are meant to live the way of Jesus. And there are still other young men who are interested in the Capuchins but who will not be able to join us for the weekend. The vocation director for the province, who also lives here in the postulant house, does excellent work, both in recruitment of individuals and in the organization of well-crafted weekend encounters with the Capuchins. He deserves great credit for what he does; many religious orders nowadays do not have a vocation director and devote little to no resources toward inviting women and men into the adventure of consecrated life.

Our presenter this weekend is the provincial vicar (sort of like vice president of the province). His theme is threefold: "Living the Rule of St. Francis, the Capuchin Constitutions and Our Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience." These are appropriate topics this weekend, because during our gathering we will make an excursion to Sacred Heart Parish in Yonkers to witness the perpetual profession of three brothers, Tim Aller, Victor Garcia, and Richard Mattox. Tomorrow morning, in the presence of their fellow brothers and their family and friends, they will be making a permanent commitment to religious life and the mission of our province of the Capuchin order. These friars have already been living the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience for at least three years, but they have been temporary vows, renewed annually. Now they are ready to take the final step of perpetual vows, meaning they will now be Capuchin friars for life.

What better way to show the candidates what it means to live the rule of Francis according to the constitutions of the Capuchin fraternity than to meet real, live friars in the flesh; to get to know brothers who are in various stages of formation; and most of all, to behold the ritual "becoming" of three brothers? It promises to be a very good weekend, full of celebration, even mirth.

I have attended these discernment weekends over two discrete periods, from 2000 to 2002 and again from 2010 to the present. Although I am a postulant and not a candidate, my participation is mandatory, but I gladly go because now I get to share with those inquiring into this way of life what my experience of it so far has been like. Moreover, I have always approached these weekends in the spirit of retreat, although these gatherings tend to be more dense with activities than retreats would be. There are, in spite of the busyness of our schedule, plenty of opportunities for prayer and silent meditation. As our vocation director would put it, these are good occasions to "come apart and rest awhile" with the God of love and in the fraternal affection of one another.

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