Many good folks have been asking about my taking vows this past Friday in the Franciscan Community of Compassion. So I will share a bit about that arrival point and the road there.
The Community was founded just a few years ago in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. It is an ecumenical community, open to men and women, married and unmarried, from any branch of Christianity. The community is dispersed, that is non-residential, with vowed members living in their own homes in various locations, presently in several states.* The Community includes some ordained persons and many whose path to this commitment flows out of the grace of their baptism. (Hopefully the same is true of us members who have also been ordained).
The vows taken are the traditional ones of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those who have learned of the life and love of Francis of Assisi at all will know that the first of these, Poverty, was of central and life-giving importance for him.
Members are clothed in a Franciscan habit, as the three of us received last Friday evening at Saint Luke’s Church at Forest Hill, Queens, New York were. This simple robing is an ongoing sign of the inner commitment made to the living of the Gospel of Jesus in the Spirit of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi and of the many many thousands of women and men who have lived the Franciscan charism (grace) since their day. I plan on letting that sign of the habit be seen and speak its word and invitation to the people of our 21st century. I wore it at Saint Matthew’s, the church which I serve, this past Sunday morning for the first time.
I have been considering in mind and heart what those three vows mean to me.
To live vowed poverty is to choose to live life with open hands, clinging to nothing and accepting all that comes as gift of God and invitation to an ever-deepening relationship with God, now in this world and in hope of the ultimate future. Poverty is absolute openness to life as it comes, firmly believing that in ways sometimes beautifully obvious and sometimes darkly hidden, all that comes my way and all that I am asked to live, at times by seemingly random circumstance, comes from the hand and heart of the God whose only motivation is God’s very essence: Love.
Chastity is to value every person whose path I cross as a reminder of God’s proven intention in Christ to be present and to be revealed in human persons, even in those where God seems (to my weak eyes) most well-disguised. Chastity is a promise not to seek to possess or to dominate another human being, anywhere, at any time, in any kind of relationship. It means to hold sacred the freedom and the uniqueness of all whom I am blessed to meet and to know. It means in valuing each of them as icons of God’s presence to find myself constantly blessed to be looking into the eyes of Christ, hearing the voice of Christ, holding the hands of Christ.
Obedience is the willingness to be a lifelong listener. Obedience is to listen with reverence to the voices of sisters and brothers, to the sounds of nature, to the music of life each day with confidence that in openness to what is heard I will be guided by the Creator and Redeemer, by the ever-present Spirit, in the way that I should go, in the next step I am called to take. In that listening, I am confident, will be found the strength to say yes to what is heard with the heart.
Am I going to mess up along the way? (Excuse me, have we met?!) Of course! But as Benedictine friends have reminded me in a manner that is a blessing: every day we begin again.
I will continue to think about all this, and to share what may seem worthwhile. Thank you for your interest, and for your moving and loving support.
The story of Saint Francis and the Leper: