“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common (Acts 4:32).
As members of one community, we strive to support one another through prayer, mutual encouragement, honest communication and sacrificial service. In religious life, the first and most important relationship is the relationship of each member with the Lord. The second most important relationship is that of the friar or sister with their community. Our fraternal life (life in community) is so essential because it is in our life together that we learn how to serve with unconditional charity, bearing with one another patiently. If we strive to grow in relationship with those in our community, growing as brothers and sisters in Christ, then all we strive to do to serve all those outside our community will be done more generously and selflessly.
Fr. Bob, our superior, serves our community by helping us grow in our identity as Franciscans through a proper integration of our life of prayer, communal life, apostolate and charism. He also guides and directs our community, helping foster peace and good order among the members and in all that we do in service to the Lord and the Church. Many people today are reticent to accept the authority of another human being. In religious life, we understand the superior as the person who not only guides the community and makes decisions for the good of the members, but more importantly as the one chosen by God and appointed by the Church to help the community as a whole and each member personally live out God’s will each day. Each of the three vows–poverty, chastity, and obedience–safeguard our way of life, and our superior is here to help us in daily living out these vows in service of God and one another.
As a sign of our witness, we wear the Franciscan habit. We begin to wear the habit as novices. The habit, following after St. Francis’ own example, is in the form of a cross, and reminds us daily to conform our lives to that of Jesus Christ. Every member wears the San Damiano Cross, a Cross depicting Christ Risen from the dead, surrounded by those who were present at the Crucifixion and other key figures in Salvation History. This cross was the one from which St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him while praying at San Damiano Church at the beginning of his conversion. Wearing the San Damiano Cross also reminds us of our obligation to help rebuild the Church as the Lord commissioned St. Francis to do 800 years ago. During the novitiate, the sisters wear a white veil and both the friars and sisters wear a cord with no knots. Upon professing First Vows, the sister or friar will begin to wear a cord with knots, symbolizing the three vows she or he professes: poverty, chastity and obedience. Sisters will wear the black veil as a sign of their consecration. Both the friars and sisters wear the Rosary, which is attached to their cord. The Crucifix on our Rosary is a replica of Bl. John Paul II’s Papal Crucifix, reminding us of the tremendous sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and of Bl. John Paul’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality presented in the Theology of the Body. As Franciscan friars and sisters, we strive to live as brothers and sisters in Christ as a witness to the complementarity of men and women, always mindful of maintaining holy, healthy boundaries both in community and among those with whom we work and serve.
We keep the buildings we use, especially our living quarters, austere, maintaining simplicity and cleanliness. To safeguard chastity there are always separate sleeping areas for the friars and sisters.
“But in the holy love which is God, I beg all brothers, both the minister and the others, as they overcome every obstacle and put aside every care and anxiety, to strive as best they can to serve, love, honor, and adore the Lord God with a clean heart and a pure mind, for this is what He desires above all things.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi