Dear Friends, peace & abundant blessings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His beloved Mother Mary most Holy!!
Tomorrow marks one week since I’ve arrived in Pennsylvania to enter religious life as a
postulant with the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. Last Saturday was my first day in religious life, and it’s been a fruitful transition. The Order traces its historical roots to penitents of the Middle Ages who sought holiness in daily life, even predating St. Francis of Assisi.
One of the things that I love about the transition is that, in the friary, one’s entire day is consecrated to the Lord with a continual orientation toward prayer. As a community, we do morning prayer, Mass, evening Adoration, and night prayer, praying the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day. But the community is both contemplative and active. Even during the first week chances at ministry (through the grace of sharing testimony) were present.
One day we arrived at a retreat house run by Franciscan sisters; in attendance were about 30-40 members of the Serra Club, a group that prays for religious vocations. Thus we were invited to individually go up before the group and share our vocation stories, testifying to the Lord’s presence in our lives. One of the treats of the experience included three young novices from the Franciscan sisters sharing their stories with us and then performing sacred music for us.
One young novice played a beautiful rendition of “Ave Maria” on her violin; then the three novices combined on violin and piano to sing and play another Marian classic for us, “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman.” It was a stunning encounter with sacred feminine beauty, both in the young sisters who were performing and in Our Lady whose presence radiated through the immaculate purity of the angelic music that was dedicated to her.
I also had the chance to meet and speak with Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, the holy man who did so much to transform Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and put it on the map as one of the best Catholic colleges in the world. Fr. Scanlan belongs to the order that I’m discerning with, and is currently a retired friar situated in a main house with his fellow elderly friars, men who have given their whole lives to serving God and His Kingdom.
We have dinner with them each Sunday, and what I noticed in speaking with these men is that they have absolutely no regrets about the choice they’ve made — for religious life — as, in the end, they know they lived the most meaningful existence one can, dedicated fully to the service of the Lord, dedicated completely to fulfilling one’s purpose, one’s call.
Religious life is fascinating. You have encounters which are nothing short of pure gift, gifts from God. It’s also practical, realistic, down-to-earth. We pray a lot but the guys also love playing sports after dinner — check out the fun our sisters have. We’re all different characters, a fraternity of brothers wanting to fight for the Kingdom of God and for the Queen of Heaven, giving our lives for the sacred; for that which counts.
Internally, there always are ups and downs as the devil is never happy when one begins the journey toward vocation. Spiritual attack comes. That’s why it’s so important to put on the armor of God as protection, to defeat the enemy through prayer, sacrifice, Scripture, confession, obedience and fasting. I haven’t used all of these weapons yet but know that they will be invaluable, essential in a life of spiritual warfare.
As I continue on this fresh and passionate journey, I ask for your continual prayers, friends, for myself and my fellow postulants. May God bless us and give us the wisdom and strength to discern, and always follow, His will, His holy call.
St. Francis & St. Clare pray for us!