A resident of the Province’s skilled nursing home describes the Franciscan culture of minority and the importance of adapting to change as one’s capabilities and sense of control evolve.
RINGWOOD, N.J. — Since I have been in residence at Holy Name Friary, I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect upon the relationship of old age and the Franciscan ideal of ‘minority’. One is certainly a minor in terms of physical and, to some degree, mental dexterity. The feeling that gives one a sense of control over his life is effectively assaulted by the conditions of his current lifestyle which is, in some way, at best a description of minority which for us Franciscans is reinterpreted on a spiritual level.
The weakness in which St. Paul so often glories is realized most definitely as one grows older and the capacity to adapt to change in condition — needed throughout life — is made very real with the onset of age. I have in the past few months passed through several stages of the relationship to humility.
I realize that I have never really taken it too seriously and I venture to presume that many other friars have felt the same way. However, I have moved on and have come to value, at the same time, the narrowing of my abilities and the really strong capacity everyone has for adaptation.
Through this frame of mind, I have begun to view my present life from a very positive position. I am gratefully a Friar Minor because I realize that my ability has always been limited only now that limitation is confronted by the art of adaptation, which allows me to equate ‘minority’ with the fullness of existence.
As a student of philosophy, I realize only too well the universal truth with regard to everything: this, too, shall change. Yet, the change is a testimony to the permanence of reality so long as we are willing to let reality reveal what truly exists. Learning requires us to accept and employ the understanding that our world is greater than we are and our greatness lies in our willingness to participate in how things are.
In this willingness, we join our minds to the mind of God as he sends his only son to become one of us within the limitations of human nature.
Therefore, the Friar Minor in this Christmas season derives a particular joy from the reality of the Incarnation. Christmas is our feast only to the degree that we have come to grips with our ‘minority’ and – as I have begun this year — truly to appreciate the wonder of Christ’s birth which I can experience deeply only insofar as I rejoice in being a Friar Minor.
Let us thank God for our ‘minority’ and enter fully into the celebration of these holy days.
— Fr. Philip, a native of Massachusetts, moved to Holy Name Friary in 2015. He has written reflections on a variety of topics since living at the Province’s skilled nursing home. The most recent, published in September, was about Autumn.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, current event, holy day, or other seasonal themes – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional reflections by friars can be found on the Spiritual Resources page of the HNP website.
- “Christmas Update from Ringwood” – Dec. 21, 2016, HNP Today
- “Ringwood Resident Reflects on Patience” – Feb. 10, 2016, HNP Today