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Our kids used to call them the “Blue Guys.” And for the 10 years or so when we went to Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, they always looked forward to seeing the Little Brothers of St. Francis. We met the Little Brothers just by going to the cathedral now and again, and got to know them over the years simply by sitting near them, about one-third-of-the-way down the center aisle by the stained-glass window of St. Francis De Sales.
For a long time, we didn’t know many of the brothers’ names. But over years of conversations before and after Mass, and in what can be learned simply from being in one another’s presence, we’ve gotten to know the Little Brothers of St. Francis not only as a group, but as individuals. We’ve learned to expect not only penetrating conversation, but some pretty outrageous humor from Brother Giles. We’ve seen Brother Anthony’s deeply intuitive knowing assume an almost fatherly form, maturing perhaps in the circle of Brother James’ abiding prayerfulness. We know that when we look into Brother Joseph’s eyes, we will find them filled with joyful trust.
On our side, I think they know which of our children will run to them with hugs, and which will ask a question or two. They’ve seen some of our kids pass through the shadow of adolescence and come out on the other side of it. They’ve watched us hold sleeping babies and toddlers, and seen us hovering over 4 or 5 year olds holding lit candles.
At cathedral events, our family always seemed to take up about the same bench space that theirs did. “Family” is really how we see them. For while the Little Brothers have watched our children grow up and my husband and I grow older, we’ve seen them deepen their unity, and step into roles they never sought or expected. The warmth between us all seems to increase every time we see each other. I think it is because we have witnessed an authentic faithfulness, or at least the sincere attempt to be faithful, in each others’ lives.
Whenever we’ve had the privilege of being with the Little Brothers of St. Francis, I have felt a real connection between our vocations. What we do as a family and what they are about as religious brothers have more in common than what is visible on the surface. Poverty, chastity, and obedience come in different forms, but they are the companions of every Christian life. Families and religious alike are called to make their lives a total gift to God. The altar of sacrifice is never further from any of us than the person sitting next to us. In both family and consecrated life the works of mercy are lived on a daily basis. The hungry are fed at our dining room table, just as they are at the Little Brothers’ door. The ignorant are taught and the sinners admonished on Mission Hill, just as they are within the four walls of our home.
Ultimately, our missions, too, are strikingly similar: to build a community of love centered on what Jesus has done for us; to live a life of faith in Christ in the midst of a “post-Christian” world; to serve God in the midst of the world he created; and to shepherd one another--(and anyone else we can bring along with us!) -- to heaven.
The Little Brothers of St. Francis are small in number, but their calling to prayer and a life of service among and to the poor is a true gift to the Church of Boston. Time passes and transitions follow. In the past year, Brother Anthony has taken up the responsibilities of servant general. At the end of this month, Brother Giles, a convert to the Catholic faith, will be making his perpetual profession. Mass will be celebrated and a reception will follow. While Brother Giles may not receive any personal gifts, support to the Little Brothers’ ministry is both welcome and appreciated.
At the Boston Catholic Men’s and Women’s Conferences this year, two of the brothers told me that they hoped to attend World Youth Day in Sydney. Of course, $7,000 to cover travel expenses doesn’t just fall from the sky. Or does it? They’ve been praying to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church. Our family hopes to be a very small part of answering that prayer. For, in the end, we’re all part of the same family, the sons and daughters of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.
To assist the Little Brothers of St. Francis, send a gift to The Little Brothers of St. Francis, 785 - 789 Parker Street, Boston, MA 02120-3021.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as faith formation coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.