Last Sunday, 5 August, over 200 hundred members of the Franciscan Family in Ireland gathered in the ancient (founded 1268) and beautiful friary at Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath. Friars of all sorts, Poor Clares, Franciscan Sisters and Secular Franciscans came together to celebrate the life and charism of St Clare as the Year of St Clare draws to a close.
On the night of Palm Sunday in 1212 a young, courageous woman left her parents’ home in Assisi and walked through woods to reach the little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels where Francis and his brothers awaited her. There she consecrated her life totally to God in her desire to follow Christ poor and crucified. Her act of faith and love was the seed that flowered, by God’s Spirit, into the Poor Clare Order.
On Sunday it was a joy to celebrate this Gospel woman. We were refreshed and encouraged in our own personal vocations as we shared her story and vision.
But what stands out for me was the deep sense of happiness in our being together. The chat and laughter, the sharing of stories and food, our very ease together – all spoke of family.
Family implies belonging, acceptance, common roots, and shared identity.
There is but one Gospel, one Spirit who calls all, one faith we cling to – this is true for the whole community of believers. But within that wide community there are families formed by a particular charism, a specific perspective on the mystery of Christ, a common story and spirit.
Francis exhorts us: “Where ever they meet let them show that they are members of one family.”
On Sunday I experienced anew the gift of belonging to the Franciscan Family.