Brother Benedict has recently moved to the house in Canning Town, having lived in several houses in the Province. He has been Novice Guardian and is now the Minister Provincial for the European Province.
Although I attended both a Church Primary and Junior school I had no real interest in regularly attending a Church, yet I did have an over-riding sense of God in my life and a sense of God wanting me to serve him. I had no real knowledge of the Religious Life or of what it was about yet it was present from early on. When I left school and trained for a job in Law that feeling persisted and the continuous nagging away inside made me realise that I needed to investigate the religious life if I was to have any real peace.
I read a magazine article about the Religious Life in the Anglican Church and consequently obtained a list of religious communities, and literally went down that list with a pin; some of the communities sounded too strict, had too much silence, too much enclosure and so it came down to a choice between a Benedictine community which had a very attractive and appealing brochure and the Franciscans. The Franciscans invited me to a weekend for men who were enquiring about the Franciscan way of life.
My visit to Hilfield Friary did not tick all the boxes for what I saw as an ideal vocation, but the Friary had a simplicity and a ministry among wayfarers and the needy, which I found very compelling. The then Minister Provincial interviewed me and I do not think he was entirely convinced about accepting me, but agreed to take me for a trial period – and I am still here 41 years later!
Do I have regrets? Yes, of course! But aren’t there in any walk of life? Has it been easy? Of course not, but on reflection why should it be? But what I do know is that there is nothing better nor more satisfying than serving the Lord.
Far from a running away from the world or being cut off from it, I have been more exposed as a friar to the world than I could every have imagined. I have travelled and worked and prayed in far-flung places; I have lived in a tenement flat in Glasgow’s gangland; I have helped people in their own spiritual journeys at our house of prayer and I have discovered that God ministers to me through the variety of people I have lived with or ministered to within the Franciscan community and beyond.
40+ years as a ‘Brother’ and there is still room for improvement – now there’s a challenge!