Monday, September 5, 2011

What Do You Wish?

Dear brothers, what do you wish?

Brother Timothy, we ask to walk with you and the brothers of this community, in order to discern with you whether it is our vocation to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in the Franciscan Family. Teach us how to pray and undergo true conversion; show us how to live in fraternity with patience and joy.

In the words of Jesus, I say to you: "Come and see." We are happy to receive you into this house of formation for the period of postulancy. May you be able to discern clearly your vocation and experience our life of fraternity and minority in the service of the Church.

I now invite you to pray together the prayer our seraphic Father Francis prayed before the Holy Crucifix:

Most High,
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart
and give me
true faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
that I may carry out
your holy and true command.


With this dialogue, the brothers and postulants made a covenant. Following this exchange, each of the postulants signed a contract that binds us, for the next year, to the program of initial formation in the Capuchin Province of St. Mary. As a symbol of the status conferred upon us, each postulant received a book of early documents of the life of St. Francis of Assisi.


The following is a reading given at the prayer service this afternoon. It comes from The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, the second of two biographies of St. Francis written by Brother Thomas of Celano.

With his heart already changed--soon his body was also to be changed--Francis was walking one day by the church of San Damiano, which was abandoned by everyone and almost in ruins. Led by the Spirit he went in to pray and knelt down devoutly before the crucifix. He was shaken by unusual experiences and discovered that he was different from when he had entered. As soon as he had this feeling, there occurred something unheard of in previous ages: with the lips of the painting, the image of Christ crucified spoke to him. "Francis," it said, calling him by name, "go rebuild My house; as you see, it is all being destroyed." Francis was more than a little stunned, trembling, and stuttering like a man out of his senses. He prepared himself to obey and pulled himself together to carry out the command. He felt this mysterious change in himself, but he could not describe it. So it is better for us to remain silent about it too. From that time on, compassion for the Crucified was impressed into his holy soul. And we honestly believe the wounds of the sacred Passion were impressed deep in his heart, though not yet on his flesh.


This has been a good day. It is right for me to be here with the brothers. This journey is going to take me places, to the high places, and to the holy Place beyond all places. But all the while on this Labor Day I have been longing to be with my sisters and brothers in Boston, proclaiming woe and weal like the Jewish and Christian prophets, marching like the saints.

One of the Capuchin friars, who plays guitar, brought an Industrial Workers of the World songbook to our barbecue. The two of us sang "Union Maid" and "No Nos Moveran (We Shall Not Be Moved)." Another friar asked me about the T-shirt I was wearing, which came from SEIU Local 615. These were little joys for me, clean and cheerful, and true and necessary.

And yet....

What I have gained in fraternity does not substitute for the solidarity I have felt with immigrants and workers on the streets. When once you've spoken in God's name and taken direct action to cast down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the lowly, you can't stop.

Unless God stops you. And I do believe the Paraclete is pressing down upon my brow to pause me.

Today I am the one cast down from my throne of self-righteousness. My scepter of self-reliance has been snapped in two. My cloak of false humility has been stripped. And I am being lifted up, not as a leader of ministers zealous for justice; not as a journeyman organizer of a nonviolent revolution; not as the first-born, first-ranked, or first among equals; but as the youngest of a family of brothers, even the runt of the litter. As the postulant director told us at the prayer service today, we will do marvelous things for God and the Church one day. And the brothers are perfectly confident that their faith in God's work through us will be proved abundantly. Today, however, is a time for setting foundations. It is a time for beginnings, small in scope, modest in reach. Before we show the world how it must live, we must learn how to live.

And though I am ending my 34th year of life with yet another starting over, I submit to it in a spirit of faith, hope, and charity. I am learning again how to live, in Christ, and this time for all time. It is what I have wished.

Dear brother, what do you wish? One of these years, friends, God willing, I shall be marching as a little brother of Francis and telling the principalities and powers of the world where they can get off. Those days will come again. I can feel it in the deepest parts of my soul. There will be grand things ahead and great feats, maybe even sublime ones. But not now. The labors of the day lie in the doing of many little things. Take the stones at your feet, pick them up, and put them into place. And when you have done that, bring more stones here. If you cannot find your own stones, beg the stones from others. And keep building, until your many stones can form an arch to heaven.

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