Franciscan

What brothers do

In honor of the inaugural Religious Brothers Day May 1, friars answered what it means to be a Franciscan brother.

Br. Michael Charron, OFM (Michael is a student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va.)

I knew about brothers before I became one. My family was friends with religious brothers and sisters. My contact with them was personal, compared with the more formal relationship with my parish priests. The sisters’ work with the poor impressed me at a young age.

When I discerned religious life it was much more about living it than what I would do. Questions about what I would do came later, especially because initial formation took time and the "Can I live this life regardless of what I do" questions were what the friars encouraged us to discern. Discernment was and is always about being a friar, so I didn’t discern priesthood much until the formation team asked me at the end of novitiate. I was always more drawn to being a brother. At this point, I believe being a priest would get in the way of what God is calling me to do.

What do brothers do? Just about anything. When guys join the friars, they bring their talents to the table.

When it comes to doing, the "lay" in "lay brother" really shines because brothers are not much different than other men in the world who work. We do all kinds of things. Given our calling to Catholic religious life, a church-related job is highly likely, but not necessarily so. Brothers are pretty unique, rare and obscure. How could we not be, if people have to ask, "What do brothers do?" of guys who tend to work all the time. I think the real question people want to ask is, "What is a brother?"

I like that question better because it is more about who I am, compared with what I do. I’m a religious brother. I’m a Catholic who prays and asks God all the time, "Now what?" I’m a Catholic who is baptized and asks Jesus all the time, "So what?" I act on those answers. It led me here. Let’s see where it leads me next. If I do anything, I hope what I am will cause others to ask themselves the same and seek answers in light of their faith from the Holy Spirit in the community around them.

I was always interested in the law. I was trained as a paralegal prior to joining the friars. I’m building on that experience by going to law school and hope to use the law to help the poor.

Unfortunately, I have to live outside community to go to school. Living alone has made me much more grateful for the friars and I realize how much friars have influenced me, mean to me, and enrich my life.

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