By Fr. Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv.
This year marks my 40th year as a professed friar. Thirteen of those years I lived as a student, a teaching brother, and a student once again as I requested study for the priesthood. My ministries have ranged from teaching in our high schools, our college-seminary, and serving in parishes. These last seven years I have been doing internal ministry in our Province as Province Secretary and Spiritual Guardian of the Companions of St. Anthony.
When I think of religious profession of our vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience), the heart-of-the matter is fidelity. Jesus reminds us that once we have put our hands to the plow we should not take them away. St. Theresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying, “God does not require that we be successful; only that we be faithful.” This really takes the edge off since we can only do one thing well at a time. For me, being faithful is the key.
Many times, I say at the end of a homily that God is good. I truly believe that. It must come from my French-Canadian upbringing at home and parish where often it was said, “Il est bon de Bon Dieu.” It is because of God’s goodness to me, in offering me this vocation that I can want to remain faithful. God is always present. This was brought clear to me in a little book that I read during my Novitiate Year, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence.
It is because of God’s goodness to me, in offering me this vocation that I can want to remain faithful.
Trying to find God’s presence in my everyday life has assisted me in remaining faithful and not to lose hope (never give up as my brother Al reminds me in all his emails). One of the most challenging things that has occurred to me over the course of my religious life is that I have been diagnosed with recurring brain tumors (meningioma). These are non-malignant, found on the brain and not in the brain. They have caused me several dangerous seizures for which I remain medicated. These tumors have necessitated that in the space of seven years I have had three craniotomies to remove these tumors. After my last surgery, I had a course of radiation, which was preventative. I must have an MRI every six months to ascertain my continued health.
As I write this, I am scheduled for my next MRI in two days. Laying on the table and sliding into the MRI chamber I often think of Jesus in the tomb for those three days. The presence of God is with me during those agonizing minutes that don’t seem to end. God is good. Jesus brought forth the new life of the Resurrection after those dark days, I have to trust that God, who has been so good to me, will not and has not abandoned me. God is good at all moments of our life.
Think back on the story of your own life experiences. Where have you experienced someone being faithful? Sitting with you while you were ill. Having that one dear friend whom you have known since childhood still be present to you now. Sometimes we even take our own faithfulness, or fidelity, for granted.
How many nights did you help your son with his homework? How many soccer games did you watch your grandchildren play regardless of the weather? How many times have you listened to the same story told to you by someone with Alzheimer’s and you simply hold their hand and smile lovingly? God is there in all those moments of your faithfulness.
Although I shared with you faithfulness through the prism of my own medical condition, I think that everyone is challenged in their faithfulness in their own ways and by their own experiences and choices. In whatever comes our way, God is with every one of us. I believe it because I have felt it. I trust it. God, who has never let go of me, deserves that I be as faithful as I can.
When a friar professes his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience into the hands of the Minister Provincial, the Minister accepts his vows with these heartfelt words: “And I, on the part of the Church, if you do these things, promise you everlasting life.” With such a promise made to me forty years ago, I have even more reason to be as faithful as I am able with what God give me. God has promised you everlasting life as well. God is good. †
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