The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) are a reform order of Capuchin friars, religious sisters, and priests whose mission began in 1987. Their goal and purpose are to work dynamically and specifically for personal and communal renewal of the Church through a focus on serving the materially poor and evangelizing the world regarding the saving message of the gospel in their teaching and preaching.
Each religious order writes a “Constitution” which includes information regarding the life, work, mission, details, and charisms of that particular order. The CFR’s Constitution is worth a slow and contemplative read, for it is filled to the brim with Christ’s invitation to follow him closely through a profound witness of life.
The CFRs are brothers and priests who take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience while working for revival, renewal, and reform. They accomplish this goal through a constant return to the sources of the Christian life while taking inspiration from the life of St. Francis and St. Clare, and living in conformity with the demands of the gospel. These avenues toward renewal are meant to challenge contemporary values and highlight the ever-relevant and awe-inspiring encounter of our lives with the gaze of Christ. Their simple grey habit, radical poverty, intense contemplative prayer, and complete handing over of their lives to Christ, in the spirit of St. Francis, instinctively becomes a path of existence which inspires others to grow closer to the Lord in whatever path of life to which they are called.
CFRs have a personal and communal commitment to Jesus through their manual labor, material poverty, and life of devoted prayer. Their prayer feeds everything they do which includes daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, devotions to the Blessed Mother, and the reading of Sacred Scripture. They are men and women of encounter, peace, and joy because of their relationship with Jesus Christ and the strength of their communal life.
The CFR’s New Media
The friars have made an intentional move toward using media to evangelize the world through their YouTube channel, their Ascension videos, and a music album. These are great examples and insights into the work, sincerity, authenticity, and prayerfulness of the CFRs. Recently, they launched another initiative to reach the faithful and evangelize in a dynamic fashion through media. The Poco a Poco Podcast consists of weekly insights from Fr. Mark-Mary, Fr. Innocent, and Fr. Angelus which highlight the importance of prayer, virtue, and intimacy with Jesus Christ.
The homepage for this newest movement to embrace the culture states:
“The Poco A Poco Podcast is a source of rest, encouragement, refreshment, and renewal for all pilgrims helping them to discern and make the next best step. Poco a Poco, little by little, step by step we’re making our pilgrimage to the Father’s house.”
As a weekly listener, I’ve noticed that the mission of the podcast has been both accomplished and superseded by a unique combination of true joy, evident spirituality that is rooted in personal prayer, and practical tips for drawing closer to Jesus.
This theme of “poco a poco” is not new for the CFRs nor the Church, but its message is worth the focus because of its profound invitation to allow Christ to walk with us on our journey while never being brought to despair in this world, knowing that God has the ultimate victory. So we move, step-by-step, with our eyes glued on Jesus and we work to accept his words to us everyday to “come and see” (John 1:39).
The CFRs witness to the world is one that is attractive to all men and women of goodwill and, for this reason, their order continues to grow with each passing year. Even more so, however, their impact on the wider Church and on disciples of all respective vocations is proof that their name (renewal) is not merely their mission or slogan, but their accomplishment for the Kingdom of God.
At the end of their Constitution, their concluding remarks note that the goals of the order are simple and straightforward: to reform and to become true disciples of Christ while renewing the Church he gave us. Today, let us accept the call to renew our own lives through a greater focus on an intimate prayer life with Christ, a care for those who are materially or spiritually poor around us, and spreading the saving work of Jesus to all we meet. Let us become true disciples of Christ and then transformative renewal will follow.
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Thomas Griffin teaches apologetics in the Religion Department at a Catholic high school and lives on Long Island with his wife. He has a master’s degree in theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary and College along with a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy from Molloy College. Thomas has written for several online Catholic blogs. Follow his (and his twin brother’s) article posts and videos @CalledTwin.