Friday, September 21, 2007
How to Talk Pretty Good Franciscan:Lesson 1
“Our new postulants will be joining local friars from the Ascension Friary on October 3 for the Feast of the Transitus of St. Francis. The local fraternity will host the event, with haustus and dinner following evening prayer.”
Hmm. Do you understand any of that? Sometimes we friars (there I go again) talk to ourselves entirely too much. Just like anyone else focused in a particular vocation (oops) or profession. We can get so intensely involved in our own world that we forget everyone else and just chirp along in our own lingo.
Well, here are a few terms to help you to understand the Franciscan dialect. This is not an exhaustive word list (or even alphabetically arranged), but it will give you a decent start. Stick with us and, little by little, you’ll be able to talk pretty good Franciscan, too. The descriptions and definitions are informal and meant only to give you a general idea of what the heck we’re talking about (we’re not always 100% sure ourselves).
Franciscan (noun). A person (male or female) who identifies with and follows Jesus Christ inspired by the example of St. Francis of Assisi (and don’t forget St. Clare of Assisi) as a member of a religious community or lay affiliate (e.g,, Secular Franciscans).
Friar (noun) A male religious, either priest (ordained) or brother (not ordained), who is a formal member of a Franciscan community.
Friary (noun) A residence for a particular group of Franciscan men (friars). Also called a “fraternity” among ourselves (or should I say, “in house.”). In some places in Europe or Latin America, this residence is also called a “convent.” Confused? So am I.
OFM. Initials which stand for the Latin “Orden fratris minores” or “Order of Friars Minor” or (loosely translated, “The order of little brothers”). Placed after a person’s name, it indicates his membership in the order: e.g., Carlos Diaz, ofm.
Observant (OFM), Capuchin (Ofm cap) , Conventual, (Ofm conv) ,Third Order Regular (TOR) Terms applied to the four major groupings of Franciscan men in the world. Taken together, we are known as the Franciscan family. Their origins and historical development would require a separate blogsite, but suffice it to say that each and every group follows the Rule of St. Francis. And yes, even though each group is different, we are all fully Franciscan. Do people ever get us confused? You bet.
The Rule. Every religious community has a foundational document which describes its purpose, mission, and standards of conduct. The Rule of St. Francis was written in 1209, then revised and approved by Pope Honorius in 1223. That same Rule is observed by Franciscans today.
Vow A promise or commitment. Franciscans make public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as an indication of one’s total commitment to following the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Initial, or “simple” vows are made for a period of one year and are renewable annually. “Solemn” vows are made for life. In either case, the vows are made only after a period of careful study, prayer, and preparation.
Habit A garment worn by a man or woman belonging to a particular religious community to signify his/her membership in that community. The habit worn today by Franciscan men in the OFM tradition represents a particular style of dress decreed by Pope Leo XIII in 1893. Consisting of a tunic, a capuche (or hood) and a rope cord with three knots in it (representing each of the three vows a friar makes), our habit is a visual reminder of the kind of clothing worn by working men in the 13th century, the time of St. Francis of Assisi. Sandals, by the way, are optional.
Inquirer/ Aspirant/ Candidate. An inquirer is someone who is interested in and , quite literally, wants to ask some questions about our way of life. Inquirers may read literature, attend retreats and ongoing discernment groups, etc, but don’t make any specific commitment to entering the community. Aspirants are folks who are a little further along in the process. An aspirant has indicated that he would like to learn more about our community and is more focused and serious in his process. Typically, he has become familiar with the Franciscan spirit and lifestyle and may even know a few friars personally. Furthermore, he may be a participant in one of our preparatory programs, such as the House of Welcome and Discernment. A candidate is a man who has made the decision to apply for formal acceptance into the first stage of entry into community life called postulancy (see below).
Postulancy/ postulant (noun). The postulancy is a formal period of initial entry into community life. A postulant is a man who, having made formal application for acceptance and been approved by our community, enters an initial program of studies and preparation for religious life. In our province, the postulancy consists of a nine-month period of residency at a specific house we have established in Portland, Oregon. Men learn to live together in a regular schedule (horarium) of activites which structure prayer, work, household chores, and recreation. This is a “hands on” experience of religious life. Face it, you can read every book in the world about it, but unless you actually try it yourself, you won’t really know if it is for you. More—much much more—on postulancy in upcoming blogs.
Province. A particular entity, usually defined geographically, comprising a specific group of friars living and working under the direction of an elected leader known as the provincial minister. The Province of St. Barbara, for example, includes the entire West Coast of the United States, as well as Arizona, Nevada, and part of New Mexico.
Okay, had enough for now? These terms will give you a head start in understanding the structure of religious life in general and Franciscan life in particular. Stay turned for a future installment where we’ll explore such terms as Transitus, haustus (above) , charism, guardian, and – one of my personal favorites-- syndic (not to be confused with “cynic.”).
Posted by Fr. Charles Talley, ofm at 1:23 PM