Below are answers to some questions we commonly receive from inquirers. Hopefully these answers will help you discover more about what a contemporary religious order is like, and how life in such an order might bring great joy and spiritual benefit, through a deeper commitment to the Lord and to serving others.
How is a religious life defined?
In essence, it is the vocation of devoting one’s life completely to God. Our Order defines a “religious life” as a commitment to Christ and our fellow human beings, lived out in a disciplined manner, in accordance with the Gospel and the spiritual teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, as a witness for the Anglican Communion. We observe the Daily Offices, attend weekly Eucharist, and uphold the vows of our Order: poverty, chastity, and obedience. We believe that each of us is called to apply the unique gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, toward the love and betterment of all God’s people.
What does a religious life within the OSF look like?
As a contemporary expression of Franciscan life, it varies from brother to brother, yet it also has many common threads. Outside of morning, noonday, and evening prayer (the Daily Offices), and a commitment to Anglican theology, many brothers quietly find their niche in their parishes, living out their various callings to the best of their abilities. These roles range from visitation of the sick to assisting or conducting a regular Church service like Vespers or Compline, to feeding the hungry, and much more. In short, we see a need and we fill it, always with an eye toward seeing and serving Christ in all human beings, including the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.
Who is eligible to join your Order?
Our Order is open to all baptized men who are members in good standing of a Church community within the Anglican Communion, in communion with the See of Canterbury, regardless of social status, age, state of health or sexual orientation.
What is the difference between a Monk and a Friar?
Our lives as friars are different from the prevalent perception of a religious life, or what television and movies present. Monks live in monasteries, this is also called a cloistered life. We do not live quietly in a stone monastery set on the side of a mountain; we are friars, not monks. Friars live and work out in the world, demonstrating the love of God in visible and tangible ways. A monk is a member of a monastic order: they reside at a monastery, have a cell in which they live, and are enclosed, meaning that they are set apart from the world. Friars, on the other hand, are active in the world and committed to living the Gospel within it (being “in the world, but not of it”). Further, of the two major branches of Franciscans, we are considered ‘contemporary’.
What parts of my life will change as a member of OSF?
The life of a friar is not an easy one. There are many challenges, though also many rewards. You will have expectations placed upon you by others. You will gain new friends, and you may have others slip away. Your lifestyle will naturally change with the taking of religious vows and a commitment to living a spiritual life in the day-to-day. Your values will intensify, your religious experiences will deepen, and your love for your fellow human beings will grow in ways you may not have anticipated.
What attracts men to a religious life?
Essentially, men who are attracted to this life desire the opportunity to grow closer to God and to become a vessel of witness and works on behalf of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This desire is made manifest among the brothers in the Order by fellowship, sharing of resources, and the loving assistance of one another in lives of prayer, spiritual devotion and witness.
What are the requirements for men that are called to this life?
The first two requirements are: 1) to be baptized and a member in good standing of a Church within the Anglican Communion; 2) to obtain a letter from your Priest regarding attendance and membership at your Church. There are other requirements further down the road, but these two are initially of primary importance. Most members start as Postulants. This is a time of discernment both for the aspiring member and for the Order, as each explores whether or not the relationship is right for both parties.
Do I need to be an Episcopalian/Anglican to become a member of this order?
You need to be both baptized and a member in good standing of a parish within the Anglican Communion, in communion with the See of Canterbury. This can be a parish within the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), etc. If you are not yet baptized or a member of a parish, we can help you with this.
Do you live in a friary?
Friars live out in the world. Bothers can live in a house (friary) together, and this allows those brothers to pool their resources, but generally wherever we live is our friary. We live geographically dispersed to serve as many people as possible, as our blessed father Francis wanted. Luckily, today’s world allows us to communicate almost instantly, whether by e-mail, facebook, streaming video, or mobile phones, so we stay in contact with one another frequently. Some brothers are separated by three thousand miles, others by only a short geographical distance.
What if I am married; in a committed, long term relationship; or have children?
Congratulations! Loving relationships are the center of Christ’s teachings and this is one thing our Anglican roots strongly embrace. Priests in the Anglican Communion can marry, and so can our friars; though finding balance in this form of religious life can be challenging in many ways. The spouse is brought into a life that they know you are seeking, yet may not fully understand. Time commitments, deeply emotional experiences—both good and bad—and unforeseen expectations require a strong, understanding and resilient relationship. As for children, clearly they are your greatest joy and responsibility. Insuring they are healthy, educated, and living well is obviously consistent with the Order’s values.
Is there an age limit to membership?
No. If you’re called, you’re called. As we are structured differently than some religious orders— living in the world and each being financially responsible for ourselves—we do not see older members as a potential hardship. The Lord stirs people at different times in their lives.
What about my secular and religious education?
A religious calling is not driven by the mind; it is an affair of the soul. Your level of education has very little to do with your call to a religious life. The levels of education in the Order range from a basic education to PhD’s and theological degrees.
Do you have regular jobs?
Most of us do, yes, in order to support our ministries and the ministries of our brothers. Saint Francis wanted his brothers to earn their keep by doing honest work for their meals.
