Maybe this isn't a big thing, but maybe it is. Maybe it's a little edge of a big thing. Not sure yet. I'll keep praying.
Three things which seem to me to be given:
1. My sense of what it means to be Franciscan (and to be a Franciscan is my first desire as a Christian) centers around something Francis called 'most high poverty.' The Franciscan charism is not first of all about serving the poor, helping the poor, or advocating for the poor, but about becoming poor oneself. It is not just about adopting a lifestyle of material poverty or an interior disposition of spiritual poverty, but an evangelical synthesis of both. It does not demand living among and working with other poor people in an absolute way, but such has something of a normative force ever since Francis found that it was among the lepers that the bitterness of this world could be changed into 'sweetness of soul and body.' I too want this sweetness which Francis famously tasted, and I believe that the shortest route to it is to find my poverty with other poor people.
2. My sense of myself as a priest is that I am a steward of the sacred mysteries of our faith. This means for me that when these mysteries and the liturgy that celebrates them happen to be in my custody, I do whatever I can to see that they are celebrated as the Church asks and expects. This leads me into traits that are seen as 'conservative' and even 'traditionalist.'
3. Pastors of parishes that serve poorer areas and poor folks tend to be on the more 'liberal' and 'progressive' side, and this tends to include their approach to the sacraments and the liturgy.
In this current little funny moment of my life, expecting to take on a totally new assignment in Rome in the spring, I have been asked to seek part-time, temporary work in the meantime as something good to do and for the support of the brothers. Since the priesthood is my only real professional competence or credential, I have been seeking priestly work from local pastors.
But here's the thing. Because of the (2) and (3) above, I am more comfortable seeking such work in parishes that are not in the poorest places, and so my examinations of conscience are sometimes asking me if I am failing in (1). In other words, my conscience is asking me whether my faithfulness to my priesthood is coming into a tension with my faithfulness to my Franciscanism. Maybe it's a creative tension. Maybe it's an invitation to a new sort of synthesis or sense of my vocation. Maybe God is telling me to let of something, or grab onto something else. We'll see. I'm at a liminal moment in my vocation after all, and God is all about liminal moments.
And maybe it's no big deal, but maybe this is pointing to something the Holy Spirit is asking me to adjust inside about how I desire Christianity in my particular state of life as a friar-priest. It's a ragged reflection, both inside and in this post, but it's the edge where my heart and conscience and prayer are right now.