Life in community
Brothers and sisters in Christ
‘The Lord gave me brothers’ says St Francis in his Testament, written shortly before his death. Those who followed Francis and Clare were known as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ and their life together witnessed to a new kind of ‘family’. So it continues today; most Franciscan brothers and sisters live together in community, sharing resources, possessions, and a responsibility for each others’ well-being.
Unlike some monastic communities, Franciscan ‘houses’ tend to be quite small, from three to ten brothers and sisters; many of them are situated in towns or cities in places that you wouldn’t necessarily recognise as ‘religious’ establishments, reflecting the Franciscan commitment to live alongside people wherever they are. Most of the communities are either of brothers or of sisters, though there is one joint brothers’/sisters’ house; brothers and sisters often work together and are welcome to stay in each others’ community houses.
Click above to watch a video of the life and work of the brothers and sisters
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Life together is, in many ways, quite ordinary. There are regular tasks which need to be undertaken and shared out such as cooking, cleaning, washing-up and gardening; each brother or sister is expected to take his or her turn.
Not surprisingly, with a group of people of different ages, backgrounds and experiences, not everyone gets on with each other all the time; disagreements can occur and attention has to be given to personal relationships and the development of trust. There are regular meetings to talk about the life of the community, to discuss issues and to address areas of concern. The aim is to live together in close fellowship, supporting each other in good times and in bad.
The community is not a closed group; hospitality to visitors, particularly to those who are strangers is an important expression of God’s welcome to all people and every house makes some provision for this. Some community houses have guest rooms where people – either individuals or groups – can come and stay, usually for periods of up to a week. Some houses run organized retreats or weekends which are advertised on this website, through Franciscan, or in Retreat magazine. There’s normally no fixed charge for staying, rather people are invited to make a donation towards the estimated daily cost to the community. Other houses may not have rooms for overnight guests but visitors are welcome to join the brothers or sisters for a meal or to share their time of prayer together.
(l-r: Drumming at Hilfield; Sharing our meals with Guests Compton Durville; The Brothers at Alnmouth talking to Guests)
As in any family or community, food is important and mealtimes are a focus of the common life at which the events of the day may be recounted, stories told and jokes shared; there’s quite a lot of laughter in a Franciscan house! The heart of the community is always found in the common prayer, in the Daily Office and around the Lord’s Table of the Eucharist; it’s there that brothers and sisters renew their relationship with Jesus Christ who has called them into community and, through Christ, with each other.
(l-r: Daily Office Canning Town; Eucharist in a smaller community house; Chapel Canterbury)