Br Desmond Alban SSF

When I read about the Franciscan Third Order early in my career as a physics teacher, I had a eureka moment, ‘the path does already exist, and this looks like it!’

Br Desmond Alban SSF

Who are the Society of St Francis (SSF)?

Br Desmond Alan SSF is a member of the Society of St Francis is an community of men seeking to follow Jesus Christ in the way of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi.

My Faith and Childhood

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t in some sense a practicing Christian, and as a child, I found God very much in creation as well as in the loving (if routinely dysfunctional) home I grew up in, and in my Church Junior School and local parish, where I loved singing in the choir. But the parish was an unapologetically evangelical one and I began my university career assuming I must commit to the Christian Union (CU) – I became an executive officer – and ‘indulge’ on the side my interest in the Chaplaincy where I could satisfy my fascination with sacramental liturgy, and with the kinds of questions that weren’t always encouraged in CU circles. 

My time at University

By the time of my Post Graduate Certificate in Education, things had shifted. It was Chaplaincy first with occasional visits to the CU, and I loved the circles where I could engage with ‘dubious’ practices like praying for the departed, invoking the saints – and in conversations where I could ask all the real questions I had about squaring some of the things I had learned in the past with my own real human experience, as well as with intellectual questions about scripture, etc. I was fascinated by monasticism, by the idea of living under a life-giving Rule of Life as a simple brother in community (I was becoming increasingly settled in the realization that marriage was not going to be my path), of a life focused in contemplative prayer, and a path of material simplicity in a hungry world. Yet I also felt called to active engagement in the world. So strong was my conviction that I was to be monastic and yet engaged that I wondered if I was called to invent such a body, to found a community! 

My calling to be a Franciscan Brother

Well, when I read about the Franciscan Third Order early in my career as a physics teacher, I had a eureka moment, ‘the path does already exist, and this looks like it!’ I’m grateful for my few years in the Third Order, and it was through them that I discovered what Friars were, contemplatives in community and yet engaged in the world. And my heart warmed to the challenge and invitation of the three-fold vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.

St Francis was an attractive figure to me but in some ways peripheral to that path – these active brothers just happened to be Franciscan. But vocations to community are often based on the reasons why we stayed rather than the reasons why we came! In my case, I began to feel I was more real, more authentically my true self as a brother. But I also discovered whole streams of Franciscan thought through the centuries, about creation, about very positive and joyful reasons for the Incarnation, about the desire to see every human being and everything (two words, as Richard Rohr emphasizes) as my sister and brother in Christ. That resonated with my deepest desires from much earlier in the journey. In a way, I’d been a Franciscan all along!

 

Society of St Francis
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