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Most people who read this blog will be somewhat familiar with the story of how I came to learn about the Society of St Francis, the Anglican Franciscan Community. Well, this is St Paul’s Cathedral London, UK; where it all began. Part of my wanting to visit the UK was to re-visit some of that early sense of call to vocation within a Franciscan religious community.
Not long after moving to London for work I started attending services at St Paul’s Cathedral. Later in that year some friends from Australia visited me while on holidays in the UK. During the ‘Red Bus’ tour we stopped to visit St Paul’s. While they were wandering around I noticed a small table at the entrance which had some pamphalets on it; the front had a picture of a ‘monk’ on it, along with a series of questions asking the reader whether or not they had felt called to explore religious life. Not to be seen by my friends I quickly folded it and put it into my pocket, only taking it out to read it later when my friends could not see what I was reading. Shortly after I made quick tracks to an internet cafe where I could find out more about this religious community. The pamphalet was an invitation to explore Franciscan religious life.
I emailed the vocation director who said he would drop by to see me while in London. I of course got cold feet and went out to the movies that day. He did however come and left a number of brochures abour St Francis and the Society of St Francis. The more I read about the life of St Francis, and how he tried to live his life in imitation of Christ, the more I felt that God was indeed calling me to live my life as part of a Franciscan religious community. I attended the vocation day at St Martins-in-the-Fields Church. Although it was a little while later before I actually joined the Society of St Francis, my visit to St Paul’s that day was one of the defining moments of my sense of being called to Franciscan religious life.
It was good to re-visit St Paul’s today. As I was sitting in the Cathedral one of the Cathedral guides came to talk with me. It was nice to share with her how my visit to St Paul’s had been such an important part of my call to religious life. It is good to be able to recall these moments. There are times when we can be too caught up in the busyness and distractions of the world and forget that it is God who calls us to live our lives as people of God. Thus in re-visiting those significant moments in our lives, either by physical journeying, or remembering through sharing our stories, we can continue to re-affirm not only God’s call but our response to God’s call. This is particularly important for those many moments when worldly busyness and distractions tempt us to forget that it is God who calls us and it is us who respond.