Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Minister General Visits Canucklehead Bros.
Last weekend we Franciscans in Edmonton were visited by our Minister General Jose Carballo OFM. While we Canucks went out of our way to treat him and our English speaking representative Finnian McGinn OFM as guests of honour -I even vacuumed the stairs- this turned out to be a relatively ordinary weekend here at the Friary. Beyond his inspirational presentation on the state of the Order and the global Franciscan scene, Jose brought none of the stereotypical signs of sanctity that one might expect from the successor of St. Francis. Our brother Jose was as down to earth and as laid back as any Friar I have ever met. He was ordinary; only by being himself did he become extraordinary.
Like anyone else who visits the Friary, this weekend’s guests ate great food, drank good wine, and laughed their way into the world of irony. Without diminishing the philosophical insights that Jose added, I can honestly say that his best offering was this ability to laugh and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Whether sitting in our living room, dinning room, or presiding at liturgy, Jose was devoid of pretentiousness. He talked freely about his dealings with the Pope and the political challenges facing Friars in places like China and Croatia, but what inspired me was his love for life = food, drink, people and sleep. To make a long story short, the Spaniard, who has lived in Rome for many years, felt at home with his brothers in Edmonton.
During Novitiate, my assistant Novice Master Flavian Walsh said to me: “Enjoy life’s simple pleasures Pierre!” At a time when I was not feeling so affirmed by the people around me, these words were unforgetable. The Franciscan life is one of simplicity, humility, and self-giving. As characters like Jose and Flavian teach us, it involves not only being hospitable but receiving hospitality with a joy-filled spirit. The more I think about Jose and his way of being Franciscan, I am convinced that he is indeed an objectively holy and righteous man. The irony is that he is above all an authentic human being. From his oversized belly, to his humour, to his attitude, he shows all the signs of someone who loves life, food, drink, people and sleep. From his homilies, writings, and presentations, he is clearly a prayerful man too; but most importantly he is integrated, grounded in self-awareness and his relationship to the real world. All Franciscans and those discerning the Franciscan way of life should take note -be yourself! Given our important mission to preach the gospel, we best not be afraid of our own shadows. Spontaneous, liberated, and receptive, we may bring the good news to those we meet.