BURLINGTON, Wis. — The sun prodigally poured forth its brilliant light on the morning of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, as 13 postulants were received into the Franciscan International Novitiate. Among the new novices were three from Holy Name Province, Aaron Michael Richardson, Eufemio Dimas Robaina, and Ángel Vázquez. Also received were four novices from St. John the Baptist Province, three from St. Barbara, and one each from Immaculate Conception (of the U.S.) and Christ the King (Canada). The novice from Immaculate Conception Province in England was received on the same day, Aug. 15, in his homeland, as he is still awaiting the resolution of immigration issues.
A call to prayer was followed by a reading from the Treatise on the Miracles of St. Francis (2.2) that recalled how the poor man of Assisi exemplified a new beginning for the church and for his day through his radical living of the Gospel. “At the beginning of his conversion…Christ spoke to him from the wood of the cross while he prayed…From that moment the memory of the Lord’s passion was stamped on his heart with a deep brand-mark, and as conversion reached his deepest self, his soul began to melt as his beloved spoke. Just as, internally, his mind had put on the crucified Lord, so, externally, his whole body put on the cross of Christ.”
All present were then sprinkled with the holy water that recalls our new birth through baptism.
An Imitation of Christ
The center of the simple reception ceremony was the proclamation of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (Jn 13:1-15) and the enactment of that passage by the four members of the novitiate team who, in turn, washed the feet of the new novices. Br. Jeff Macnab, OFM, one of the team members, told the novices: “Your life in the Order of Friars Minor begins today. This year of novitiate is an intense time of initiation into the charism, the traditions and the mission of our Franciscan fraternity. It is a time of experiencing concretely fraternal living and service. Jesus, at his Last Supper, washed the feet of his disciples in order to give them an example. Our seraphic father St. Francis had this very Gospel passage proclaimed as he lay dying just outside the Portiuncula. As the novitiate team follows the example of the Lord Jesus and washes your feet, know that you, too, will be called upon to care for and serve one another.”
After the washing ritual, the provincials and their delegates addressed the new novices with these words: “Brothers, these friars have given you an example, in imitation of Christ, of the service that you will be expected to show each other. May the Lord strengthen your resolve to love and care for each other.”
Each of the new novices signed the official register of novices of their respective provinces after affirming: “Moved by divine inspiration, we wish to share your life in the brotherhood of the Order of Friars Minor. We ask to be admitted to your way of life, that we may be tested and learn to take on our shoulders the yoke of the Lord in love and joy. We ask to join, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, the humble servant of the Lord.”
Fullness of Grace and Every Good
Even amidst some understandable apprehension, the joy of the new novices was nonetheless palpable. Said Eufemio, “‘Let it be done to me according to your word’ was the response of Mary to the will of God, according to the Gospel of Luke. In this new process of my life, like Mary our mother, I wish to make her words mine. A new year has just started in my life. Being accepted into the novitiate of the Franciscan friars will be a new and rich experience in my life, and my desire is to follow in the footsteps of our beloved founder St. Francis and his community. I do not know if I am ready for this great experience, but I feel so happy and very excited for this new stage in my life. In addition, I feel blessed to be part of the Order of Friars Minor of Holy Name Province. I believe that this year is going to be a deep and enriching year to my personal growth.”
Aaron shared these thoughts about his first day in novitiate. “At the morning prayer/reception service, I was particularly struck by one of the readings, Romans 6:3-11, which talked about being baptized into the death of Christ in order to live for God,” he said. “The reading stirred within me the desire to discover who I was created to be — and to find myself in God through prayer and action. In the next few moments, I renewed my baptismal vow and took a ceremonial step toward deepening that commitment when I was entered into the roll. I sensed the Spirit’s grace in that moment. As I move forward in my life as a lesser brother, I do so with renewed confidence in God’s presence and faith in God’s promises. I am very grateful to God for all the people who have been God’s instruments in my life. For the remainder of the day, it was another passage of St. Paul that kept echoing in my mind —’The One who has begun a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ’ (Phil 1:6). As I let that sink into my heart, I am excited, and again grateful, to have a place in the Kingdom of God.”
The prayers of the friars of the Province are with all the new novices as they begin their year in Burlington. How fitting the words of the Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary of St. Francis for our new brothers on this Feast of the Assumption: “All hail all you holy virtues which are poured into the hearts of the faithful through the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, that from being unbelievers you make them faithful to God! Hail O Lady, Holy Queen, who are the Virgin made church, chosen by the most Holy Father in Heaven, whom he consecrated with his most holy beloved Son and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, in whom there was and is all fullness of grace and every good!”
— Fr. Larry is Provincial Vicar and secretary for formation and studies for Holy Name Province.
- “Postulants Participate in Workshops, Visit Ministries” — March 29, 2015, HNP Today
- “Fourteen Received as Novices at Aug. 15 Ceremony in Wisconsin” — Aug. 19, 2014, HNP Today
- “New Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate Site Chosen” — Dec. 8, 2010, HNP Today