15 September 2018

Before and After

Here is what twelve years on the general council does to you!



14 September 2018

Pope Francis encourages and challenges the Order

Early this afternoon, around 250 Capuchin friars, including the capitulars, capitular staff and a few friars from the General Curia, met briefly with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina of the Vatican. He greeted the outgoing general minister, Br. Mauro J√∂hri, and the newly-elected Br. Roberto Genuin, and, after a few words of appreciation from both of them, Pope Francis addressed the assembly. He began by telling us that he had a prepared talk, but that it was "too formal for Capuchins" so he decided to speak without notes. If you want, however, you can find the text of the prepared talk here.

Leaving the Sala Clementina after the Papal Audience.
He began by noting that he has now personally met four Capuchin general ministers. He met Br. Flavio Roberto Carraro at a Synod of Bishops. He also met Br. John Corriveau, who "stole a friar from my country to make him a general definitor." He then added, "but we made John Corriveau a bishop so now we're even!" Pope Francis first met Br. Mauro in Argentina, when he was still the Cardinal of Buenos Aires.

He went on to note three distinguishing characteristics of Capuchins. The first, he said, was our nearness to the people. We are rightly called "Frati del popolo" (Brothers of the people) because we remain close to everyone, especially the poor and the marginalized. He recalled his recent visit to the Capuchin Day Center in Dublin, where the people are welcomed with no questions asked. All are welcomed and treated with dignity.

The second distinguishing characteristic is our ability to bring peace, especially peace within consciences through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here he recalled a famous Capuchin confessor in Argentina, who spent hours each day in the confessional and helped to reconcile many people and families. [He refers often to this Capuchin friar, and once related how, after a long day in the confessional, he went to the chapel and prayed, "Forgive me, Lord, for being too lenient today, but remember: you were the one who set a bad example for me!"]

Thirdly, he spoke of our prayer life, and especially our contemplative prayer. He urged us to become schools of prayer for Christians.

The audience started about 45 minutes late due to his heavy schedule this morning, but he still took the time to greet each of us personally. It was almost 3 o'clock in the afternoon before we arrived back at the International College and could eat our lunch, but the smiles on the faces of the friars said that the chance to meet the Holy Father was worth the wait.

04 September 2018

Last thoughts

I realize that my posts have become less and less frequent in the past several years, in part because I began using Twitter and Facebook more, but also because my Muse seemed to desert me. Seeing that as of Thursday, September 6, I will no longer be a general councilor, however, I thought it appropriate to write something. I presume this blog will live on after my return to the province, but it will take on a different tone.

The last twelve years of my life have been an amazing journey, and not just in a metaphysical sense. I have flown almost 1.5 million miles during these years and have at least stepped foot in 53 countries. I have met thousands of Capuchins -- I only wish I could remember the names of half of them. My world has greatly expanded since the days when I was a small boy in Olmitz, Kansas.

I wish to express here my gratitude to the friars who had enough faith in me to elect me as a general definitor in 2006 and re-elect me in 2012. I likewise thank all the brothers who supported me, prayed for me, and welcomed me when I visited and made me feel at home. It was a great privilege and honor to serve in this capacity. The examples of faithfulness and cheerful dedication that I saw in so many friars confirmed me in my vocation.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to the other definitors/councilors with whom I worked during these twelve years. We sometimes had our differences, and once in a while we stepped on each other's toes, but at the end of the day, we were still brothers. Special thanks goes to Brother Mauro, under whom I served for all twelve years. He was and is a great brother, a man without guile. He taught me much about leadership. I can honestly say that I grew as a person and as a friar by my association with him.

I am very happy to be returning to my province, but I will always consider these years in Rome, while not without their moments of frustration and loneliness, as a time of grace in my life. I wish all the best to my successor, and pray that his experiences are every bit as rich as mine were.