I’m not sure if this is the right place to post this. If not, I ask the moderator to place it in the proper sub-forum. Thanks.
My dearest brothers and sisters, once again I appeal to all of you for your prayers. If possible during the next nine days in honor of our Lady Mother of the Incarnate Word. I will try to explain as well as I can and I beg your forgiveness for my poor ability to express myself and communicate properly.
For a year now, my Franciscan community has been praying for the opportunity to devote itself solely to the care of the unborn child and his/her parents, as well as ministering to those who have had abortions and those who perform them, in the hope that through the grace of almighty God we can save both life and souls. As a result, the idea of the Franciscan Brothers of Life was born. We began with a small cell (group) of brothers, while still members of the larger Franciscan family.
After much prayer and dialogue with our Franciscan family, spiritual directors and confessors, it was decided that I should present before His Excellency, the bishop, the proposal for the establishment of an independent congregation of Franciscan religious brothers who would take on the ministry of life in our diocese.
At first I was frightened of the prospect, so I prayed all the more. Then I returned to my confessor and spiritual director with the same concerns and questions. I had never been directly involved in the pro-life movement, though I was always a supporter through prayer and other means.
As time passed, the idea took hold of me. Again I approached my superior and my spiritual director for guidance. At my last meeting with my spiritual director he told me that I should go ahead with this plan, because God needed more “knights to protect the life of the unborn” As fate or grace would have it, my spiritual director and I meet at a parish named St. Maximilian Kolbe, the patron of Respect Life and a fellow Franciscan.
One Sunday I went back to my regional superior. He patted me on the back and said, “I want you to do this, not just for the Franciscan family, but for God and his little ones. Go, talk to the bishop.” I then went to visit the Director of Respect Life in our diocese, a lay woman of great faith and zeal for the unborn and their parents. While there I mentioned to her that my fraternity had been speaking about this plan and it had evolved from greater involvement in Respect Life to the foundation of a new religious community for men and that I had been advised to lead the project. I told her of my fears and of my concerns. She responded, “We need the Brothers of Life. Don’t worry about money. Talk to the bishop.”
I wrote up a draft on the spirituality of the new community and a cover letter to the bishop. But before sending it, I went to confession, received the Eucharist, spent more time praying over it. I rewrote the cover letter six times before sending it. I also called His Excellency’s secretary and asked for an appointment. I informed her that I was sending a letter about the matter to be discussed at our meeting so that he could prepare himself. The appointment was set. The day before the meeting I received a letter from the bishop. He acknowledged that he had received my letter and the proposal for the new congregation of religious brothers. He indicated that he would like a week to pray over it and to consult on this. He will call me next week.
I want to leave it all in God’s hands and yet, the more I say “Thy will be done,“ the stronger my conviction to move in this direction. Respect Life and a new congregation were never my goals when I become a religious. I have served the disabled, taught theology done mission work, preached retreats, done spiritual direction and worked on our formation team and have been happy doing this.
One day I heard a Franciscan sister exclaim that she didn’t know what else to do about abortion, she was just going to pray and hope that someone would pick up the cause. Something hit me in the gut. I spontaneously turned around and said to her, “You pray, God and I will do the rest.“ I had no idea what I was getting into; but that’s what came to my mouth.
Our work and life in our small cell of Franciscan Brothers of Life is happy and it is safe, because we remain attached to the larger Franciscan family. The idea of going out alone would have sounded like insanity a year ago. Now, I am motivated by Bl. Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Maximilian Kolbe and our holy Father St. Francis who went out alone with only one guarantee, that God loved them, never sure what the next step would be, not knowing what to do or how to do it. As much as I pray to have this idea stripped from my desire, if it is not God’s will, it only becomes stronger.
I have no idea where the money or the brothers for this new foundation are going to come from. I don’t even know how many of our current brothers would want to become an independent congregation and suffer the insecurity that comes when one does not have a larger organization behind you. But I am sure God has plenty of money. If this is God’s work, he will send the brothers. God has to go with me. He knows that I have no one else to go along. Right now I feel alone, but not abandoned.
As I write this there are some tears. There is some fear, but there is more security that God will make this happen, because how can he not want to save us from the horrors of abortion and the culture of death. I feel God very close at these dark hours of the night when I lay awake in prayer. Even though I think of the cries of the unborn, my peace is still with me. I know that Mary’s motherhood is my salvation. It’s a very strange feeling. But her motherhood is the motherhood of God and he is our salvation. Right now, I have to cling to her. What else can I do?
And now, my brothers and sisters, I cling to you for your prayers.
Pray that God may forgive my sins. For they are too many to bear and to count. Without the gift of his passion and death, there is no way that I can make it. Praise him with me and pray that his grace may flow from the cross and wash away my sins. With my sinfulness, I am only an obstacle to this project.
Pray that I may continue to avoid the temptations of sin and that I may do penance for those who offend him by destroying life and that I may do penance for my own sins. I need your prayers to continue.
Pray that the Lord show the bishop and me how to bring about the Franciscan Brothers of Life, if it is the Lord’s desire – and if it is not his wish, that this idea will disappear so that we may do his work without distraction.
Thank you for your kindness, for taking the time to read this, and please forgive me for bothering you.
Br. JR, OSF