by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did you attend college, what degrees did you earn?
Brother Chris: For my undergraduate degree, I studied at St. Mary's College of California (SMC) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Upon graduation in 2014, I received a BA in Theology and Religious Studies with minors in History and Philosophy. Graduate school came later when I was in initial formation with the friars.
Gordon: Why did you choose to be a Franciscan?
Brother Chris: I chose to become a Franciscan because I didn't feel called to diocesan priesthood. On my first come and see retreat with a different community, the question I wanted answered was whether I am called to diocesan life or religious life. It became abundantly clear that I couldn't do it alone that I needed to be surrounded by like-minded brothers. With St Francis, he recognized the role of fraternity and building one another up.
Gordon: You are a Conventual Franciscan. What is the difference in being a Conventual Franciscan as opposed to being a Franciscan?
Brother Chris: Excellent question. Within the Franciscan family, there are three different orders. For the sake of brevity, I'll speak of the first order. The first order has three branches, the Conventuals (Friars of the Community), OFMs, and Capuchins. Each of these branches interpret the Rule of 1223 differently primarily on the issue of poverty. Each has their distinct charism. The OFMs focus on mission whereas the Capuchins focus more on contemplation. For the Conventuals, our charism is that of fraternity or hospitality.
Gordon: What aspect of St. Francis' life do you admire most?
Brother Chris: I would have to say Francis' love of the Cross. There is a famous story early in Francis's conversion. He is visiting a broken down church in the valley outside of Assisi. In this Church is the San Damiano cross. As Francis is praying before it, he hears a voice saying to rebuild my Church for as you can see it is falling apart. While Francis was still learning about the spiritual life, he took the message literally and rebuilt that church. It was not until later that he discovered the spiritual meaning. As for Franciscans, we may need to rebuild brick by brick at times, but we recognize that the Church is in need of repairs in every generation. It is a matter of discerning how we can use our gifts now in consultation with our ministers.
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
Brother Chris: When I was in initial formation, I was studying at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. I graduated in May 2021. During my four years there, I received a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL). I would say my favorite canon law course was Selected Issues in Consecrated Life where my classmates and I got to study different rules and constitutions of notable communities throughout history.
Gordon: You are a Canon lawyer. What are you primary responsibilities?
Brother Chris: As a canon lawyer, my primary role is dealing with annulments. To preface first, as is well attested, Catholics do not believe in divorce. There is a situation however when a tribunal pronounces that at the moment of consent, for one reason or another, a marriage never actually took place. It is a tedious, soul-searching process which is also very therapeutic. While canon law can be considered the dark side of the Catholic church, it is truly meant to be pastoral. It is flexible and amenable in certain aspects. As a canon lawyer, it is walking with people to find the truth of the matter and restore them to right relationship. There are many other aspects to canon law which are applicable even to our daily lives which I try to flesh out when the opportunity presents itself.
Gordon: Thank you for an informative interview.