“Among the gifts of grace which Francis received from God the generous Giver, he merited as a special privilege to grow in the riches of simplicity through his love of the highest poverty. The holy man saw that poverty was the close companion of the Son of God, and now that it was rejected by the whole world, he was eager to espouse it in everlasting love. For the sake of poverty he not only left his father and mother, but also gave away everything he had. No one was so greedy for gold as he was for poverty; nor was anyone so anxious to guard his treasure as he was in guarding this pearl of the Gospel.”
St. Bonaventure, Major life.
St. Francis on Vocations:
“Saint Francis was once asked by the friars if he would try to persuade a certain man of good life to join the Order. But he said: ‘It is not my business, brothers, nor yours to try to induce anyone to join our community. Our business is to preach penitence, both by the example which we give and by the words which we speak, and to draw all men to love and serve Christ and to hate and despise the world. It is for God, unto whom all hearts be open, to choose and to call those who are suitable for our way of life and to give them grace to be loyal to it. In fact, He who planted this Order in the world desires that its directions and its size and its future should be wholly left to Him. For one of the ways in which the devil will try to destroy the Order will be through bad and thoughtless admissions. Evil spirits will make all kinds of unsuitable men want to join the Order, and will stir up the minds of Ministers so that they take in large numbers without testing either the firmness of purpose or the kind of motive or the strength of will of those whom they accept. Rather they will be swayed by such things as rank and wealth and learning and ability and reputation. And when such men have been admitted they will try to alter the whole intention of the Rule, and will consider themselves too good to keep the purity of it which is so dear to Christ. So you see that, in order to foil the cunning of the evil and to ensure the right progress of the Order, God wills that the Ministers shall accept only such men as have Christ and His Spirit in their hearts and who work to know the things of God, for by such only will the Order continue in purity and holiness of life, and in all righteousness and perfection.” (Saint Francis on the Reception of Novices, Omnibus of Sources p. 1844)
Form of Religious Life:
Franciscanism, contrary to modern-day interpretation, is a Clerical form of religious life, meaning that its “Ministers,” or superiors should always be Clerics, or members of the visible hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore the fraternity is made up of Friar Priests and Friar Lay Brothers, "who pledge themselves by solemn vows to imitate the humility of the Cross" (Sacra Propediem, Benedict XV, n. 5)
Friar Lay Brothers
Since around the time of the Second Vatican Council, there has been an unfortunate devaluing and avoidance of the religious state as Lay Brother. It is however widely known that among the great multitude of canonized Franciscan saints, a great majority come from the glorious ranks of the Lay Brothers. Pius XII refers to those Christians who profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as the “Elite” of the Church. Leo XIII states that those who take the vows freely exhibit the “sources of the rarest virtues.”
Lay Brothers have no Canonical obligation to the recitation of the Divine Office in Choir, although those who feel drawn to it are not hindered from it. Rather, it is more common for the Lay Brother to sanctify himself through a good balance of work and prayer. This work could take a hundred different forms, depending on the needs of the community and the particular talents of the Brother. However, although work is a means of sanctification, it always takes second place to the life of prayer and recollection.
Friar Priest (Clerical Religious)
In Franciscan life and as an expression of the “Minority” or littleness of our vocations, those who feel called to Holy Orders take upon themselves an extra duty. It is commonly said that we are all “less brothers (Friars) and some are Priests." Therefore those Friars who assume the grave duty of sanctifying, teaching, and governing the flock of Christ in Holy Orders, will spend much of their time in study and exercise of the duties of the priesthood, which is mostly demonstrated in the confessional, spiritual direction, and preaching. This, however, doesn’t exclude from the Friar Priest’s life and duties a share, though in a lesser way, in the menial tasks and manual work of the community.
Come and See:
The best way to discern a religious vocation is to come and spend some time living with and praying with the friars. Young men under the age of 18 may arrange a visit accompanied by their fathers or another male guardian.
St. Alphonsus on Vocational Discernment:
Please download the free Vocational Discernment booklet from the writings of St Alphonsus. Contact us if you would like us to mail you a printed version. God bless you!
“Not even lowness of birth or any condition of poverty stood in the way of building up the works of God in those whom God wished to build it up, God who delights to be with the outcast of this world and with the simple.”
Blessed Thomas of Celano Chap. XII