“Oh, you have brothers here too! I didn’t know that!”
This is typical of the comments we hear.
Yes, we’ve been part of the community for more than forty years, but we are a small group with relatively few speaking engagements, and are therefore not so well known. Twenty years after the Sisterhood of Mary was established, God called a brotherhood into being. December 1, 1967, saw the investiture of the first brothers. Today there are nine of us from Germany, the UK, Canada, Norway and the USA, who live and work at Kanaan in Darmstadt-Eberstadt. Two of us are already in heaven.
Saint Francis – the unassuming friar of Assisi whose unique charisma has so often proved irresistible! Years before the foundation of our brotherhood, Mother Basilea was deeply blessed by his spirituality. Later, she wrote: “In his personality, character and life, I encountered the Gospel message, ‘Unless you become like little children … Father, I thank You for having hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes, the lowly, the simple-hearted …’ My heart was touched by the captivating childlikeness and humility of Francis of Assisi, in which his powerful ministry was rooted. A fervent love for the Lord, born of repentance – a close communion of the heart with Jesus, who is the source of all joy – this I saw in the life of St. Francis. And it strengthened my desire to love Jesus more.”
Jesus’ words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17), form the basis of the guidelines for the entire community. As Canaan Franciscan Brothers we seek to glorify the Triune God by demonstrating the reality of God’s kingdom among us. Daily life in a tightly knit fellowship like ours is certainly an ideal training ground.
On a personal level, each brother strives to develop a life of ever deeper fellowship with God as well as taking part in the communal times of prayer and worship. “Three O’Clock Prayer”, commemorating Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, helps us to stay focused on Jesus, and we treasure the church service on Sundays where we join the sisters and guests in worship and Holy Communion.
By the time the first brothers came, Kanaan was more or less completed. Maintenance of the buildings and grounds still keeps us busy, and from the start, brothers have been involved with retreats and with speaking engagements elsewhere. It is a privilege to pass on our experiences in the life of the Spirit through our men’s group and contacts with other visitors. Working together with the sisters, our contribution in areas such as technology, gardening and vehicle maintenance has always been appreciated. More important, though less outwardly apparent, is our spiritual life which grows and matures as we learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance and follow unreservedly.
In many ways our life here may seem out of step with the spirit of the times, and by the standards of the world we have nothing much to boast about. But we choose rather to be useful channels for the Lord. Our desire is to love and follow Jesus, giving Him the first place in our lives and discovering what it means for us as men to be part of the Bride of Christ – those who love Jesus exclusively.
So we aim to live daily in God’s presence and in total dependency on our heavenly Father. We want to be a witness that He is involved in our lives. He made us and He will also perfect us according to the plan He has had in His heart since the world began – not just for us, but for everyone who loves Him. (November 2014)