October 4, 2022
Dear Brother Francis,
As we come to this annual celebration of your life, I am again reminded of how you have called me to an awareness in living for today. You were not perfect. Although history has tried to paint you as perfection, when one spends time with your story one sees your humanity and appreciates the journey. You were very human with a range of emotions and dreams. This gives me hope for my continued journey and my discernment which is a part of the journey. You had a sense of both the contemplative and of mission. I am encouraged by these qualities as both speak to me and call me to life in ways unique to me but also in fraternity. Your patterns of pause, pray and presence seem to continually factor into the patterns I try to have shape my life.
This year as I mark my mid-forties, I am now older than you when you died. This has given me some perspective as I consider what is mine to do in this second half of life. You in your life had journeyed from illusions of knighthood to a complete surrender of your life to God. You continued to work through the trauma of life and in embracing the journey you attracted followers. This following of men and then women to a specific way of life took hold continuing still today. I know that I am not called to form a new religious community, I am however aware of your way of life rooted in Christ as a source for living, freedom and hope. It gives me pause to reflect. Every day provides an opportunity to align my day and living in the way of Christ. Every day the gospel gives me hints of how to better step into lived realities and how to carry the good news to people. Every day I pay attention to the details of life which speak of the grandeur of God and how I am a part of this magnificent creation. As I ponder at this midpoint of another decade and consider your life, your words, “up to now we have done very little, let us begin again” echo again and again in my ears.
These words of yours resonate with me for they are invitation to continue to hope and dream. They are an invitation to reflect on what is mine to do and how I to live out this charism you left for us decade after decade, generation after generation, century after century. My dreams are a long list, some of them realistic, some of them lingering from stories of you or moments you created in your life time and some are pure illusions of my daydreams. Yet, I am learning my dreams are about surrendering into God again and again instead of “forcing” what I think is mine to do. I must rather pay attention to my relationship with God and how this invites me to dream beyond the limitations I create for myself. As I continue to surrender, I then see how this creates space to dream again and to realize hope is about an encounter with a person. The same person who you had an encounter with – Jesus the Christ.
Surrendering is never an easy step but it is always an opportunity to trust in God and to listen. To clear my head of all the unnecessary “worldly stuff” to pay attention to the heart, the soul – the space where God meets me. This again leads me to the hope of the person of Jesus Christ. His life, which so encapsulated you, was rooted in love poured into him through God, which he in turn poured out this hope through his Spirit. You were so caught up in this triune relationship of love as it impacted your heart time and again. It shifted your view to hope and in turn to dream because you were open to this Divine Love living, moving and being in you.
As I ponder on this and what is mine to do at this time; in this time, I could be left overwhelmed or stunted by pressure. I choose rather to come back to the man of hope – Jesus. I pay attention to how you interacted with his gospel and allowed it to shape you. This is what is mine to do for this time and place. I must continue to allow the gospel to be the shaping pattern of my life so I can truly be a vessel carrying Christ forward in deed and in word being welcoming and hope-filled.
As we again this year mark your life and ponder your openness to God at work in your life, I look to you as my brother. I am beginning to pay attention more to you and your little moments and the few details we have of your life. I find they serve as a reminder of true hope and dreams. They are means for me to pay attention to how Christ is at work in my life. They are a means for me to do what is mine to do each day and in doing so I am present to the gospel at work here and now, not then and not tomorrow. And this is what it means to begin again.
Francis, my brother, your life does not simply fascinate me, it speaks to my heart and again calls me to pay attention to my living. My life is in union with the One who is Hope, the One who sent him and the One who breathes through each one of us today. I pray for an attentive and open heart so to step into each day knowing I too carry the dignity of my humanity and the invitation to divinity which intersects my life.
To you my brother, with gratitude for your legacy and how God is at work in all of this still today… much peace.
Your little brother,
Artwork: Yevgenia Petrenko