It’s Official: I’m Franciscan!

For nearly a year, I have spent time with Sister Norma who is a Sister of Saint Francis of Oldenburg. Together we have talked about the history of the order, Franciscan spirituality, and how we live out our faith. Our time together has been priceless to me, as she was so attentive, gentle, and full of wisdom as she shared. All of this was a part of the formation process to become an Associate of the Franciscan Community of Oldenburg. This association is similar to become an Oblate in Benedictine communities.

Since college I have felt an affinity toward the life and spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi. It’s almost like he found me, as I looked for colleges. I attended the University of Saint Francis not because it was Franciscan, but because of the community, the Christian environment, and the education. What I received was so much more. During that time I received a vocation. Little did I know that vocation would be to ordained ministry in my denomination, the United Methodist Church, and much later to become a Franciscan.

Just a week ago, my family traveled to Oldenburg for the Associate Signing Prayer Service, where I officially joined as a member of the community. It was a lovely service, where I was overwhelmed by the love, welcome, and attendance of Sisters and Associates.

During the service, we offered a beautiful prayer that speaks to the basic tenets of Franciscan spirituality:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love…
We give thanks for the Franciscan value of service. Spirit of God,
breathe in us the ability and desire to serve when we are called.
Where there is injury, pardon…
We give thanks for the Franciscan value of simplicity. Spirit of God, breathe in us the ability to see that all of Creation is a gift from to respect and share.
Where there is despair, hope…
We give thanks for the Franciscan value of humility. Spirit of God,
breathe in us the desire to place the needs of others before our own. May we continue to recognize that all good that comes from us comes from the grace of God.
Where there is sadness, joy…
We give thanks for the Franciscan value of joy. Spirit of God, breathe in us the knowledge that true joy is found in Christ. O Divine Master make me an instrument of your peace.

Peace, service, simplicity, humility, and joy. That’s what spoke to me when I was in college and that’s what I discovered in the life of Francis. He live his faith in Christ through peace, service, simplicity, humility, and joy. That’s how I want to live my life too. It doesn’t mean I always live it, but it is my desire and intention to live out this charism.

During the service, my Statement of Association was read.

I agree to be associated with the life and mission of the Congregation by: continuing to grow into my Franciscan and Methodist roots by serving the poor, the universal church, and all people with dignity and respect. I am expanding my church family by being a part of the Sisters of Saint Francis community living the mission of Jesus through our presence and service and will be faithful in my prayers, service, and witness.

As I went forward to sign the official Statement of Association, my little guy, Zechariah, came up with me. He signed a little paper too. It was pretty cute, but it was such a joy to share this experience with him, as my Ordination and Commissioning to ministry was before he was born.

It was a beautiful short service, but I have to admit that I was unprepared for what came next. I was asked to stay in front of the congregation for a blessing. Every hand in the room went up. Hands of older Sisters who have prayed and served so diligently for many years went up. Hands of Associates who desire to live out this same call I have went up. Even my little boy raised his hands in blessing.

Then out of the silence came one voice in unison, as they sang together “The Blessing of Saint Clare.”

The Blessing of Saint Clare
May Almighty God bless you, may Almighty God bless you.
May God look upon you with the eyes of great mercy and give you much
peace.
May God pour forth all graces on you abundantly. And in Heav’n may God
place you among the saints. Amen.

I didn’t expect that. I knew I was going to sign my Association statement. I knew I was going to receive a nice Associates pin. I didn’t know about the sung blessing at the end. It was powerful and so meaningful to have my new community offer this beautiful blessing to me in a time of so much change and transition in my life. My only response was to place my hand over my heart as a sign of my gratitude for this beautiful gift.

As I enter into a major time of transition in my life, as I move to a new community to serve a new church and live in a new home, I know that there is a home for me with the Franciscan Community of Oldenburg. While being physically apart, we will remain spiritually connected through our prayers and witness. I’m thankful to be a part of this community and for having the opportunity to live out my vocation as a Franciscan Methodist.

“My God and My All,” Saint Francis of Assisi.60344402_914262071043_2615061632115539968_n[2]

(A meditative prayer of Francis)

To learn more about the Sisters of Saint Francis of Oldenburg, IN, go to:

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One thought on “It’s Official: I’m Franciscan!

  1. Dear Matt, I think I may be a “Methodist Franciscan”! Growing up Roman Catholic, I chose the confirmation name Francis. Reading everything I could get my young hands on, I fell deeper in love with this follower of Jesus. Becoming a United Methodist in my second year at Duke Divinity School, I have pastored churches in eastern North Carolina since 1976. Joining what was then a private association of the Faithful, I have not been whole-hearted in the Brothers and Sisters of Charity of the Little Portion Hermitage. John Michael Talbot has moved the community to recognition as a Public Association of the Faithful, and deeper into the Roman institution.
    We share a common love, and my best wishes and prayers are with you in your continuing journey. God’s peace.

    Like

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