29 January 2010

What It Means to Be a Capuchin

Good afternoon. My name is Matt Janeczko and I’m a Capuchin Franciscan novice. You might guess by my accent that I’m a New Yorker. If you thought that, you’d be close. I grew up in Northern Jersey right near Giants Stadium, just a few short minutes from New York City. At this time, however, I’m living at St. Conrad Friary in Allison Park, north of Pittsburgh. I must confess: I thought traffic was bad in the tri-state area, but I won’t ever forget McKnight Road during the Christmas Season. When the locals called it “McNightmare,” they weren’t kidding.

Father Dale asked me to briefly tell you a little bit about the Capuchins and where both the men you see before you and I are located in our vocation journeys. First the easy part: we’re novices. Just as the label suggests, we’re in the first stages of our journeys to be Capuchin friars, men who are discerning God’s call to follow St. Francis’ vision of Gospel life.

Francis devoted his life to chasing after Christ and so do we. As Capuchins, we attempt daily to “observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of our own, in chastity.” But being a Capuchin is more than words, more than a formula or a set of regulations; it is an experience of the heart. As I sat attempting to pull these words together last night, I thought of what it actually meant to be a Capuchin. That was tough enough. More problematically, how could I explain it in just a few short minutes to you all?

Capuchins were the hermits who came down from the mountains of the Italian countryside to take care of plague victims in the 1520s.

A Capuchin is St. Felix of Cantalice walking through the streets of Rome begging bread for the poor thanking each contributor with the words, “Deo Gratias,” that is, “Thanks be to God.”

A Capuchin is Fr. Matt who marched through the riots in Milwaukee in the 60s, befriending all in a city where there were no friendships and then when asked about it today, responding, “Oh, I worked in the city.”

A Capuchin is Br. Jim, heading to the missions in Mexico after the age most Americans retire and though speaking no Spanish before, during, or after his eighteen years there, being beloved by all, both young and old.

A Capuchin is Br. Tim, an undersized kid from New Jersey who’s spent his entire life working in inner-city New York, teaching, listening and assisting, all the while in places where you never go after dark and attempt to avoid during the day.

A Capuchin is Fr. Christopher, ninety-three years old and still receiving visitors of all types who seek his counsel with a smile and a wise word.

A Capuchin is Br. James making his final vows just a few short months ago and chomping at the bit to head to the bush of Papua New Guinea and spend a lifetime in service.

A Capuchin is Fr. Zachary moving to a forgotten section of Boston and learning Portuguese at the age of seventy to minister to the Cape Verdean community.

Capuchins are all these men before you in brown robes, men who heard God’s voice in their hearts and decided to follow it.

A Capuchin, you see, is a person engaged in a “daring adventure of love.” Indeed, just as Francis wrote, [t]he Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel. “

Those are the Capuchins and I'm proud to be one.

I presented this to a parish in the South Hills of Pittsburgh last Sunday.

(Sending this link around is encouraged! How's that for a shameless plug?)

1 comment:

wayhip said...

I shamelessly plugged this on Facebook. ;-)