Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer 2010: Friar Days at San Luis Rey

The invasion began peacefully enough. Precisely around dawn (Franciscan time) on Sunday, July 25, while some friars were still fast asleep in their beds and others were preparing for Mass, the vans rolled silently onto the grounds of the Old Mission. The new occupying forces--fourteen student friars in all—nine of them from our own Province of St. Barbara— quietly gathered their backpacks, laptops, and sleeping bags to set up summer camp. The Mission would never be the same again.

Welcome to unofficial Friar Days at Old Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California. For almost a full month, Franciscan friars, secular Franciscans, parishioners, families and friends gathered at the historic (founded 1798) 50-acre site north of San Diego to celebrate and share our heritage and hopes through a number of classes, workshops, and special events.

First off, the student friars spent time in summer classes on Franciscan philosophy—Sister Mary Beth Ingham offered a course on Franciscan philosopher Duns Scotus. Our own Father Tom Herbst, home for the summer from the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury, England, provided sessions in Church history and Franciscan spirituality to both friars and the general public. Interwoven into all of this were three separate retreats on Franciscan spirituality provided for leadership groups in the English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and Samoan communities, kicking off an18-month renewal project for the Parish family.

In the midst of all this scholarly and community activity, we celebrated a number of special public events as well. On Friday, August 13, our brother Sebastian David Sandoval-Ballestros was ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Robert Brom, DD, of the Diocese of San Diego. Deacon Sebastian has since been assigned to the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, to complete his training in preparation for eventual ordination to the priesthood.

The following morning, our Minister Provincial Father John Hardin, presided over the profession of solemn (lifetime) vows by Friars Louis Khoury and Christopher Best in the Old Mission Church. The Church was filled to capacity with family, friends, and more than forty Franciscan friars—a record attendance for us. Besides being a monumental occasion for our professing brothers, it also served as a poignant reminder to all of us friars of what we have pledged to the Lord and our brothers:

“… with firm faith and will, I vow to God the Father, Holy and Almighty, to live the whole time of my life in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity….”

“Therefore, with all my heart, I entrust myself to this brotherhood, that through the working of the Holy Spirit, the example of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the intercession of our father Francis and all the saints, and with the help of my Brothers, I may in the service of God, the Church, and humankind seek the perfection of charity.”

With the words “therefore, with all my heart,” I can assure you that we friars felt a collective lump in our throats. The promises made by every newly professed friar both reaffirm and challenge the commitment of us all. It is in grace-filled moments like this one that we realize that, our individual wounds and flaws notwithstanding, there is something (or rather, Someone) who brings us together and calls us to our better, even best selves.

Completing the triduum of Franciscan festivities, on Sunday, August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, friars and members of the parish family of Mission San Luis Rey gathered at Eucharist to bless and dedicate our new Franciscan/ San Damiano Cross. The nine-foot long object “written” icon-style on a ‘body’ of solid pine wood is an interpretation of the same Cross from which the corpus of Christ spoke to St. Francis of Assisi nearly 800 years ago, enjoining him to “rebuild my Church.” Our brother, Vincent Nguyen spent two full months as artist-in-residence at the Parish working on the figure.

Minister Provincial Father John Hardin presided at sequential unveilings of the Cross at both the principal English and Spanish-language celebrations. He also received the renewal of temporary (annual) vows from our nine student/ simply professed confreres. At the end of Mass, the Parish Knights of Columbus Council 3162 presented scholarship awards to three of our student friars: Joe Sury, Louis Khoury, and Ryan Thornton.

After a weekend of liturgical celebrations and ensuing fraternal partying, our student friars stayed on at San Luis Rey to help out with ‘voluntary’ manual labor on a variety of unglamorous jobs on the grounds. Many thanks to them for their hard work in the gardens and elsewhere.

I’ve been told that next summer, the student friars will be with us at OMSLR for an even longer period of time. We welcome another friendly invasion. These men bring along with them the contagious passion, energy, and excitement of both their youth and their 'young' vocations. This, in turn, helps to re-ignite the Franciscan spirit among us; we are really blessed.

--Many thanks to Secular Franciscan Tuan Cao and to Brother Eric Pilarczik for the photos provided in this entry.- ct

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