A Reflection by Sara Hennessey, FSPA on the Feast of St. Francis
“And after that the Lord gave me brothers”
Oh St. Francis, I can relate! With this short statement in Francis of Assisi’s Testament he describes the beginning of Franciscan community life and the start of a new order, something he never intended. But as he began to live the gospel, others were attracted, and wanted to live this life with him, not just on their own.
When I was discerning religious life I narrowed my list to ten serious contenders and I visited five of those communities in person. With a blue magic marker, I kept a journal of those visits carefully noting the spirit of the sisters who welcomed me. When I visited the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration I wrote down, “prayerful, down-home, and wacky.” I had found my home and this is the community I eventually joined. I believe these qualities are what I have come to know as Franciscan joy and must be what attracted those early followers to Francis.
The full quote in the Testament is
“And after that the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the same Most High revealed to me that I had to live according to the form of the holy Gospel.”
I imagine that as a leader this must have been quite confusing for Francis. There were not other leaders pointing the way for “no one showed me what I had to do”, but as he followed that still small voice he was given communal life. And as we know community from the inside out, I’m sure it was messy.
God has given me sisters. These sisters challenge me to be my best self, they lead me into love when I have lost my way, and they hurt my heart with disappointment as we live the real and messy daily life of community.
One of the greatest gifts of CLDP was the gift of sisterhood outside of my own congregation. My small CLDP small group stays actively connected with updates about our life through texting and still tries to meet monthly even two years after our program ended. We share our stories of family, community, and ministry on the various continents that we live forming a circle of solidarity and accountability.
Sisterhood, as Francis exemplifies, is a gift from God and flows naturally from following the gospel. Maybe not always welcome as it challenges our independence. Having sisters on the journey is also gift. As leaders, sisters shape our way forward and keep us centered in the God who is love.