Why after you?
Martin became a Novice in the Community in January 1949, and he made his Profession in December 1951. He was ordained priest in 1958. He has lived and worked in several of our Franciscan houses, and he spent 23 years in Cambridge. He now lives at Saint Mary’s, Plaistow, and he assists in the parish of Saint Peter’s, London Docks.
When I first went to stay as a guest at Hilfield Friary in 1947, I knew very little about Saint Francis, apart from the frequently repeated legends about his love for God’s creation. But at Hilfield I had my first encounter with his mid-20th century disciples, and I was filled with admiration for them, because of their real sense of dedication and their genuine love of Jesus. I then read G.K.Chesterton’s book on Saint Francis, and I began to be attracted to ‘the little poor man of Assisi’. Although it was never my intention to join the Community when I first set foot in the Friary, I soon came to realise that God was calling me to do so.
I was very greatly influenced by our joint founders, Brothers Douglas and Algy. Douglas was at that time working in Germany, but whenever he came to England he breathed a spirit of deep holiness, with a very great concern for the marginalised in society. Algy was Guardian at Hilfield, and he was clearly a man of great devotion, with a transparent love of the Scriptures and the ability to expound them.
I turned to other books on Saint Francis, and I soon began to discover that he was (to use a comparatively modern term) an Evangelical Catholic. Francis was Evangelical because he loved the Scriptures and wanted to share his faith with others. He was Catholic because he loved the Church. In his day there were various reform movements which broke away from the Catholic Church, but Francis always remained a loyal member, and he insisted that his Brothers should always be true Catholics.
This Catholic/ Evangelical stance resonated with me, and I found that it was reflected in the life of the Brothers. From the beginning I was completely at home in the Community, and I count myself privileged to have been called to this life.
After more than sixty years as a Friar, and over fifty years as a priest, I know that I am still learning, and even now I have much to learn. As I look back, it is with gratitude for a very full life. I know that there have been many failures and disappointments, but throughout there has always been a prevailing sense of happiness and joy. I thank God that it is Saint Francis who has brought me closer to Jesus.