Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
Franciscans of Canada - Franciscains du Canada
Ordo Fratrum Minorum
Pierre Charland : “I found freedom and joy!”
Around ten years ago, there was a huge upheaval in my life. It was a key moment in my personal story. After an unexpected and disturbing meeting, what had always motivated me, what had taken up all my time and energy, suddenly became unimportant to me.
Until I was 27, my goal in life was success of every kind. As a young adult, I had a glamorous and responsible job in communications for a major political party, with a great salary, lots of benefits, and friends in high places. I had a university degree, I had a busy and stimulating social life, I had money to buy anything I wanted… I had, I had, I had… but I didn’t have what it took to make me happy.
My outlook on life started to change in 1989. One evening, in a Chinese restaurant in downtown Ottawa, I met a young woman who spoke to me for a long time about God… and I felt profoundly connected to what she was saying. The fractured pieces of my life started to come together, to make a whole. Over time, as I talked with this disciple of Christ who had devoted her life to seeking God’s will, there arose in me the desire to know the Lord better and to respond to something that had always been there, in the deepest part of my heart: a call to follow Him… to dedicate my life to Him.
My heart was now open to God. One afternoon, as I looked through my collection of books, I found a book on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Someone had given it to me a few years earlier, but I had never opened it. That day, I read that book from cover to cover, and I was amazed. I knew that God was calling me to follow the Franciscan way.
From that moment on, I had the courage to roll up my sleeves and start changing my life in a way that would fit my most deeply held values. I began to be more like the human being I really am, and to be happy. I felt able to see the happiness that my Creator intended for me, and I realized that until then I had been way too busy to make room for God in my life. Even though religious practice had always been somewhat important to me, for many years I had been going to mass on Sundays on auto-pilot, without stopping to think about what I was doing or what prayers I was saying. I was too consumed by everything else. My time and energy were swallowed up in a frantic race towards performance, success and pleasure. I had never really made the link between my hour at Sunday mass and the rest of my life!
Now that I was inspired by a new energy and was thankful to God for the grace He had given me, I was determined to make the necessary changes to root my life in prayer and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I didn’t want to build on such unstable foundations as glory and money. From now on, God would be my guide. He would come before everything else.
Also, like many young adults of my generation, for a long time I had thought I could find freedom by distancing myself from rules and other kinds of authority that limited my ability to seek out pleasure. But as I began to read the Gospels and the writings of Francis and Clare of Assisi in more depth, and as I listened to God in silence and prayer, I understood