The Obedience of Religious Life: Why I'm Not Currently On A Plane to Rome

Sometimes the life of a religious friar means that you have to turn down great opportunities, even when they come from Rome. 

I was invited to the Bloggers Conference on May 2, a gathering of 150 bloggers to discuss the Church and evangelization in the blogosphere. And while I was selected to attend this very important meeting, I regretfully had to pass. There's still a sinking feeling in my stomach about missing the opportunity, but I am proud to have been considered. And while I won't be able to attend, it's another lesson in what it means to be a friar.
As a 36-year-old, I was quite accustomed to certain freedoms before I joined religious life. I woke up whenever I wanted to, I got home whenever I wanted, I bought what I wanted when I wanted it, and I lived the way I chose to. Like any other American, I valued my "freedom." And even when I made bad choices in life, they were my bad choices.

Since becoming a friar, that mindset has changed...and for good reasons. To be called to a religious vocation is, at the deepest level, a willingness to follow the path of Another. That Call is exciting and joyous, but can also be confusing, scary, and even frustrating at times. A religious vocation is a call to serve: service to the Faithful, to the needy, and to the Church. That call to service opens many doors, and I've been graced with the chance to do so many things in my role as a post-novice Capuchin Friar.

However a life of service means that one must make choices. As a student friar, many of you have read about my busy classes, the work I'm doing within the Province, and the daily struggle to identify myself as a religious friar. Each of these things are important and require a significant part of my time. And while I would love to attend the Blog Conference, a unique opportunity to take part in the Beatification of Pope John Paul II as well as discuss the sacred nature of digital media and the spreading of the Gospel through new technology, it is something that I must forego.

But I am happy for those who will attend. As Oscar Romero said, some of us will never see the fruit of our work...and that's ok. When I started this blog years ago, as a way to deal with the struggles of discerning and then to deal with the challenges of living a Franciscan life, my only hope was to make sense of what God was telling me to do. The fact that I'd been chosen to represent a segment of the blogosphere is far beyond any idea I had for blogging. However I recognize the Church's desire to seek the input of bloggers from around the world and embrace this aspect of social media.

My prayers are with those who will be attending The Vatican for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II and for those who will convene for the Blogger's Conference. May the Spirit that touched me be present amoung them.


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4 Response to The Obedience of Religious Life: Why I'm Not Currently On A Plane to Rome

May 5, 2011 at 7:06 AM

I think you missed an opportunity to promote your order and learn how to evangelize better. IMHO, you are falsely claiming righteousness when you should have accepted the grace of direction from the Holy Spirit. Did you pray about your decision? Did you ask advice from your superiors?

May 5, 2011 at 11:39 AM

I agree that an opportunity was passed up, but that's the reality of my life. It doesn't have anything to do with righteousness...it's just the pragmatism of being part of the Order.

Friars from the province congratulated me on the invitation and reminded me that religious life is about making choices for the community. As one of the friars reminded me in an email: "It's not because those choices are bad, but because we have committed our lives to an even greater cause: Christ and his servant Francis." As a friar still in formation, the ability to live for the community is something I must cultivate as I prepare to take solemn vows.

Nor was this the only event I had to miss. As a Bostonian Catholic blogger, I'm sure you knew about the conference last August that was put on by the UCSSB and had Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. as the head speaker. That was another event that I would have loved to attended, however it conflicted with provincial commitments as well.

In the end, I don't feel wronged because I couldn't go. What I do feel is that, if I have been recognized as a blogger who represents an aspect of the Catholic faith, then my attention needs to be focused on that. I hope to do more writing on my blog. I am currently working on our provincial blog website as well, taking the lessons I've learned and allowing other friars to write about life as a friar.

Great opportunities come and go, and I'm fairly confident I'll make it to Rome in the future - either for another beatification or for an important meeting. And realistically, if it weren't for the call to be a Capuchin Franciscan I wouldn't even have a blog. =)

May 8, 2011 at 6:31 AM
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May 20, 2011 at 4:48 AM

I admire you for your fidelity to your vow of obedience and your humility. It must be painful to detach from something you are really interested in, even if it seems like a good opportunity. I remember what a wise spiritual director once said, that discernment is not just between good and evil, but even between two good things, and eventually choosing what has greater priority, based on God's Will for you...in the particular state to which you have been called. It's like if one were a mother who likes to volunteer for charity work, but at a particular time, her child really needs her at home. Even though charity work is good, she must prioritize her being a mother at that time and attend to her child's need.