Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.” Today Br. Brian Stacy, a Capuchin Franciscan, shares about the world of  Franciscan friars. He also volunteers as a spiritual director  for FMS members. 

Capuchin College is a post-novitiate formation house for the Capuchin Franciscans in Washington, D.C., and it’s what I’ve called home for the past five years.  While we all wear the same brown habit, day in and day out, what lies beneath is anything but uniform.

Boasting over eight different languages and fourteen different nationalities, the house seems to be one friar away from being declared some kind of religious hostel.  Our “Hotel Capuchino” provides room and board for friars from all over the world – a veritable “IHOF” (International House of Friars).

So much diversity and culture brings with it the blessings of friendship and fraternity that I would never have experienced living back at home in Ohio.  It’s part of what makes our order so special, so Catholic (big “C” and small “c”), and so available to the world. It’s also a huge lesson in hospitality for us homegrown, American friars–learning to put our own comforts and agendas aside to accommodate the stranger/brother in the house.  And that’s what makes this stranger so very strange: he’s also my brother.

Once that reality sinks in (which often requires not a little patience), the friary becomes less like a hotel and more and more like a home.  Trying to decipher broken English, using made-up sign language, and multiple trips to the embassy, airport, and post office are not things we simply “get used to,” but are the very things that unite us as true brothers—we’re called to go out of our way so their new way here in the States makes sense.

My first trip abroad as a Capuchin really helped me understand this.  It wasn’t until it was my turn to become the stranger in a foreign land that Capuchin hospitality really began to mean something.  My brothers in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras showed me fraternal love like I had never experienced.

Despite the scorpions in my shoes, millions of fire ants swarming my bedroom and bathroom, and the complete lack of washer and dryer, the kindness and selflessness of the brothers was not only heart-warming, but also vocation-inspiring.

As Advent begins, I’m reminded of the love of my international brothers, and the love of Christ for us in His Nativity. God becoming man, seemingly a “fish out of water,” literally born in a barn, but going out of himself anyway to love us – touching every aspect of our lives, as an infant in his mother’s arms to his suffering and death on a cross.

Birth, life, suffering, and death—all these become shared experiences between this so-called Stranger and us.  Common ground isn’t lacking, we only have to put our busy lives aside for a moment to see the great love that awaits us—and not unlike the manger (and friaries!) it can come upon us from some very unexpected places!

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Br. Brian Stacy, OFM Cap., is a solemnly professed Capuchin Franciscan of the Province of St. Augustine.  He’s currently finishing his last year of studies for the M.Div. program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

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