A day in the life of Fr. Bernardino Maria C.F.R.
(New York, NY – May 27, 2016) By Jeffrey Bruno – When the idea for the ‘24 Hour’ project first surfaced it seemed like a good idea. The concept of photographing a person for 24 hours to reveal the reality of his or her life, the little details, the humanity of the individual seemed interesting, straightforward and tangible. Note that I left out ‘easy.’ I don’t think I thought through the part that meant shooting for at least 18 hours continuously, if you subtract the sleeping hours, and following someone around, completely invasively, without being a factor in the story, paying a thousand percent attention to subject, light, composition and setting for every minute of the project…. Well, let’s just say it’s like running a marathon. But was it worth it? You bet.
Fr. Bernardino Maria Soukup of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal has the dubious honor of being the first person to be covered in this series. And for that I am eternally grateful. There could not have been a more gracious, open, and enthusiastic person to work with.
I arrived at 4:00 p.m. to find Br. Bernardino and Br. Phillip preparing the evening meal for the friars. I could tell you all about what kind of cooks they are, but I think there are other impressions that should be shared.
Piety, fraternity and humor … those are the hallmarks. To experience life in the Friary is to enter a world that has many of the best things that a life lived fully alive and in Truth has to offer. It was fascinating to see the friars go from joking around and laughing straight to deep prayer and Adoration. Truly the two qualities are not contradictory; in fact, they are complementary, rooted in the friars’ total dedication to Christ and the resulting joy.
Many images of the Friars show them jamming out on guitars or playing basketball or something. This obscures their high degree of education and intellect. Why is it that people who smile a lot aren’t thought to be that bright? The Friars come from a rich tradition of great minds (just think of Fr. Benedict Groeschel or Fr. Apostoli) and continuing in that tradition, Br. Bernardino was taking his Latin final and classes in Scripture on the day of my visit. He has received a Master of Divinity degree as well as a Master of Arts in Theology and the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. No intellectual slacker is he! And yet he smiles a lot!
One of the biggest misconceptions about religious life is that you are ‘giving stuff up’ to serve God. While, yes, in one sense, there is a turning away from things that really are inconsequential or harmful in the big picture, what is gained is to become fully human, truly free, and in communion with God and gain everything that actually brings joy, peace and fulfillment. It might seem counterintuitive, but that’s really the ’secret’ to life; abandon yourself to God’s love and mercy and receive everything you could ever wish for and more.
The Friars are real people. Perhaps once they throw on the gray habit and wrap that rope around their waist, they appear something other than mainstream. The reality is that they are just like you or me … they’re a bunch of dudes. The difference is in how they responded to God’s call to them; they accepted and live the challenge of that call. The habit is an outward profession, a visual representation of what they believe and whom they serve. But I ate with them, and they’re a bunch of dudes. Holy dudes.
You learn a lot about a person when you spend 24 hours with him and an impression is formed in your heart and mind. It’s not your imagination, it’s the reality of what the person is like, based on actions, words and the little things that you don’t consciously pick up on but which bury themselves within.
Br. Bernardino in three words? Prayerful, humble and kind. But three words could never sum up who he is because he’s courageous, passionate and strong and a million other things as well. Courageous in seeking God’s will and doing whatever it takes to realize it. Passionate in that he lives his call to holiness with a truly tangible fervor, and strong in that it takes a genuine man to have the strength to carry the Cross that he has willingly embraced.
Br. Bernardino and 13 other men will be ordained to the priesthood on May 28, 2016 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Please pray for them!
[Originally published on Aleteia.org]
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