While we await Father Pat's on-the-scene reporting, Father Don Miller, O.F.M., director of vocations for the Franciscans' St. John the Baptist Province, shares his views and observations from Rome and Assisi where he is for the 800th anniversary of the Franciscans’ founding. Keep up with his travels at his vocations blog.
Wednesday morning the migration of Friars to Assisi began. We were met at the train station in Assisi and taken the short distance to our lodging by bus. We then walked the few hundred yards to the Piazza to the meeting then for the International Chapter of Mats. The tent is at least a city block long with four screens spaced throughout. It is HUGE.
Our general minister, Father Jose, presided at the opening prayer and our own Father Bill Farris did the English reading. (Bill did not come expecting to be the reading AND singing representative for the English speaking friars.) The General Ministers of the Conventual and Capuchin Friars will preside on other days.
There are more than 1,800 of us here for this celebration. Friars come in every size and shape you can think of and speak all kinds of languages. It is interesting trying to communicate with each other when we don't speak the language—but we manage. The sense of brotherhood within and among the orders is nothing less than fantastic.
Last evening we all celebrated the Eucharist in the Basilica that houses the Portiuncula—the little chapel that is the birthplace of the order and the sight of St. Francis' death.…
The prayer services and Eucharists are an interesting blend of languages. Italian, English, Spanish and Polish are the official languages and we listen to simultaneous translations with wireless headsets. At prayer we make use of a good deal of Latin responses and parts of the Mass so that we have a common language. Things like the Prayer of the Faithful are done in all four languages—each petition done once with translations in our prayer book united with a common response in Latin or Italian.
Finally, THE ORDER IS ALIVE WITH YOUNG FRIARS. We in the USA are falling behind. Other countries are receiving good numbers of young men. It is thrilling to walk around and see so many young men just beginning their life with us. As Father Jose told our young men when he visited our province last year, they have classmates; they're just not in the USA.
On Thursday, we go up the mountain to Assisi (we are presently on the plain below where Francis and his first followers lived). We will have a day of prayer and fasting before going Saturday to Castel Gondolfo.