A group photo including friars Mark Soehner, Raphael Ozoude, Joshua Richter and Matt Ryan. Photos by Carlos Portillo, OFM
For the friars, I would like to ask: Do you remember the time when you were temporary professed and renewed vows annually? This year it was my “turn” as Provincial to receive the vows of the friars in our post-novitiate friary on April 18: Easter Monday. What a privilege! And what a great group of brothers!
As you know, during this period of post-novitiate, those brothers in temporary vows renew them annually. It allows the choice of one year in this lifestyle to be experienced without a lifelong commitment to our way of life. This year, as the friars were approaching their renewal, two of the friars opted to not renew their vows. They came prayerfully to this decision as they reflected on their experience of our way of life, its demands, challenges and joys. Such departures make each additional year for the temporary professed a real and deepening commitment. It stops the “go along to get along” kind of thinking that prevents a genuine gift of one’s life to this brotherhood. Departures are reminders of the freedom of each man to hear God’s voice and respond with his whole heart.
The Mass on April 18 was festive and filled with excellent music. I was surprised by how many friars have instrumental or vocal abilities that added beauty and joy to the liturgy. I was moved to tears at the solemnity and gift that each brother gave as he knelt before me with his hands in mine.
Afterwards, the solemnly professed also renewed our commitment to this brotherhood. This, too, was moving and beautiful, as those of us who have been professed know now more what this means for each of us. You may recall that every friary is able to hold such a renewal of vows, especially around the date of April 16, when our father, St. Francis, received the oral approbation of our Rule and Life from Innocent III in 1210. This spiritual renewal of our vows reminds and strengthens us in our daily living them out.
May all of our commitments that we make in Christ, as single, married or religious, encourage us to spend our lives in deepening the awareness of Christ in ourselves, our world and those we serve. Let these commitments be the container of our desire to catch fire and shine with love for our world.
(Fr. Mark Soehner is the Provincial Minister for the Province of St. John the Baptist.)