I think there is an illusion that once someone joins a religious community their life is set for them with a steady pattern of the same day in and day out. Let me tell you that is furthest thing from the truth. For sure there are patterns and routines which are a part of every religious community as there are with every family. For the Franciscan community I belong to, everyday patterns of community prayer, weekly Eucharist, monthly and yearly retreats are some of our steady patterns. However, in between these anchors a lot shapes each day in the unfolding of our charism and life as religious.
When I joined the Friars, I may have had an illusion of how I thought our life would be and how it would unfold. At the beginning of something new I believe we set expectations and goals to keep ourselves focused and aware of our intention to enter into this newness. At times it might be a way of convincing the brain it can handle the changes. At other times it maybe a way to reassure ourselves in our calling. As I began my life with the Friars, I soon discovered the patterns of the community and also realized I needed to set some of my own patterns to be part of this community in healthy ways and to also maintain and foster my relationship with Christ. My personal prayer life leads me into our community prayer life. Time spent in quiet allows for me to be present to others. Serving others and taking on daily tasks within our fraternity fosters the bonds of our shared life. No matter if one is in a religious community or not, healthy patterns are key parts of our living and provide structure. I don’t see this as a dull routine rather as ways to be attentive, to seek Christ before me and to be reminded of my call to serve.
After sharing my reflections last week, a dear friend of mine sent a response which included the following, ““We always begin again.” It is true in the end we really only have the One who created us.” How true! As soon as I read this, I thought of St. Francis, who near his death, said to his brothers, “Let us begin again for up to now we have done very little.” All he had was that moment and his God, nothing else. His invitation to his brothers was to be attentive to the now and to all you will have in the end which is God.
This is the gift of beginning again which is daily invitation. In beginning again, we encounter God afresh and experience the fullness of life. We trust our healthy patterns of the everyday and every thing in between them are leading us to the One who created us and loves us. The wisdom of St. Francis always came from the awareness of the every day and encountering God in the moments. If he could near death, ask his brothers to begin again, in other words to recalibrate to Christ again, how can I not each day of my life in the patterns and the unexpected? It is an invitation to trust and surrender. It is an opportunity to examen my living. It is honouring the healthy patterns which guide my living and not turning them into rigid rules. It is the gift to be in the moment of now. It is knowing if all I have now or at the end of this life, is the One who created me then I am richly blessed. So it is always worth beginning now or even again.
Photo Credit: Jon Tyson