The Friars Helping to Renew the Church

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are reviving faith in communities around the globe. The spirit of St. Francis of Assisi is alive and well in these friars and sisters of the renewal who radically live out the call of the Gospel while allowing the intensity of their life to flow from the humble gaze of Christ directed towards our hearts. This is lived out with a hyper-focus on the call of Christ and Francis to embrace the life of continual conversion and union with the Father. 

The CFRs portray truths to the world which are not often shown or spoken about. They are men of faith who convey the compassionate love of God to all they meet while standing in the truth and never wavering from it. They dress in grey robes and wear large rosaries, which hang from their rope belt; they shave their heads and grow beards, but they do every action intentionally with the focus on Jesus Christ: the way, the truth, and the life. 

Any religious order can be objectively viewed through the lens of their constitutions, the documents which outline their main charisms and purpose for existing. The many conversations I have had with members of the CFRs over the years, along with a prayerful reflection on the gravity of their constitutions, is what inspires the following words. 

CFR founder Fr. Benedict Groeschel and other friars meeting Pope John Paul II (screenshot from franciscanfriars.com)

The nature and purpose of their order is grounded in their “desire to work more definitively for personal and communal renewal” while continuing to fulfill the call of St. Francis to rebuild Christ’s church. Most poignantly, these brothers, sisters, and priests accomplish this renewal by living in conformity with the demands of the Gospel and challenging the present worldly values through their dedication to material poverty, manual labor, and life of prayer. 

The lines of their constitution are filled to the brim with allusions to the fact that their existence is meant to be a bridge which fills the breach between heaven and earth. Pilgrimage themes cover these pages because of their desperate craving to, like Francis, “portray heavenly glory on earth” while “living inside of and participating in the holiness of the Trinity.” This relationship of communion with the divine is lived out and ushered forth from their dynamic devotion to a life of intimacy with the Holy Trinity. “Prayer is to be the very heart of our life.” This is not a slogan to be chanted but a refrain which these friars live out each day. Union with Father through Christ and in the Holy Spirit allows them to meet the demands of the life of a disciple with fervor and joy. 

The lives of consecrated religious who live in community while also being devoted to several hours of daily prayer and physical service to the world is often a full and lively one. However, they are not busy in the sense that a business is consumed with a multitude of tasks. These men and women are caught up with the one task and person in front of them who mirrors Christ and has an eternal destiny. They accept the invitation to “cheerfully accept the sacrifices of time and energy imposed on those who seek to save souls.”

Their initiatives to evangelize, pray and serve the poor are not mere programs to be implemented but occasions for Christ’s face to be revealed to a world that is so in need. The CFRs have homeless shelters in several cities in the United States, Europe and Central America which serve as opportunities to provide essential services to those in need along with the chance for so many of the brothers and sisters to say the words that I have heard countless times, “Would you mind if we prayed together?” Like Christ, these members of the Church are serving men and women in their practical needs while always, always paying heed to the needs of the heart which lie just below the surface. Charity is lived out through an encounter with the look of Jesus towards the flock he shepherds with personal care. 

The evangelization efforts of the CFRs abound as well. Father Mark-Mary Ames and other friars are found on Ascension Presents, granting key insights into the life of prayer and devotion that every disciple is called to embrace. Brother Isaiah is a key component to online evangelization efforts through his gift of music and spiritual truths which are profoundly moving. Their newest online endeavor is The Poco a Poco Podcast which consists of weekly conversations with Fr. Mark-Mary, Fr. Innocent and Fr. Angelus. These episodes highlight the importance of prayer, virtue, and intimacy with Jesus Christ and is unmatched in the world of podcasts for its authenticity, honesty, and implications for practical daily prayer. 

The success of the podcast, and everything else the CFRs do, is the result of their powerful but simple witness to the divine rescue mission of God for each and everyone of us. Their order is booming with postulants and who are attracted to a life of complete devotion to the Lord. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have continually conquered the mission outlined in the conclusion of their constitution: to achieve the goals of personal and communal reform through becoming true disciples of Christ while renewing the Church he gave us. 

We could learn much from their rule of life and witness to God’s unquenchable desire to be king of our lives. 

image: Unidentified Franciscan Friars in Central Park on May 12, 2013 in New York City by lev radin / Shutterstock.com

By

Thomas Griffin teaches in the Religion Department at a Catholic high school, and lives on Long Island with his wife and son. He has a master’s degree in theology and is currently a masters candidate in philosophy. Follow his latest content at EmptyTombProject.org 

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