Associate’s Day

I’m a big fan of the Franciscan Friars (and sisters, but this is about the friars) of the Renewal. Always have been. They’re an awesome group of friars and it’s cool that my parish has a close relationship with them (maybe in recent history, two of our own are or have been Franciscans of the Renewal), and it’s nice that they have a local friary!

Once a month, usually at the beginning, they host an “associate’s day” for us lay people. I’ve been hearing my some of parish friends talk about attending and how great it is. A lay associate is simply a lay person who desires to share in the spirituality and work of a particular religious community.
Looking at my really busy calendar, I saw that yesterday was a free-enough of a day for me to attend!
Under ordinary circumstances, an associate’s day consists of several things. It starts out with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, a few hours spent with the homeless at a local park, lunch, catechesis, and a Holy Hour.
I arrived at the friary a few minutes past 8AM. I thought I would be late because my dog escaped my residential premises this morning, and it took a little while to coax her back close enough for me to catch her… >_>
No one was really there when I arrived. A few other guys and I walked into the friary and got to chit-chat with the friars while we waited for everyone to show up. I met Br. Isaiah, who I have never met or seen before. I also met Fr. Leo, who apparently is just visiting since he’s assigned to some town in England (I forget the name). He apparently is a home grown local and a Tech Red Raider. He is visiting because he needs to receive some surgery.

This was my second time inside their humble abode. After a while, I want to say like 40 people showed up? A good chunk were familiar faces from my parish! 

Because yesterday was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the friars did a renewal of lay associate promises. Lay associates can commit themselves for a full year of dedication to the spirituality and mission of the Friars of Renewal. I got to partially take part in that even though this was my first time. By partially, I mean that everyone present participated in reciting the prayer, but only the candidates who wanted to be official lay associates stated their name during the prayer. The friars keep a list ;-). Haha I didn’t put myself on that list…this time.
After that brief ceremony, if you will, we went into catchesis to learn more about an aspect of the faith. In the past few associate’s days, Fr. Pio had been explaining the Mass and its different parts. Apparently last month, he had wrapped up talking about Eucharistic Prayer I, and yesterday he explained Eucharistic Prayers II through IV and the end of the Mass.

Wow! I learned a lot! I didn’t realize there was a lot of theological, Scriptural, symbolic richness to the Mass! I mean…I knew, but not the details! And even then, I only got part of the Mass since I wasn’t there when Fr. Pio explained the beginning parts of the Mass!

Fr. Pio finished his talk, took some questions, then jetted out of there to catch a flight to Chicago to talk more about his experiences in a visit to China where it’s really tough to be Catholic. While trying to digest all he had said and all that I learned, we all went into brunch mode.

As I found out at some point, the friars weren’t going to take us to the park where, under ordinary circumstances, we we would hang out and help the homeless. And then I also found out that they wouldn’t be doing a Holy Hour of Adoration. Instead, there would be brunch and then we would be joining our diocese’s Respect Life committee for a Mass in memorial of babies lost before baptism celebrated by our diocesan administrator (since we don’t have a bishop…yet).

So, brunch mode. That explained why I saw many other associates bring food through the friary door earlier in the morning. It was a scrumptious spread of dessert and breakfast-type foods! Speaking of food coming through the friary door, one of my parish friends works at Panera Bread, and on Friday night he was able to obtain the leftover breads. He sincerely wanted to donate the bread to the poor and homeless somewhere, and knowing that some of us from my parish were going to the friary, he decided to join along but arriving later. I saw him walk through the door with his bags and bags of breads. What a good way to make use of that bread since I know the friars will definitely distribute it amongst the poor and homeless that they work with!

After much mingling with others, we all left the friary to go to the Mass at another nearby Catholic church.

Haha, it was funny on our way out. I carpooled with two of my parish buddies, and as we pulled out of the parking lot of the friary, Fr. Leo flags us down. Apparently he needed to catch a ride to the church because he was going to concelebrate the Mass.

We arrived at the church and walked in. I had never been in this particular church before, but I could have had an opportunity for Wedding #3B but it conflicted with Wedding #3A. Oh if only I had the gift of bi-location to be at both weddings at the same time!

Beautiful church though! The stain glass windows were recently cleaned and fixed up and you can tell! They had an adult My Size Mary Statue outside that was pretty cool. Oh if only I took a picture ….

Like I said, the Mass was for unborn babies lost before baptism. This includes those babies lost due to abortion, also miscarriages and illnesses as well. And while I could go into writing about why Catholics baptize babies and how important that is, that would make this post too lengthy.

It was cool because I saw some of my brother Knights of Columbus, of the 4th degree, were dressed in their full ceremonial regalia (feathered hat, cape, saber, sash, etc). If I ever see them, that means its a special occasion for sure! There was a part during the Mass (between Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist) where people processed down the aisle to place a rose at the feet of Mary (ie. place the roses at the feet of a Mary statue at the side of the sanctuary). I don’t quite know the significance of this other than A) it was Saturday AKA Mary’s day B) the Mass was dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and C) each rose placed is in memoriam of a baby lost before baptism. Solemn stuff.

After Mass, there was a reception. I made the comment to my parish friends that you could never go hungry at Catholic events because you’ll always be fed–spiritually and physically. I mean, we just had brunch not too long ago… Haha. At the reception, I got to do more mingling. Then…went home.

So there you have it! While I fully intended to experience a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal lay associate’s day, it didn’t end up being that way. But that’s okay! I still had a very good experience praying with, hanging out with, and Mass-ing with my fellow brothers and sisters! While I think next month might be a challenge for me to go to associate’s day, I’m for sure wanting to come back for December!

– JD

The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal //

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