The Friars Under Ten, or brothers who are living the first ten years after solemn profession, recently met for a Chapter of Mats. The theme chosen for their gathering was “Friars in Dialogue”. This theme was chosen by Brother Michael Perry, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor. In his letter of convocation of the Chapter of Mats Under Ten, he reminded the friars of “the need to be weavers of dialogue, bridge builders, and peace artisans today more than never. It is a challenge for each of us and the life of our fraternities.”
The brothers met in Taizé, which was chosen by Br. Michael as the place of the Chapter for its strong symbolic value, as “a place that for decades has been living and embodying ecumenical dialogue and reconciliation among peoples.”
Three Franciscans from the Canadian province were chosen as our delegates, and here is how one of them, Brother Benjamin Ripley, experienced this special moment in the life of our global Franciscan community.
I had the privilege of attending this year’s 2019 OFM “Under 10” Conference in Taize, France along with my confreres Manoj Xalxo and Carlos Ona. It was a great and eye-opening experience for me to meet with Franciscan Friars from around the world as well as re-connecting with familiar friars who I have journeyed with in my initial formation experience. We heard from speakers such as our General Secretary of Formation, and the Prior of the Taize Community, culminating with a message from our Minister General, Michael Perry. We had the opportunity to get together in small groups and share our ideas on relevant issues facing us friars under 10 years solemnly professed and to share in the praise, prayer, and worship of the Taizé community. The small group discussions was the highlight of the conference for myself and many who participated. It opened my eyes to the experiences and challenges of brother friars who come from areas in the world where living the Franciscan vocation is more difficult to live out due to social and political circumstances where they live.
I reflected on the theme of this conference—“Friars in Dialogue” and how it applied to me and my vocation as a Franciscan friar. Minister General Michael Perry referred to the words contained in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si: “The starting point, method, and goal of all processes of dialogue is the cultivation of a set of interconnected relationships that, according to our Catholic theology of the Trinity, leads us to the recognition that we are a part of a vast weave of intersecting and interlocking threads.” This was a beautiful image to me which reminded me of what is occurring in my personal Franciscan journey. I am part of a new province which was formed in dialogue between the cultures of Eastern and Western Canada. This dialogue continues to revitalize the Franciscan OFM presence in Canada. I enter into this dialogue as I move to my new community in Trois-Rivières—where I will bring my gifts to my brother friars there and in turn be blessed and strengthened by spirit of my new family of Franciscan brothers.
My takeaway from my Taize experience is that the human experience has its foundation between the dialogue and experience of connected relationships between God, our neighbour, and creation itself. Franciscans–whether “Under Ten” or over–share in our “Vocation to Fraternity.” We dialogue with the world in our particular ministries and place ourselves in service to God and the common good. That continues to be the beauty of the Franciscan charism.
(Brother Benjamin Ripley)