Our society has become increasingly self-aware of generational distinctions—what years, major events, and characteristics define a generation and shape its worldview. We have even given them names: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, etc. Of course, with differences in life experiences, values, and perspectives comes tension. It’s not uncommon to notice that older and younger generations often misunderstand and talk past one another. Many of us have great relationships with people across a spectrum of ages, but it is also easy to create silos in which we primarily engage with our own generational cohort.
One of the beautiful things about our life as friars is that our order and local fraternities are comprised of friars of a variety of ages. The members of our province span five generations, from the so-called “Silent Generation” (b. 1928-1945) to today’s emerging adults known as “Gen Z.” The encounter we have with brothers of such diverse ages and life experiences compels us to expand our worldview beyond that of our own generation—from the hard lessons passed on in the stories of more seasoned friars, to the dynamic dreams of newer members.
At our province’s Friar’s Day this July, we recognized the jubilarians of 2022 and 2023. Jubilees are celebrated for friars every five years from their 25th anniversary of profession of vows or ordination. Thirty-four friars were honored, with our most senior jubilarians celebrating 70 years of profession! That amounts to decades of experience and wisdom shared across generations. Moreover, our newest friars—representing three generational groups themselves—professed their first vows that same day. What a witness it is that our Franciscan life and spirituality bring together men in their nineties and twenties and all ages between, not simply to live together but to grow as disciples of Christ through our fraternity.
The same contrasts between the generations seen in our society still exist in our Order, but we strive to live with a common mission in the fruitful dynamism of that tension. The challenge and gift of our fraternal lives are that we relate to one another, not as Boomers and Millennials, but as brothers, while still honoring the unique backgrounds and perspectives that come with each friar’s age.