Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some questions that our candidates have asked us as they were finding out more about who the Capuchins are and what we try to offer the Church. We hope that the answers below give some insight into our life and our charisms, but we know that they cannot address everything a potential candidate may be thinking of.
After reading these FAQ’s, please explore the rest of our website. If you still have a question about the Capuchins, please contact us and we’ll try to get back to you with an answer as soon as we can. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brother Timothy Jones at email@example.com.
Thank you for your interest in the Capuchin Franciscans and may God bless you.
Fr. Salvatore Cordaro, O.F.M., Cap.
1) What is unique about being a Capuchin as opposed to being part of the other Franciscan groups?
Capuchins, like all other Franciscans, try to live a Gospel life based on the vision and example of St. Francis of Assisi. From the beginning of the Franciscan movement in the 13th century, however, the friars have not always agreed as to what shape that life should take. The Capuchins were founded in the 16th century as an attempt to recapture the contemplative vision of Francis and to share the fruits of that contemplation with the poor and the other forgotten members of our society.
Perhaps more than any other Franciscan group, the Capuchins aim to be contemplatives in action- that is, to see God’s presence in every part of our world and then to work toward making sure that the light of Christ is not obscured by ignorance, poverty, or injustice. Capuchins are able to do this work through an incredible diversity of ministries and opportunities that empower the people they serve to be the best persons they can be.
2) Are Capuchins monks?
No, actually we are “friars”, which simply means “brothers”. Like those in monastic life, we live in community and pray in common; unlike monks, we are not cloistered and are not attached to one particular community for the rest of our lives. A saying attributed to St. Francis articulates this beautifully: “The world is my cloister; my body is my cell; my soul is the hermit within.”
3) How would you compare the life of a lay brother in the Capuchin order with the life of a friar who is ordained priest?
All Capuchins, ordained to the priesthood or not, are first and foremost brothers- brothers to each other and to all of God’s creation. It is this emphasis on brotherhood that is the basis for our Capuchin way of life and our role in the Church.
Many Capuchin friars feel called to serve God’s people as an ordained priest, while many others feel that they can contribute to the sanctification of the Church as a lay brother. Both engage in all kinds of ministry and both are equally valuable and equally valid examples of the universal call to holiness. “By reason of the same vocation, the brothers are equal. For this reason, let us be called brothers without distinction.”- Capuchin Constitutions #84,3.
4) What are the vows all about?
When those persons who have entered religious take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they are publicly proclaiming, before God and the Church, that they will live no longer for themselves alone- they will also live for God and for others. Religious consecrate themselves to God and to the Church through the evangelical counsels, which are the ideals given by Jesus to those who would be his disciples, that is, to those who would lead lives in imitation Jesus.
The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience allow us to be faithful disciples and to witness to the Gospel life within the particular form of life we have chosen. The vows can easily seem to restrict what you can and can’t do, but they actually do away with whatever keeps you from being the person God wants me to be- in other words, they set you free. Because you are not bound by personal financial concerns, by exclusive relationships, or by your own will, you can be available to all people and you can offer your life for others.
To read a reflection on the vows by our brother Anthony Zuba, please click here. http://publishing.capuchin.org/Page Content Documents/Anthony Zuba reflection on the vows.pdf
5) How long does it take to be eligible to take solemn (lifetime) vows?
Each friar’s journey of initial formation and growth in the Capuchin order is unique to him, but in general it takes about five years to eight years before a friar can commit himself for the rest of his life as a Capuchin Franciscan. A friar takes simple vows right after novitiate and then renews them for at least three years before he can apply to take solemn vows.
You don’t really know if you are ready for a lifetime commitment when you first leave novitiate, let alone when you enter postulancy. You have to continue discerning what God wants of you, with prayer and in conversation with your formation advisors and your spiritual director. You do need at least three years after novitiate to truly know if this is the life for you.
6) Does the vow of poverty mean that I can’t own anything? What do I do with my assets if I enter the order and what happens to any income I earn?
Poverty is a fundamental part of the Franciscan identity and to live without anything of one’s own was a primary, if not the only, way that Francis chose to follow the poor and humble Christ. Poverty allowed Francis to bring himself into a true and open relationship with everyone he encountered and it should allow us to do the same as followers of Francis and disciples of Christ. This choice of voluntary poverty can be a message of hope to the poor that God is with them in their sufferings and truly cares for them, and makes us available to do what we can to relieve that suffering.
In everyday life, the vow of poverty means that a friar will live as simply as possible, not being overly attached to anything and being dependent upon God and upon one’s community for one’s needs. Individual friars do not have any bank accounts or own any property. Any income they earn from their ministries is given to their community so that all the members of the community can take care of one another.
Since all of the needs of the friar are taken care of by the community, before a man enters the order, he commits to not using any assets he already has. The new friar does not get rid of his assets right away however- he still retains ownership of them and only when he is about to take solemn vows does he dispose of them.
7) What is the significance of the habit? Do friars wear it all the time?
Our habit is a sign of our poverty, minority, and fraternity, and of our consecration to God and to the order. It identifies us as followers of St. Francis and indeed was modeled on the clothing typically worn by the poor in St. Francis’ time. The habit consists of a tunic (a plain brown robe with a hood), a cord fastened around the waist, and sandals (although most friars wear shoes instead of sandals).
A friar receives the habit at the beginning of his novitiate year. A friar is not required to wear the habit but the great majority of friars do so every day, at their ministries and in their community. In their free time, the friars typically do not wear the habit, but they are still living the Franciscan life as much when they are in habit as when they are wearing regular clothing.
8) What are the age requirements to begin discerning with the Capuchins? Are their educational requirements as well?
A man who is interested in attending a discernment weekend and thus beginning discernment with the Capuchins needs to first get in touch with the vocation director, who will determine if he will be invited to attend.
In general, a man must be between 17 ½ years old and 40 years old in order to attend a discernment weekend. However, those who are older than 40 may possibly be able to attend, again at the discretion of the vocation director after meeting with the candidate. We ask that a person who is applying to our postulancy program be with us at least 6 months and has attended at least 2 discernment weekends.
Those applying for postulancy are asked to have completed at least a year of college; exceptions can be made. We do ask that it be established that they would be able to complete a college degree or technical program.
All this being said, we try to take many extenuating circumstances into consideration as we assess each candidate individually.
We offer a special discernment program for high school students who may be thinking of a call to be a religious priest or brother. For more information, please click here. http://publishing.capuchin.org/Page Content Documents/High School Student Discernment program.pdf
10) Does going to a discernment weekend commit me in any way?
No, attending a discernment weekend in no way makes a candidate bound to the Capuchins or obligated to continue discerning with us.
These weekends are excellent opportunities to see in person what the Capuchins are all about and to meet with other men who are also discerning whether or not God is calling them to religious life. Hopefully, someone who attends a discernment weekend likes what they see and can attend future weekends in order to continue discernment with us.
If you would like to discuss your possible call. please feel free to write, call or email Brother Tim Jones, O.F.M., Cap.,Director of Vocation Ministry at St. Joseph Friary, 34 South Chestnut Street, New Paltz, NY 12561 / 845-642-1025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.