The call to religious life,
When a man or a woman feels they are called by God to the religious life, they will pray about it and go to visit a religious community to get to know what the life entails. There are many different kinds of religious orders. For some of them, their mission is to work with the poor and deprived. Some are nurses, teachers or social workers. Some religious men and women are called to a life of prayer, which means they stay within a religious house and spend much of their day in prayer, study and manual work. They pray for the needs of the world. They witness to a life lived with God that values prayer and service of others. They commit themselves to following Jesus in a special way.
The training for religious life is varied, depending which Order a man or a woman joins. They will spend the first part living in a religious community and seeing if that is the right way of life for them. After that, if they continue, they will become a novice, (someone who is learning about living the life of a brother, a sister, a monk or a nun). At the end of their time as a novice, if they still wish to continue, they will ask to be accepted by the religious order and make vows (promises) of commitment.
St Francis of Assisi
One of the most well-known saints who was a member of a religious order was Francis of Assisi; in fact he started a religious order. He was the rich son of a merchant born in Italy in 1182. Whilst he was recovering from having been captured in a war, he started praying and thinking about his life. He thought about how Jesus had been poor and had helped everyone he met. Francis realised he had been selfish and not thought about anyone else. He gave all his riches away to the poor and sick and dressed himself in some clothes he took from a scarecrow in a field. Some of his friends thought he had gone mad.
Francis travelled around telling people about God’s love for them and encouraging them to love everyone. Other people joined him. They lived together in simple wooden huts and slept on the ground. They made three promises called vows; to be poor like Jesus and to share everything, to be obedient to God by following the rules they had agreed on and not to marry so they could give all their heart to God.
Francis had a great love of nature and of birds and animals, because they reminded him of God and the wonderful gift of Creation. Francis wrote a beautiful hymn or canticle to God about Creation.
When Francis died in 1226 he had many followers, called ‘Franciscans’ who continued to pass on God’s love, and still do to this day.
How did Francis know that God was calling him?
What did Francis give up to answer God’s call?
Why did Francis choose to be poor?
How did Francis help other people?
Create a poster about Francis showing the qualities that he had.