I have had profiles written on me, interviews done and photo shoots. I began a new ministry, extended my ministry and had to put a lot of my ministry on hold due to a pandemic. I have completed a program, been on line more than I can keep track and have begun a new adventure in the spiritual journey. Yet to truly know what year one has looked like for me, you must look into my heart. I’ll try to give you a glimpse.
Last year on August 23 gathered with Friars, family and friends I made my Solemn Vows as a Franciscan Friar. To say the day was amazing and a gift is an understatement. It was beautiful on so many levels and truly was a launching into the fullness of religious life. It is as I reflect back on that day and the year which has unfolded that I realize that my heart has been caught up in a continual surrendering and transformation.
In a poem I wrote while on pilgrimage before my vows I penned these words:
My heart is ready, O God
to be awakened to your ways
to be stirred to life
to be raised up in truth.
These words seem to capture the surrendering and transformation which this past year has been. To let go of ego and let true self arise, to let go of plans so as to be ready for God’s plans, to let go of false expectations and a constant society driven need for achievement has indeed awakened, stirred and raised up my heart. Trying to find words to describe insights gained from sitting in the stillness or soul-stirring conversations or patterns of service is difficult to do. What I can say is that when surrender becomes part of a positive vocabulary, one’s heart is now in the posture of being ready. I would like to think I knew this when I made my first vows five years ago and my Solemn Vows last August. I do believe that I am understanding this better a year later and look forward to how it will unfold in my life as a religious brother. This is the beautiful part of a ready heart, maybe a bit terrifying too, but more beautiful.
In the moments of preparation for my Solemn Vows, in the prostrating before the altar, in the placing of my hands into the hands of the Provincial Minister and professing my life to the Franciscan way of life there was a deep calm and a true peace. This calm and this peace have sustained me this past year in dealing with changes, in moments of frustration, in heartache and hurt but also in the moments of great joy, of celebrating with others and in moments of prayer which led me into service. As I reflect back on the year and even as I look ahead, these gifts are invaluable for my ready heart as I continue to live out my vocation as a Franciscan Brother.
The poem continues:
My heart is ready, O God
called to be a vessel of your love
called to be a living and holy tabernacle and icon
called to be a brother for the world.
If you were to see my heart, you would see that there is always a flame flickering at the center of it. This flame has always been and has been fanned at times and at other times has been purifying. My ready heart desires nothing more than to be a vessel for this flame, so that my heart may continually be transformed so as to be a living witness to Christ. St. Francis of Assisi desired nothing more than to be conformed to Christ. As someone who professes to follow the way of St. Francis, I too desire nothing more than to be conformed to Christ. This is how I try to be a living and holy tabernacle and icon by being able to preach the gospel in word and deed, to be present for others, to encounter the Triune God in all of creation and in all people and to be a vessel of love. This is the challenge I took up with my vows which continues to fan the flame in my heart.
Being a brother is wrapped up in the flame that keeps burning and it has challenged me to see surrender in the positive sense. Being a brother often means being attentive and listening deeply; my heart has learned these qualities in new ways. Being a brother has meant finding a balance between self and other, between doing and being; my heart has wrestled with these characteristics. Being a brother is about relationship whether that is blood, fraternal or friendship; my heart has learned tenderness through this reality. Being a brother (something I have written on in previous posts) has been a gift for my life so far and I know it will continue to transform my heart and make it ready for what is next.
As I reflect back on the year since my Solemn Vows I am in awe. I am in awe of how much my heart has grown. I am in awe of what breaks my heart, what inspires my heart and who knows my heart. I am in awe of how the gift of calm and peace which filled my heart as I professed my life continues to be present in the living of life.
My heart is ready O God, my heart is ready for I know you are ever present, guiding me in the ways of surrendering to everlasting life and goodness. You are transforming me and my heart to embrace the fullness of being conformed to your beloved Son.
St. Francis, my dear brother… you captured my heart oh so many years ago (I found more proof of this summer as I was purging some childhood notes) and you continue to capture my heart. I believe you captured it because you point to Christ and even in your weaknesses your heart was ready. Your heart was ready for the adventure to which the Spirit was stirring in you and how God’s love was being made known in you through your transformed relationship with Christ. My ready and captured heart, professed in the way of life you shaped, is ready for the continual surrendering and transformation which God will guide through year two of my Solemn Vows.
St. Francis, my brother… pray for me.
To all who read this post, thank you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers – I am grateful. God’s richest blessings to continually fill your heart – no matter how ready it may seem.
St. Francis, our brother… pray for us.