What about my house and my financial situation?
Again, since we live in the world, we have worldly responsibilities; however, we adhere to a simple lifestyle. The goal of this lifestyle is to free oneself from material items not truly needed, and to free up time and resources to better and more completely serve God. We do not ask others with whom we have relationships to join in our lifestyle; we do, however, ask for an allowance to live simply. The Order does not require divestment of homes or finances by its members, but more about this will be explored in the discussion of the vow of poverty below.
How long will it take to join the OSF?
There is no universal timeline. Essentially those that are truly called are already Franciscans. Whereas those who simply feel the need to meet a personal deadline, or to wear a habit, are failing to understand the real nature and seriousness of Franciscan religious life. Once you have prayed a good deal about your vocation (and engaged thoroughly in the process of discernment), if you feel that this is truly what God is calling you to do—that is, to live fully and authentically the life that Christ taught in the Gospel—then you have begun to walk the Franciscan path. But if you feel that you must be in a religious order first before you can really start living the Gospel, then the vowed Franciscan life is probably not what you are actually being called to. The Franciscan friars are a fraternity of men called by God to live the Gospel completely and authentically. One is not Franciscan first, but a follower of Christ first. Furthermore, one should not be concerned at all with the rankings of Postulancy, Novitiate, Profession, and Life Profession; rather, one should be concerned with knowing God, with living the Gospel, with loving everyone as if they were Christ Himself then everything else will fall into place.
Since you are spread out, how do you worship together?
The brothers each have a personal altar in their residence. The size and placement of this altar is at the discretion of each brother. This home altar is vital to a religious life as it provides focus and aids in religious discipline. Brothers that live in proximity sometimes share worship at church services, and the annual Convocation is a time of gathering for corporal worship. St. Francis would say that each brother carries their cell with them a reference to our Benedictine brothers. It is said that at the appropriate time of day, St. Francis would fall to his knees, wherever he was, and pray each of the Daily Offices even if it was just to say our Lord's prayer.
Is this the only Episcopal/Anglican Franciscan Order?
No. The TSSF (Third order Society of St. Francis) is currently the largest group. There is the SSF (Society of Saint Francis) which is based in New York. The Franciscan Order of the Sacred Heart (FSC) is a traditional Anglican Religious Order that is based in Florida. There is also the Little Brothers of Francis, in New South Wales.
Are the brothers of the Order of St. Francis considered ministers/priests?
Priests can be friars but friars don’t have to be priests. We take vows which are separate from the vows to Holy Orders that priests take. St. Francis refused the order of the priesthood; yet, toward the end of his life he was ordained as a deacon. We generally are not priests or deacons, but may be if called by God.
Will I wear a habit all the time?
For those who have been Invested in the habit (i.e. Novices and above), the habit must be worn at all official services of the Church and Order, and when conducting any kind of official ministry. At other times, a brother will often wear the "work habit" (typically plain brown pants and a brown shirt, sweater, hoodie, etc.), and it is expected that he will always wear the Tau cross, which is presented to him at the time of his induction.
What about vows of poverty, chastity and obedience?
This is the big one! Let’s dive in:
Poverty is commonly seen as lacking the socially acceptable amount of money or possessions. For us as Franciscan friars, this vow is about intentional poverty and simplicity of life, aimed at bringing our focus first and foremost onto God. OSF brothers choose varying degrees of ascetic existence and express this vow in a variety of ways, such as living in small spaces and tending only to their basic needs, keeping nothing more than what is actually required to live and perform their ministries on a daily basis, and cultivating the inward discipline of considering nothing as their own.
Chastity is a vow that brings sexual temperance. Brothers in the Order may be either single and celibate, or married/partnered and strictly monogamous. The Order expects romantic relationships to be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect; careful, honest communication; and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God. We denounce promiscuity, exploitation and abusiveness in all its forms. The Order intends to hold all brothers accountable to these values.
Obedience is obeying the will of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and submitting to requests made by the Minister General, the precepts of the Order and the Church: a discipline which allows one to cultivate humility.
Discerning if this is the right life for you:
Well, you made it this far—that’s a good sign. Clearly reading this short manuscript cannot answer every question that you might have about living a religious life within the Order of St. Francis. So we offer here a few further points for consideration:
* If you have not been associated with a discernment group at your Church, you might want to consider such a process. Your priest or deacon can give you more information for calling a group together.
* Prayer is one of the most powerful means of gaining insight to your path. If you are not already doing so, pray regularly about your path.
* Look at your reading material: what are you reading and what direction is it taking you?
* What would you tell your closest friend if they came to you with similar questions about their religious path?
* What religious endeavors have been most rewarding for you?
* What have life’s ups and downs taught you?
* Do you feel drawn to this life, pushed toward this life, or both?
* Are you at a crossroads or transitionary point in your life?
* Has something kept pulling you back toward this kind of life over and over?
Once you have answered these questions, and if you feel this type of life might be what God is calling you to, then contact us and we will be happy to start discussing it with you.