General News from the Province

Franciscan Brotherliness

Franciscan brotherliness shows itself particularly at recreation time and in hospitality toward guests. Recreation is the very arena of fraternal charity. If everyone enters into the spirit of relaxation, innocent fun, the give-and-take of humorous quips or moderate teasing – how pleasant and refreshing is this so necessary exercise of community life. One looks forward to it with joyful anticipation and leaves it refreshed and ready for serious work or duties. It cheers the downhearted, refreshes the weary, drives away gloom, and makes religious life so human and attractive.

We all can recall such periods, when the community was made up of jolly friars who had humility and brotherliness enough to contribute their bit to the general hilarity, even when they themselves were the butt of the fun. Many such lovable souls have passed on, but their memory is still treasured and they live in anecdote as true minstrels of God an types of Franciscan brotherliness.

How different things are when some or all in a community are always on the defensive, always conscious of their dignity, suspicious of losing caste, or brusque in their behavior, or frosty and reserved and secretive and suspicious in their contacts with others! What a strained atmosphere, what uncomfortable silences reign, where all should be joviality. Even the loud blare of a radio cannot cover such a condition. How relieved all are when the time of such a recreation is over and each can crawl back into obscurity!

This may be partly due to natural characteristics, but even here, if one cannot be jovial or finds conversation difficult, he can help by enjoying what is said or done as well as by participating in games and not throw a wet blanket over the efforts of others by grim silence or caustic remarks. It demands real humility and brotherliness to be a joyful friar; one must not encourage any superiority or inferiority complex but realize the equality of all, the freedom of a magnanimous spirit.

Franciscan brotherliness also shows itself in hospitality. A guest, whether a friar or any religious or priest, is and always should be welcome, especially if he be one of our own brethren. He must never be treated as an intruder. If he notices that all are reserved, find means of escape, leave him alone or ignore his presence, or if embarrassing silence warns him that he is not welcome or trusted – where is the brotherliness, the love of a spiritual mother for her son, the one-family idea of St. Francis?

One often hears brethren complain of this, that the old spirit of hospitality is waning and they avoid this or that house in consequence. This should not be. “You are all brethren.” Let us act so. “Let all treat each other as members of one family.” Make religious life pleasant and happy for our brethren. After all, they, too, have made the same great renunciation as we, they are led by the same spirit, begotten of the same Father, are sons of the one mother, Lady Poverty, and we should consider it more in the light of a privilege than a duty to share the love of Christ and Francis with them.

(Spiritual Conferences for religious based on the Franciscan ideal, by Theodosius Foley, OFM Cap., 1951)