On Aug. 15 — the feast of the Assumption — 14 men, four from Holy Name Province, were received into the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate. One provided information and a reflection on this milestone and about the previous six weeks of study and fraternity.
BURLINGTON, Wis. — This June and July, my brothers and I spent six weeks living with postulants from all over the United States and Canada on the campus of St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, where we took two intensive courses on Franciscan history. The first course, taught by Dr. Mary Meany, focused on early Franciscan sources, in particular the writings of Saints Francis and Bonaventure. The second course, taught by Fr. Michael Cusato, OFM, from Sacred Heart Province, was a general survey of the Franciscan movement, from its founding up until Vatican II.
These courses impressed in us the richness of the Franciscan intellectual, historical and spiritual tradition, and I was specifically fascinated by the strong social justice component present in the very early days of the Order. Fr. Michael’s Cusatonian assertion that “to view the world through a Franciscan lens is to view the world through the eyes of the poor,” both inspired and enriched my understanding of what it means to be a Franciscan friar in the 21st century.
Fraternity and Study
In addition to augmenting our understanding of the Franciscan movement and the charism of its founder, the six weeks spent at St. Bonaventure helped me get to know the men with whom I will be spending the next year at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate. Our time together allowed us to acquaint ourselves with our future novice brothers, to encounter the inevitable problems and anxieties that accompany new relationships, and to work through them in a relaxed, neutral atmosphere without the “constraints” and “pressures” of the novitiate year. This was an invaluable opportunity to begin building the foundations of a healthy and fraternal community.
A few weeks after the end of our immersion experience at St. Bonaventure, my postulant brothers and I left for the Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington. We were received as novices into the Order of Friars Minor on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The postulants from Holy Name Province — Daniel Beckam, Javier Del Angel, Abel Garcia and I — were received into the Order by Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM.
While the past year of postulancy has been a journey of discernment and of observing a life of following Christ in the example of our holy father, St. Francis of Assisi, the reception into the novitiate marked the official beginning of living this lifelong journey as friars. How auspicious then that we were received into this life on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, that most perfect Christian among all Christians.
Received into Novitiate
Our first day of novitiate began with the celebration of the Eucharist. During the homily, Fr. Joachim Studwell, OFM, of Assumption Province reflected on the Gospel of the day and reminded us of Mary’s joyous and quiet trust in the Lord: how despite the precarious and dangerous situation this young woman found herself in — pregnant and unwed — she glorifies the Lord and sings a song of hope, of faith, and of humble trust in God’s goodness and Divine Providence. “He has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things.” Are there better words of encouragement for those of us just beginning to seek and live a life of minority?
The reception of novices occurred during mid-morning prayer, which followed the Mass. In a gesture of humility and as an example of Franciscan fraternity, our novitiate directors took turns washing the feet of each newly-minted novice. This moment was particularly poignant for me, since it served to remind me of St. Francis’s faithful imitation of Christ in his devotion and care for his brothers.
The idea of fraternity was further underscored by the attendance of our brothers, Fr. Larry, Brian Smail, OFM, and Ron Pecci, OFM. I was moved by their support, dedication and concern for our vocation and formation as friars. This is especially true for Fr. Ron, who, for the past year, has devoted his entire ministry to the postulants. His mentorship, kindness, and friendship are, for me, model examples of Franciscan fraternity.
As my brothers and I begin our novitiate year, I thank the Lord for allowing us this graced opportunity. What a blessing it will be to step aside from the hectic pace and distractions of everyday life and to embrace, for a full year, a life of prayer, contemplation and silent reflection in order to better assess and discern the correctness and appropriateness of our vocations.
I pray that this upcoming year will be truly grace-filled and I pray for perseverance and joy. Yet, no matter what the outcome, I take comfort in the fact that God calls and inspires each of us, asking not for great and mighty deeds, but only that we be open to His will. I am hopeful that the stillness of the novitiate will allow us to listen, with open hearts, to the quite murmuring of His call within our lives.
— Christian, a native of the Philippines, joined the Holy Name Province’s postulant program in August 2013. More of his photos from the reception can be found on the novitiate’s Facebook page. In this video, he speaks about how he became acquainted with the friars.