In this reflection, a friar who has lived at the Province’s skilled nursing home nearly a year describes his transition, offering observations about flexibility and cooperation, limitations and potential.
RINGWOOD, N.J. — It seems to me that those of us in religious life must have an idea of our vocation that is not directly connected to where we are at any given time and place. Because we realize that there is always a possibility for change, and even the necessity, we become prepared for and tolerant of adjustments to the rhythm of our lives. By our vow of obedience, in theory at least, we hold ourselves ready to answer the call of the Province, to heed a particular need and to answer that call affirmatively although not without discussion.
As we make these changes, however, we realize that with the passage of time, our capacity to fulfill a given assignment changes at least in some small way. This new assignment is not like the ones preceding it, and every assignment in the future will have its own character and difference.
In the process of change, the friars we worked with and the friary with which we are about to work must be conscious of their roles in helping us to exercise that flexibility so necessary to the acceptance of the new environment. This is especially true when circumstances require adaptation to our physical changes and mental development, which may lead to assignments quantitatively different from all previous assignments. An example of this situation would be the assignment to a house of retirement or to a place like Holy Name Friary, the Province’s skilled nursing home.
The need to give up certain lifestyles — and the objects and situations connected with them — requires a major adjustment by the friar undergoing the change, and great compassionate understanding of the part played by those who are in charge of the transfer. Too often and quite understandably the emphasis is on the smoothness of transition with perhaps too little understanding of the frame of mind of the friar undergoing the transfer. Financial arrangements, mode of transportation and other aspects of the change, though necessarily involving efficiency, must also include a firm and gentle dealing with the frame of mind of the one transferred.
Using Compassion and Cooperation
Compassion is absolutely essential here as various questions are considered: “What do you want to bring with you? How can I (we) help you to make such decisions and provide ways or means of transportation of that which you feel a special need to retain?” Cooperation is the watch-word because without it the one transferring feels abandoned or at least neglected.
We are talking about a new assignment and not a commitment. Wherever a friar is assigned, he may still develop various talents still open to him that perhaps were never fully realized. He must know why the transfer will benefit the Province as well as himself. “Commitment,”on the other hand, is a placement where the emphasis is upon “managing the case.” This is, of course, necessary but definitely subordinate to the new assignment and the accompanying new opportunities.
Thus, does a friar come to Holy Name Friary to continue a full life modified by physical or mental limitations, or does he come here simply to be managed? No one would consciously see management as the main reason for any activity concerning someone in possession of his faculties. At no time should the assignment leave the individual friar with the completely unanswered question “Why am I here?” The assignment may not be the one chosen by the friar, but all assistance should be given him to adjust to limitation and to develop full potential within the structure of the assigned friary.
As has been said before, no one can be expected to want to come to Ringwood until he has seen that this assignment provides the necessary surroundings to develop fully within understood limits the continued, albeit modified and also limited, yet fully dynamic, continuation of his life as a friar.
— Fr. Philip, a native of Massachusetts, has lived at Holy Name Friary, the Province’s skilled nursing facility, since summer 2015. Earlier this year, he reflected on the importance of patience.