Every so often the question comes up. I have been a Secular Franciscan since 2001 and "hanging around" the fraternity since at least early 2000. It's a fraternity full of lovely people, 90% of whom are considerably older than I.
As a mother, I get a lot of support from them. Most of the SFOs in my fraternity are women and most have had children. They encourage and compliment my efforts and welcome my children. That's nice, but it's not why I'm there.
Some of them remind me of my grandmothers, whom I miss very much. That's nice too, but it's not why I'm there.
I might also mention that the collective wisdom regarding cake-baking is amazing, and I rarely leave a meeting hungry, but that's not why I'm there either.
It's not the demographics of the fraternity that keeps me going back. Let's face it, I don't fit the demographic. I'm not a senior citizen and I'm not Polish (though I married Polish!) I'm not a parishioner in the sponsoring parish.
What I am, and what they are, is an ordinary person trying to keep sight of the extraordinary, the divine, while going about the ordinary stuff of daily life. That's why I'm there and that's all that matters.
This is not a club.
This is not your kegger type of fraternity.
I am privileged to be the Baby of the Family here. I have the opportunity to mingle with people who have been SFOs longer than I have been alive, who have "been there, done that" and lived to tell the tale.
In two more months I will no longer be the token Franciscan Under Forty. I guess it's time to witness better, to encourage other people close to my age and younger to join this group where they don't fit the demographic either.
Demographics aren't everything and luckily, in this group, they count for nothing at all.
Father Alban Butler writes:
- From the example of the saints it appears how foolish the pretenses of many Christians are, who imagine the care of a family, the business of a farm or a shop, the attention which they are obliged to give to their worldly profession, are impediments which excuse them from aiming at perfection. Such, indeed, they make them; but this is altogether owing to their own sloth and malice. How many saints have made these very employments the means of their perfection! Saint Paul made tents; Saints Crispin and Crispinian were shoemakers; the Blessed Virgin was taken up in the care of her poor cottage; Christ himself worked with his reputed father, and those saints who renounced all commerce with the world to devote themselves totally to the contemplation of heavenly things, made mats, tilled the earth, or copied and bound good books.
The secret of the art of their sanctification was, that fulfilling the maxims of Christ, they studied to subdue their passions and die to themselves; they, with much earnestness and application, obtained of God, and improved daily in their souls, a spirit of devotion and prayer; their temporal business they regarded as a duty which they owed to God, and sanctified it by a pure and perfect intention, as Christ on earth directed every thing he did to the glory of his Father. In these very employments, they were careful to improve themselves in humility, meekness, resignation, divine charity, and all other virtues, by the occasion which call them forth at every moment, and in every action. Opportunities of every virtue, and every kind of good work never fail in all circumstances; and the chief means of our sanctification may be practiced in every state of life, which are self-denial and assiduous prayer, frequent aspirations, and pious meditation or reflections on spiritual truths, which disengage the affections from earthly things, and deeply imprint in the heart those of piety and religion.
- That's what being a Secular Franciscan is all about: making my daily work holy and directing everything to the glory of God.