I’d be more than happy to share about this emerging community. The idea of the Brothers of Life of the Order of St. Francis or as the local people call it, Franciscan Brothers of Life, began in 2008 when I was watching a program on which Fr. Pavone was speaking about the mission of Priests for Life. As I listened to Fr. Pavone I was deeply moved by the fact that not only are millions of children torn apart by abortion, but also the fact that millions of men and women who are lied into procuring an abortion must live with the horrid consequences of their choices.
The idea suddenly hit me like a brick. “Who made this a woman’s issue?” I realize that men must take a place in the proclamation of the Gospel of Life. This is not a woman’s issue. All of these babies who are aborted have fathers. Most of the people who pass legislation on abortion are men, since men outnumber women in politics. In addition, the majority of physicians who provide abortion services and who make money in this industry are men. The brick kept hitting me between the eyes and it kept hurting more and more. Men are as responsible for the termination of human life in the womb, as women.
Having been a member of the Franciscan family for many years I prayed to St. Francis of Assisi. I hurt as I prayed. I asked my holy Father Francis for the grace to see what I should and could do. I had no idea where to begin. One day, I was suddenly reminded of my good friend, Cardinal O’Malley in Boston. Cardinal O’Malley and I have a friendship that dates back to 1972 when I first joined the Franciscan family as a Secular Franciscan. So, in 2007, I proceeded to write him about my concerns and he responded with encouragement.
I gathered up my courage and approached the local bishop, with a letter of introduction from the Cardinal. We spoke several times and he was open and gracious. But a lot of work still had to be done. I had no money and no men who would want to dedicate their lives to this endeavor.
I knew that it had to be a Franciscan endeavor. I could not depart from my own Franciscan Order. I have always been in love with my brothers and sisters, with our holy Father Founder, and with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as lived by Franciscans everywhere.
With the pastoral encouragement of my good bishop and an excellent spiritual director, I began to write the description of the new foundation. It would be a group of brothers, men consecrated to live the Gospel as it was lived by our holy Father Francis, in obedience to the Church, without property of our own, and in chastity that liberates us to live as brothers to one another and to the unborn.
The brothers would not ask for anything in return, either from the Church, the state or through corporate fundraising. Like our holy Father Francis before us and the unborn whom we seek to serve, we would be totally dependent on Divine Providence for our material needs. We would beg for the money and resources to serve the unborn, their parents and those who protect them and ask nothing for ourselves, except what God provides through his generosity.
Like our holy Father Francis before us and the unborn in their mother’s womb, our only home would be the shelter God provides on loan. We would make no place our permanent home, in heaven, we have a resplendent home awaiting us. Like the child in his mother’s womb, whose home only temporary, we too make our homes temporary. Therefore, we have no monasteries, no convents, no large homes of our own. So that like Christ, who became incarnate and made his temporary home in Mary’s womb, would be born in Bethlehem, travel to Egypt, back to Nazareth, wander through Galilee, die in Jerusalem and lay in a borrowed tomb, we too become incarnate in the life of the Church with no place to call our own, except Heaven alone.
We would travel from parish to parish, school to school, hospital to hospital, pregnancy center to center and through all the world if necessary, to proclaim to all men the truth of human existence.
Our lives would be based on the rule that St. Francis wrote for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance in 1221, often referred to as the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis. No other rule can better serve this mission than the Rule of Penance. For our lives must be surrendered as an on-going gift to the Father in thanksgiving for the incarnation and passion of His Son and as a sacrifice of atonement for the sins against the precious gift of life that the Father has given us.
Finally, our lives would also be one of constant preaching to those whose hearts have been closed to the cry of the unborn. It is not enough to speak to women in crisis pregnancies. We must also preach the Gospel to those who provide abortion services or who promote them. They too are sons and daughters of the Father. They too are deserving of our love and our compassion, because their eternal salvation is also important to Christ. We do not hold them in disdain. On the contrary, like St. Francis before us, we see in them the poverty of sin, ignorance, obstinacy, and relativism gone rampart in our modern age. They are not objects of our contempt, but of our love and desire for their conversion.
to be continued