Are you looking to be a priest or to be a Franciscan? You do not need to be a Franciscan to be a priest and you do not need to be a priest to be a Franciscan.
In fact, our holy father founded a brotherhood, not a clerical institute. The priests who joined him were usually secular priests who wanted to be religious. It was only later that the order began to train its own priests at the request of St. Anthony of Padua.
To this day, the priesthood is considered the clerical state, not religious life. The life of a Franciscan is a life of obedience to the Gospel in the manner that Francis obeyed it.
Whether the ordained friar celebrates the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form, he must obey the Church, because it was the mind of our holy father Francis that all Franciscans be submissive to the Church. However, it was also in the mind of Francis that all Franciscans be humble and equal.
Therefore, in those friaries where there is no one to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, those Friars, nuns and Secular Franciscans approach the liturgy with great humility. For our understanding of our holy father Francis tells us that it is not the form that sanctifies, but the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. Those who prefer one form over the other, but do not have it available, practice the greatest humility and obedience to their brothers, as Francis taught us to do, by accepting what it put before them. This is the greatest sign of holy poverty.
Our holy father said that we should be humble in all things and poor in all things, even in the way that we worship. We must accept what the Church puts before us.
In addition, you should remember that if you become a Franciscan, in any of the Franciscan communities, it is never a given that you will be a priest. You will go through many years of formation in Franciscan theology and spirituality. After you have made perpetual vows or if you join the Friars Minor you will make solemn vows, only then can you request permission of your brothers to be ordained. The brothers reserve the right to deny it.
A Franciscan community that guarrantees its members the preisthood is veering off from the original spirit of our founder. Such a community is a clerical community. That is not in the rule of St. Francis. If you read the holy rule, you will find that the entire focus is on the practice of virtue and the life in brotherhood. When Francis speaks of brotherhood, he means Brothers, not a clerical community. Any Franciscan community that is erected as a clerical community is an innovation.
Franciscan communities come in three modalities: Friars, nuns and Seculars. Francis only founded three orders. None of them were clerical.
Francis had great respect for priests and we have had very saintly priests. We have had great saints who were ordained, such as Bonaventure, Lawrence of Brindisi, Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Padre Pio, John XXIII, Pius XII and others. But the one thing they all had in common was their deep love for the crucified Lord. Everything else is defined by that love. That’s why one becomes a Franciscan.
My fraternal suggestion is that you contemplate the cross and ask yourself if you are willing to live with the cross, even if it means worshipping in the Ordinary Form. If worshipping in the Ordinary Form is a hinderance, then you may not be ready for the cross. The cross as St. Francis understood it required complete detachment from our opinions, our wishes, our property, our family and friends, even our prayer life. Everything is put into the hand of the Crucified Lord Jesus Christ, with the same love as is in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a love that does not complain, that accepts the uncomfortable for love of Christ, a love that is full of joy despite whatever is happening around you.
The Eucharist is the centre of the Franciscan’s life. The form in which it is celebrated is less important as long as it is done with reverence and love.
The habit is an article of clothing. The fact of the matter is that Francis did not have a specific habit. His habit was the clothing of the peasant. That’s why you have so many variations on the Franciscan habit: grey, blue, brown, black, beige, robe, shirt and slacks or whatever is consistent with poverty and the lowest member of society.
The other thing that you must want to be a good Franciscan is to love your brothers with a greater passion than you love your biological family. For Francis there was no other family, but his brothers, with all their faults, doubts, rebellions and virtues. Francis did not look for virtuous brothers. He looked for men who wanted to be brothers. The virtue would come with time and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let yourself be trapped into looking for a community of men where there is all virtue. There is no such community.
Franciscans are men and women on the path to holiness in the manner of St. Francis. We strive our best to live the Gospel by constantly asking ourselves, what would Francis do in this circumstance or with this person?
We always arrive at the same response. Francis would remember that he was the greatest of sinners and the other person was much more virtuous than he.
We know that this was not the case, but this was his value system and the worldview from which he operated and wanted his sons and daughters to operate. He did not accept men and women who came to his order believing that they had some truth that the rest of the world did not have.
He wanted men and women who came to his order to come because they had found a great lover, the Crucified Lord and they were willing to suffer as he suffered, even by enduring with the post-Lateran Council Church as he did.