Membership in the Order is usually attained gradually through a formation process lasting not less than two and a half years after entering the postulancy. The stages of membership and the minimum period one ordinarily would expect to spend at each level of relationship to the Order are as follows:
- Postulant - six months
- Novice - two years
- Professed member - lifetime commitment
Entering the postulancy process is not automatic upon request, but takes time, work, and discernment on the part of both the inquirer and the Order. Each postulant is assigned a spiritual director who is a professed brother who walk walk side by side during the spiritual journey of the candidate.
Becoming a Franciscan in the 21 Century
This reflection regards becoming, rather than being a Franciscan, for one never can be Franciscan anymore than one can be a Christian. When one is baptized in Christ, one begins a continual conversion throughout their lifetime. It is a process, or journey towards surrendering one self to Christ, which is never achieved all at once. This process is based on the idea of the emerging Church. We understand from this, the Church as the one body of Christ is always growing, never at a stand still. If it becomes static, the Church would simply vanish into obsolescence. Likewise the human person once making the entrance towards the Holiness offered by grace in baptism is in a process of becoming, and I call this emergent conversion. And becoming in the sense that we move forward into that perfection which Jesus exhorts us to “ be ye perfect even as myself and the heavenly Father are”. The only constant in this life, the one thing we can count on being permanent is change. We are to understand perfection as an active process which began with our Baptism and continues on through life. Perfection in this sense is an ongoing process, and only comes to completion with our entrance into heaven. Nor is it confined to the individual self. We are not isolated or insulated from others. We are a part of the Body of Christ, and are community. As community, we all share in this process. We cannot say I am saved without the implicit inclusion of the entire community, as this is what Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches” and on another occasion he tells us we are the living body of Christ. Our celebration of communion also plays a role in this community process. Indeed the entire life of the Church points us toward the perfection we are called to participate in. This, especially applies to those who claim or falsely believe that it is enough to accept Jesus as a personal Savior but who do not accept participation in Church just as important. Our life with Jesus is not confined to an exclusive private experience, participation in a relationship is implied. Growth in one's faith, hope and charity is accomplished only through and with full participation in the life of the Church. Yet none can claim to be perfect, if we understand 'sin' to be an active condition of missing the mark. In fact we rejected perfection through original sin. It is for this reason, God in his mercy provided a way for our return to the perfection originally intended for us. Because we have missed the mark, Jesus was sent into the world to get us back on track, to help us achieve this perfection originally intended for us to have. A religious life is most especially suited to give an example in the world, a witness affirming this Perfected life is achievable. For the Franciscan, this life is one of answering the call to perfection. When at San Damiano, Francis was praying before the cross, Jesus spoke to him. “Francis look about you, for all around the Church is falling. Go rebuild my Church. “ On the surface, Francis responded by literally repairing broken and run down physical Churches. In time though, he realized the more profound meaning of this instruction. He was, in order to obtain holiness to rebuild the Spiritual Church, the body of Christ which was wounded. As are we, for we are accountable to each other, as community and as family. But this perfection is a process, something to be achieved in this life with the help of the Holy Spirit working within us.This life is a witness, which is not exclusively held by the religious. It is meant for all, while the religious who have chosen this witness are 'helpers', who can, through the life they lead, draw others to this process of ongoing conversion. Except for Jesus, who is the Son of God, no one of us can claim to have arrived in this life and it is only on Faith that we can say that we arrived after death when we find ourselves in heaven. The only certainty I have of this, is hope in the promise of Jesus, that he has gone ahead of us and prepared a place for us. When I know this, I cannot know of anything else which can be true happiness, without which my life is empty and devoid of meaning.