The recent meeting of the “new Council-Elect” reminded me of a line that I heard from the actor who plays Jesus in the “The Chosen” video series. He says to townspeople who witness one of his miracles, “Get used to different.”
But there’s also an old saying that goes: “No one likes change, except a baby with a wet diaper.” The restructuring and revitalizing experience was working even before we made the decision to engage a more determined process in 2018. We were and are learning to walk together in trust.
Ignatius Brady was a friar from our province who lived with us novices during the novitiate of 1980-81. I remember him praying as an elderly man during evening prayer that we friars might be semper novus (always new). As young friar, I wondered why or how an elder would pray this way. I learned that Ignatius had struggled to stay fresh all his life, always new, and had continued to have some challenging ideas about how to live our Franciscan life. Here, towards the end of his life, he was continuing to pray that he and us would be always new.
Francis himself was about this constant conversion, this releasing of what we might call the false self that holds us in bondage. The false self could be understood as a general over identification with the way things are, or our self-understanding, or our jobs and titles, unconscious racial privilege, or our enneagram number, to name a few. This past week I’ve been encouraged by God to understand myself in a new way as a friar of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As I pack up my things to go to Atlanta, I’m struggling with things being different. Part of me doesn’t want to get “used to different.” Over the last six years as Provincial, I’ve rediscovered Cincinnati and been able to see my parents in Dayton. I have grown close to the brothers with whom I live at Pleasant Street Friary, in particular, and in my province in general. There is some sadness about leaving the beauty and support, the familiarity! After a moment of recovery, I find myself chuckling at my resistance to change and to a new adventure in Franciscan life.
We are on a pilgrimage, as Keith Warner reminds us. I suspect that Francis felt this way as he moved from his place of privilege as a cloth merchant’s son to the world outside the protective walls of Assisi. He had one foot in one world and the other in the next. It culminated in a very definitive, theatrical, gesture in his stripping off his clothes and handing them to his father. I doubt that I’ll do that, although I am stripping away quite a number of books and accumulations! As I anticipate my goodbyes, it leaves that mixture in me: both very sad and excited. Bringing these feelings to prayer, I feel the reassurance of God: his deep presence, telling me that I am his own! God is reshaping me, and us, into lesser brothers on the road, for the 21st century, always reforming, semper