Well where to begin. I went to a franciscan friary in a poor area of London. the friary had 5 friars. 1 of which is only there for a month from the states. In fact half the friars were american.
I was given a small room like themselves, there wasn't any cabinet or wardrobe. for they live a life of poverty and luckily I got a small feel for that. I say small because I had a mattress, and when I peeked into their rooms, all I saw were sleeping bags. It was as I thought it would be, a life of prayer and service. the complete surrender of the self to God, which came in the form of worship & service, what else could it be?
They serve a soup kitchen for the poor 4 days a week. It popped a bubble I was in, to see people like that, dark fingertips and blood shot eyes. poor and homeless. the friars provide food and shelter, a place to have a shower, and one volunteer even gave hair cuts! But they had as they have to offer something more. As I see those folks, no wonder they become alcoholics or drug addicts, who wants to confront such a reality? Especially there, I remember seeing in the horizon of that area the big corporate buildings of London, but that's where the friars come in.
I think when people have God in their hearts this suffering can become ever so more tolerable perhaps. One can see that in the life of those who went through poverty and had God in their hearts and by their side as it were. Like St. Francis, Job and The Final Prophet peace be upon him & people who lived in poverty yet had wide grins. because they are in a state of trust, reliance and love of God I think.
This was a really important Journey for me to witness & be part of. I even got to witness the rosary with the friars for the first time. They said Hail marys so many times I memorized it!
As I pray 5 times a day and prostrate to God, they also do the same every time they enter the chapel.
All this and the conversations I had with the brothers were really inspiring one way or another. Thanks be to God. One Father Jacob spoke to me about why he sees Christianity as the path to follow through modern day miracles and the Eucharist. Another Brother John Baptist who was your average enthusiastic american, where he helped me go through the motions of their 5 prayers and also decorate the Christmas tree, we spoke of pro-life issues and my reasons for actually being there. Then brother Justin who came to London for the first time for his break from Seminary school was a nice man who would stay in prostration for minutes, where the other brothers would prostrate for no more than half a second. Father Emmanuel who spoke to me of his calling to a life as a friar and the importance of being servants to the poor. Finally Brother John Bosco, who probably found it odd for a Muslim to visit a christian friary, that showed in his conversation with me as he believed my faith to be that of aggressors, when I showed him scripture, he recoiled to events that in my opinion are more rooted in politics than faith as evident for me anyway. It was a most intense conversation, I pray he sees Islam as it truly is.
This is my take of my Journey to St. Fidel's Friary of the Franciscans of the Renewal.