How does a sense of deep communal guilt lead to an exploration of the Franciscan charism?
Well, in my case, a troubling and increasingly obvious disconnect between my growing faith as a new Catholic and my “normal” North American way of life was the spark. My husband and I were welcomed into the Church five years ago, but the hypocrisy between what I was spouting and how I was living started to become almost painful to me shortly after that. A trip to Kenya in 2010, where we met a number of smart, funny, open-hearted, joyful, faithful, engaging Christians (who happened to live in one of Nairobi’s biggest slums) brought the whole thing to a head. Was there any fathomable reason that I deserved to live in affluence, while they lived in poverty? How could I ever come to terms with the huge gulf in our respective living standards? I came home from that trip enlightened, but facing reverse culture shock as I slid back into life in Canada. I felt like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – a happy consumer longing for minimalism….a privacy-lover who ached to be radically hospitable…..a “good person” who often felt ashamed and sick.
The timing of an email from an old friend was a loving little nudge from our good God. This friend, whom we later found out is a Secular Franciscan himself, suggested that my husband and I look into the local Secular Franciscan group. Like almost everyone on the planet, I knew a little about St. Francis. I had seen Zeffirelli’s movie, Brother Sun and Sister Moon, when I was a teenager, and I had even read a biography of St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton a number of years ago. But I had next to no knowledge of the Secular Franciscan Order.
After going to our first meeting at St. Luke’s Church, reading some of the formation resources, and talking to some of the intriguing people we met there, it seemed like St. Francis himself was standing at a crossroads, beckoning me to walk beside him for a little while. And so the journey – and the healing – began….