Br Finnian SSF

I felt called to be a Franciscan brother when I was 21. As I was walking in the street a very strong thought flowed through my mind, ‘Become a lay Franciscan brother’.

Br Finnian SSF

Who are the Society of St Francis (SSF)?

Br Finnian SSF is currently the Guest Brother at Alnmouth Friary and he’s lived in many of the SSF houses across the country. 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.

Faith and my family

After the end of my year at University I went to America with the ‘Camp America’ summer exchange programme where I taught canoeing and sports to young people. I enjoyed this summer. This summer changed my life in many ways. I spent the summer staying in a small wooden cabin on the summer camp. I was rarely alone. However one afternoon I was. During this time I experienced being in the Presence of the LORD for the first time. It was a direct religious experience. I’d never experienced anything like this before. People often ask me about what I saw. I would say, I ‘saw’ a Luminous Presence before me, and I instinctively knew this was the Presence of God. No words were exchanged and I don’t know how long this experience lasted for, but I suddenly knew I had become a Christian. Quite shortly after this experience I bought a Bible and began to read it. I’d never sat and read the Bible before on my own. Quite quickly I realised I was basically starting from scratch with my Christianity.

An important turning point

Although I grew up in a church going family I was never a religiously committed child. I remember being in church when I was around 7 and as everyone was kneeling, silently praying, I thought (to God), “I’m not like these people, you need to show yourself to me if you want me to be like this!” When I was 13 I stopped going to church because I couldn’t see the point of it. Because of this I was never ‘confirmed’. While I went to a Roman Catholic high school I didn’t identify as being a member of any religion. Saying this, I remember my R.E. teacher talking about the Kingdom of God, as we were studying Mark’s Gospel for our GCSE. Something inside me said, ‘Yes’ as I heard about the Kingdom of God. So although I wasn’t ‘personally religious’ or even ‘spiritual’ something was stirring inside of me. Both of my grandmothers were daily Mass goers (Roman Catholic) and several members of my family were very committed to their Christian faith. Instead of inspiring me to go to church I found their total commitment quite intimidating. One of the reasons I didn’t want to participate in religion is because I didn’t have what they had. Amusingly, whenever I met my ‘nana’ she would drag me to church. My nana’s church was the heart of the Irish Catholic community in Southport. Even on a weekday they would have around 200 people at ‘Mass’, it was a full-on communal experience, but it never ‘clicked’ with me on a personal level.

Exploring Christianity at University

When I went back to University I decided I should go to a church, because that’s what Christians do. The last time I’d really been a member of a church was when I was 13. I didn’t know if you were ‘allowed’ to just walk into a church, so I went with a few new acquaintances to their church. Quite quickly I threw myself into religiosity. How so? I went to church most days, I went to a daily rosary group, I signed up for weekly Confirmation classes, I went to a midweek prayer group on a weekday evening and I attended a weekly talk on Christian belief and practice. Overall I had the zeal of the convert. I was 20 years old at this time. Before I was confirmed I had to choose a ‘confirmation saint’. To help me the priest gave me a book of saints to choose from. When I read about St Francis of Assisi I ‘connected’ with what he was about. I knew who St Francis was already, but I liked how he didn’t just talk about religion he went out and helped people.

My calling to be a Franciscan brother

I felt called to be a Franciscan brother when I was 21. As I was walking in the street a very strong thought flowed through my mind, ‘Become a lay Franciscan brother’. This ‘strong thought’ seemed to be come from outside of myself, and I experienced it as a moment of ‘calling’. I have been wrestling with this moment of ‘calling’ ever since (and I’m now 37).

When I was 23 I was a tentative Inquirer with a Franciscan Community, but I realised I was too young to join a community at that time. When I was 30 I had another moment where I felt drawn to join a religious community. This ultimately led me to visit the SSF friary in Leeds. The ‘friary’ was a simple terrace house where the brothers house homeless asylum seeker men and support the work of local church run charities. Something in me ‘clicked’ when I visited the friary, I found me giving my ‘Yes’ to this way of life. And suddenly after all this faffing around, I felt ready to ‘test’ my sense of vocation to the Franciscan way of life. I was now 31. I applied to join the Society of Saint Francis, and joined the Community as a Postulant in July 2016. 

Society of St Francis
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