Today, I went to my first Chill Out with St Francis at the Church of St Mary of the Angels which was a session where young men between the ages of 18 to 35 come to discern their vocation in possibly joining the Order of the Friars. Before the Chill Out, I attended my first sunset mass at the beautiful church and experienced the peace that I needed after a hectic week at school. It was for a brief moment but by praying and hearing the soft piano music playing in the background, I knew that it was a sign that Jesus was there for me.
The theme for the Chill Out is “What is Radical Love?” I met a group of postulants who had joined to become future friars and also met up with Fr Derrick and Fr John Paul as I could not attend the previous ones due to National Service commitments. We had a short fellowship with the friars and got to know one another. I could sense the strong community spirit amongst the friars where everyone is treated equally and not judged.
Brother Francisco shared with us St Francis Assisi’s call to be attracted to Jesus and the love of serving others before ourselves. The brothers who were present shared with us their time in ministry in the middle east (Libya), in Thailand with the HIV positive patients and in the refugee camps where they served. The topic of love was the main focus as prior to joining the Franciscans, the meaning of love was subjected to our interpretation which was having a relationship with someone special, loving our family and others. However, the Franciscans as a community and brotherhood have made me realise the meaning of radical love which is the love of Jesus and bringing Jesus to others.
The life of St Francis of Assisi was very interesting and also filled with hardships. St Francis of Assisi was not afraid of persecution, or of bringing the Catholic faith to other countries in violence and war. He also served the poor and even gave up his mantle to the a poor man. St Francis lived a life of poverty and obedience to Jesus. I feel that it is important to love Jesus as he is Someone we can turn, especially when we feel the most vulnerable, weak and alone.
St Francis of Assisi also did much mission work in helping the sick and poor. He also respected God’s creatures, great and small from nature to animals. His love for God’s creation was evident when he tamed a wolf who was terrorising a nearby town by speaking to it. He referred to the moon, the sun and stars and even death as brothers and sisters. He never complained of hardships and his illnesses, choosing to remain positive. I have to try to be like St Francis, being able to carry the cross and follow Jesus.
The session took place in the recreational room of the friary where the surroundings were peaceful and quiet. It dawned on me that we need a quiet place to go to when life gets overwhelming. For me, I felt happy and at peace during the Chill Out session as I listened to the inspirational sharings of the brothers who were living examples of St Francis of Assisi in their service in church. Our current Pope, Pope Francis took the papal name of Francis in honor of St Francis of Assisi and has brought much reform in church and to spread the message of God’s love to people in the world.
Other than enjoying the company of getting to know the Franciscan Order and their work, we ended the night by joining the friars and postulants in their night prayer. It was beautiful in terms of it taking place in the chapel which was tranquil and we could focus in prayer. It was a prayer of song and the message of love of service unto others which touched me.
As a close knit community, the friars have to learn how to do chores, cook and bake to care for everyone. It is a good opportunity to learn to be independent and to learn a new skill. Through learning, the friars are able to use the new skills to impart them unto others who may not know how to cook and to showcase their compassion in caring for the community.
One of the friars also brought me on special request to see the friary’s animals which is a dog and a cat. Animals have always been a part of life as I think that they are God’s creation and I like their company as I am a pet owner. The dog is called Rufus and the cat is called Angelo. The animals reside in the friary and the friars takes turn to care for them. Overall, the Chill Out session helped me find peace through prayer, fellowship and sharings of the friars.
I hope that I can emulate the radical love of St Francis of Assisi in my daily life and that I have the courage and strength to carry the crosses that I come across daily. I am still discerning God’s plan for me and pondering about the meaning of leading a life of great sacrifice and determination. In my own small way, I am following in the steps of the friars in helping the poor through mission trips, loving all animals and using the gift of writing to create a positive change in today’s world. More on the Order of Franciscans can be found here: http://franciscans.sg/home-3/
This week, I also had dinner with the people of our Philippines mission trip and those who played host to us on the trip such as Fr Francis who came here with his fellow priests on a short holiday. We attended the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour for mass and also celebrated Fr Charlie Oasan’s 17 years as a priest with the parishioners. It was a great way to end Friday night and to echo the church’s mission statement, “We, the community of OLPS, strive to follow Christ and be his witnesses, reaching out to all through love and service.”
I would like to end this post with “The Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi”:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
– Taken from The Catholic News Agency.
God Bless! and do continue to pray for the discernment of our own vocation within our lives which we seek.
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong