Are you thinking about becoming a Franciscan and entering into a religious vocation? This is something that requires serious thought, because it’s much more than changing your interests, where you live or the work you do; it is a radical conversion of your interior life.
It means paying attention to life events and taking the time to pause, reflect and pray. You may discover that the Lord is sending you signs to enter into a religious vocation. A spiritual director and vocation sessions will help you to identify these signs.
The brothers begin and end their day by praying the Psalms, as well as listening to and meditating on the Gospel during the Eucharist. Then, each brother turns to his own tasks – which are often outside the convent – as well as making sure the house is clean and preparing meals. However, Franciscans also have two essential responsibilities: a presence in the Holy Land, and international missions. Community spirit goes beyond sharing tasks, as the brothers decide among themselves on the projects they would like to undertake. They guide and enlighten each other according to the gifts God has given them.
Have you begun your spiritual journey and would like to make sure you are on the right path? The spiritual director can help you in the call you believe you have received from the Lord, whether as a man or woman of faith, a religious or a lay person. A Franciscan or the brother who is responsible for vocations can also help you in your seeking. This step is very important; don’t hesitate to get to know yourself as much possible.
Although you may be excited about entering into a religious vocation quickly, some cool-headed reflection is needed. You must ask yourself whether this spiritual seeking is authentic. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14.28). One way to prepare yourself for this vocation is to keep living in your own environment while preparing your heart to give yourself to Christ. In concrete terms, this can mean volunteering with community organizations, daily prayer, giving to the poor, etc.
From your first awareness of your eventual call to become a Franciscan until the moment you make an informed decision, one-on-one meetings with the vocations director (or with other youth in a group setting) are an excellent way to verify the authenticity of your vocation and the qualities needed for this form of religious and Franciscan life. In addition to these vocational gatherings, participating in activities and visiting Franciscan houses will help you to discern your call.
Initial formation allows “the man, the Christian and the Franciscan” to emerge. It therefore includes three dimensions: personal, spiritual and Franciscan growth. Throughout the formation period, the candidate receives support to develop each of these aspects. He learns to live and work as a Franciscan (or friar minor) for the Church and the world. Initial formation includes three steps: the postulate, the novitiate and simple vows.
The postulancy — which lasts for one to two years — is the very first step in a vocation as a Franciscan brother. Once his request for admission has been accepted by the Provincial Minister, the postulancy begins to spend time with the members of the fraternity, doing placements among the brothers. For at least six months, the aspiring brother shares in the community life of the fraternity. He discerns through reading, formation sessions and spiritual direction whether he is being called to the life of the friar minor.
As a novice, the candidate deepens his relationship with God and begins an intensive period of formation in the Franciscan charism. He withdraws for a time of retreat from all exterior activities. He gets to know Francis and the Franciscans, the life of prayer and adoration, the origins and traditions of the Order. At the end of his novitiate year, the candidate makes his vows (poverty, chastity and obedience) for the first time. He is, from that moment, known as a friar minor.
Once he is considered a friar minor, the young brother makes simple vows each year. This is a commitment that he renews for three to eight years. After this time, he makes a life commitment, which is called “solemn profession.” Initial formation ends when the brother makes a permanent commitment to the community. The entire process takes at least six years. During the early years, the young brother learns a trade or finishes the education he had started, according to his commitment in the Church and in the world. Whatever his main occupation is, the brother in simple vows continues to devote a lot of time to Franciscan formation.
After three or more years of temporary commitment, the professed asks the Provincial Minister (in writing) to make a lifetime commitment to the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) of the Franciscans. This perpetual profession is solemnly celebrated in the presence of brothers of the Province and the brother’s family. This perpetual commitment gives access – to religious who feel called to it – to the diaconate and presbyterate (priesthood). Those who are not called to be priests can continue their studies and develop new skills that will allow them to better serve the Church, the poor and the world.
Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, himself wore the habit throughout his entire religious life. This brown or off-white woollen garment is in the shape of a cross, and is belted by a white rope. The three knots in this rope recall the three evangelical vows (poverty, chastity and obedience) that are at the heart of Franciscan life. In this way, we can say that the habit has strong symbolic and spiritual significance. The Franciscans wear it at feasts or gatherings. On ordinary days, some wear it, while others wear simple modern clothing or habits that are adapted to the needs of their workplace.