Sunday, 18 February 2007

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

During this past week we had a chance to visit the friary of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Canning Town, East London. There are five friars there, including Fr. Angelus and Brother John Paul (left) who both gave us talks last week. Brother Martin, who is currently away, has also been involved with SPES in the past, and in December we went to help him with the Live Nativity Play which he put on in Upton Park.

The friary is divided into the friary proper, where the friars live and sleep, and the apostolate where the friars run a daytime soup kitchen four days a week. Brother John Paul who showed us round said that a lot of Lithuanians and Romanians come to the soup kitchen, many of whom are living in abandoned warehouses while looking for work.

The friary is very simple, with very few images. Where they live the friars only have one image per room, in order to emphasise the nature of an image as something to aid prayer rather than to cause distraction. In the chapel there are two images, one of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Order, and the Cross of San Damiano, which is the cross that St. Francis saw when Our Lord asked him to rebuild the church at San Damiano (before rebuilding the Church itself through his apostolic work and his spirit of poverty). The chapel in the friary is beautiful
but very sparse - there aren't even any kneelers! Think of spending over an hour a day kneeling on a bare wooden floor... While we were there we were able to join in the community's night prayer and rosary, joined also by young men from all over the world who are there for a vocations weekend, discerning if the Friars of the Renewal are where they are called to serve God. It was interesting to see the small basketball court outside the friary as we left, where the brothers sometimes play with the local youths. Asking Fr. Angelus about it he said, 'Oh some of the other guys play with them but I'm getting too old for that. Now I just run.' The Friars are certainly never idle, physically or apostolically!

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