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Friar Jerome M. renews his Simple Vows

At St. Joseph Cupertino Friary, Dingley Village VIC, during evening prayer for the Solemnity of the great Franciscan Theologian and Doctor of the Church, St. Bonaventure (Patron of our Province), Friar Jerome Mary Westenberg OFM Conv. renewed his Simple Vows into the hands of our Provincial Delegate, Br. Joseph Wood OFM Conv., and was officially witnessed by Fr. Paschal Mary Corby OFM Conv. and Friar Thomas Fetz OFM Conv.

It was an opportunity for the friars of the community to come together to celebrate and be strengthened in our zeal to want to follow the example of St. Francis, and ultimately Christ.

Br. Joseph Wood OFM Conv. gave a beautiful reflection during evening prayer; he spoke on the life and witness of St. Bonaventure and how we as Franciscans are always called to renew ourselves, each other, and the Order. You can read his reflection below.

Br. Joseph Wood OFM Conv. 15th July, 2016

Today is the feast of St. Bonaventure.

It is an appropriate day for anyone professing or renewing his vows – and especially for anyone belonging to a province named for Bonaventure.

In the hymn at both Morning and Evening Prayer, Bonaventure is called the “second founder of the Order.”

When I first entered the Order and heard about this nickname – second founder – I simply thought (and was told), that it had to do with his organizational skills as a leader. By the time Bonaventure was elected Minister General, a brief 50 years after St. Francis founded the community, many things seemed to be falling apart. There could have been between 5-10,000 men in the community. Much needed to be defined, organized, and stabilised.

But as my professor at St. Bonaventure University later explained to us, Bonaventure was actually called the “seconded founder” because he deserved it – not as a nickname for organizational skills – but because he actually did “refound” the community.

In 1274 – almost 20 years after his election as General, and 70 years after the founding of the community – the Pope called a Council to meet at Lyon, France to discuss the reunification of Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

However, the primary undercurrent of that Council was the strategic assault of 800 Benedictine abbots poised to supress the multitude of new Mendicant communities. In a very short span of time, the Mendicants had supplanted the Benedictines as the “new-kids-on-the-block,” as professors at the emerging universities, and left the Benedictine Cathedral Schools in a quickly fading dust cloud.

It was Bonaventure’s diplomatic and defensive oratory skills at Lyon that argued for the “usefulness” of the Mendicant movement and in the end prevented their overall suppression.

Thus, the honoured title – second founder – is appropriate and cannot be underestimated.

Bonaventure could accomplish such a feat of preservation, salvation, and renewal of the Mendicant communities – and especially our own Order – because he was “beautiful in mind and form,” as his professor, Alexander of Hales, once declared of him. “Beautiful in mind and form, and as pure as Adam before the fall.”

** And here we are today with our own brother Jerome in front of us who is also beautiful in mind and form; a second founder of our Order – or perhaps a 3rd or 4th or 24th founder of our Order… because each one of us who joins a religious community does not join something that is completed, or finished, or stagnant. We join a living, breathing organism that that needs our committed life (our vowed lives) to keep it young and dynamic, pertinent, and essential for each generation.

So here we are this evening welcoming the renewal of Jerome’s vows – thanking him along with St. Bonaventure for saying “yes” to professing and renewing his vows… while reminding ourselves to constantly and consciously be useful and fruitful throughout our own vowed lives – temporary or solemn – for the service of the Church and for the glory of God.

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