Saturday, June 21, 2008

And the Lord gave me Brothers

We walked 4.5 kilometers to Rivotorto outside Assisi, "because that's what Francis would do." We are having a very strenuous pilgrimage. But it was a glorious morning, bright, hot sun streaming down. We walked through fields of wheat and barley speckled with red poppies. Along the way we naturally started telling stories. Ezekiel told me about how he came to be a brother, his parent's initial opposition and how he applied to the brothers. He had been so impressed by a visit of three brothers to his village in the Reef Islands in the Solomons. Samson told of his first days in the order, he joined in 1979, and how life had been in Honiara sharing with white brothers and Melanesian brothers. He has become a teacher, establishing kindergarten schools and teaching in a small day school. Worrick comes from the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, he has served in most of the friaries in PNG. Hartman confessed to a wild past and that he left school early; nevertheless he managed the regional office and finances for several years. The Society of St. Francis has brothers from so many cultures and backgrounds. Rivertorto is where Francis first lived with brothers. As he said in his Testament: "And the Lord gave me brothers." Bernard, Giles, Peter, Sabbatino, Morico and others came to Francis in the tiny stone hut. Hunkered down in it I kept thinking it is a miracle those men could stand the situation, could stand each other because they were also very different men. Yet their life was remarkable for the love and respect and joy that all could see flourishing among them.. I have been told by several of our new brothers in the Province of the Americas that the reason they joined was because they saw incredibly different men living together with a minimum of tension and a lot of laughter and affection. It has always been a compelling thing, this thing we call community life.This is the Rivotoro.

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