Finishing up her second week in formation, mission candidate Annemarie Barrett shares her initial thoughts and reflections on preparing for mission.
What was the essence of the life of Saint Francis? Following his example, how am I called to live as a lay missioner?
As I engage the second week of formation as a lay missioner candidate, I find my days filled with books and stories, with guest speakers and notes, as well as time for personal and communal prayer. I have nearly finished Leonardo Boff’s work, Francis of Assisi: Model for Human Liberation, marking up all of the pages. And I have been invited to explore the connections between Francis’ charism and my own life, formation and mission.
In prayer and in dialogue within our FMS community, I have begun to form these connections. And in our dialogue, three words in particular have stayed with me: humility, authenticity and liberation.
These words have not stood out to me so much as theories but as being at the core of the life of Saint Francis. They have me considering how I can integrate these words into the core of who I am. How can I live humbly? How can I be more authentic? What does liberation mean to me?
To begin to bring these questions to my own life, I needed to humanize these ideals. It was one thing to hear repeatedly that Francis lived humbly. But what did that look like?
I have learned that Francis committed to living among the most poor and most marginalized. But Boff explains that Francis did not see those who are poor as “objects of aid,” instead he chose to live with them in “deep solidarity.” He did this by treating them with dignity and by living with “availability,” in “humble service,” and with “profound gentleness and compassion.”
These concrete examples help me understand how he lived. These reflections have me considering in my own life, how can I be available? How can I be humble? How can I share gentleness and compassion?
Boff also explains that availability and humility, gentleness and compassion, are “forms of communication that humanize and liberate.”
Personally, with a degree in communication studies, this is where my studies meet my faith, in the call to practice forms of communication that humanize and liberate.
Archbishop Helder Camara is quoted in Boff’s work as saying, “No one is so poor that they cannot give, nor so rich that they cannot receive.”
As I begin formation, living in a new community, in a new place, beginning a new journey, I am invited to practice humility. I am aware of my own needs, my own humanity. And following the example of Francis, I am encouraged to allow my humanity to bring me closer to others in my life, in formation and on mission. This experience of authentically knowing my humanity is liberating. It offers me hopeful reminders that we can all give and we can all receive.