Our Lay Apostolate: The Civic Friary Mission
Our Mission is to share the Gospel, to spread the “Good News” of Jesus Christ primarily and foremost by living the Gospel: in the work that we do (as a community), the challenges that we share together, and the prayer that we encounter in the presence of the whole Church at prayer, to proclaim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and rose from the dead to save us from our sins. As He came to save us, He also gave his Word to enlighten us and He continues to be at our side, in order to strengthen us, In His Mystical Body, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This proclamation through prayer we seek to accomplish most dynamically in the Liturgy of the Hours, central to the spritual life and growth of the Civic Friary.
In brief, our mission is old but relevant as ever. As the Roman Empire and Rome herself suffered downfalls, as the people of Europe suffered invasions, destruction, theft, famine and plagues, Saint Benedict of Nursia rose up in 530 A.D. to reform Catholic monks and their monasteries with his masterpiece The Rule. True Monastic living incorporates the spirit of The Rule, and here at The Friary our mission begins with the two greatest commandments of loving God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and loving our neighbors as ourselves:
On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
As the monastic reform in centuries past that took place in the midst of struggling kings, soldiers and laypeople, the steadfast monasteries prayed, preserved the Gospel, farmed and sustained societies in crisis. Today, as we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we’re not praying alone. In other words, we recognize that as we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it is not just us praying but rather our participation in the entire Church at prayer, the “universal Church.” This has always been understood by the most humble Faithful, the Church Fathers, the Popes and the Holy Saints to mean that we may unite our prayers with the Body of the Faithful on Earth (Church Militant), in Purgatory (Church Suffering) and in Heaven (Church Triumphant). This prayerful participation is described as the Church praying “through and with us.” In so doing we may unite our prayers too with the Heavenly Angels, who intercede for us before God. In the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church teaches:
Though prayer in private and in seclusion  is always necessary and to be encouraged  and is practiced by the members of the Church through Christ in the Holy Spirit, there is a special excellence in the prayer of the community. Christ Himself has said: “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I am there in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20]. (from The Congregation for Divine Worship - emphasis in red added.)
Also, from Pope St. John Paul II, in his document, Christifideles laici (1988), the Holy Father teaches:
The lay faithful, precisely because they are members of the Church, have the vocation and mission of proclaiming the Gospel." (CL 33)
In union with the whole Church of faithful Christians on Earth, the saints and heavenly angels, the Civic Friars pray as “instruments of the Church,” since our prayers, when offered with love, are the essential means of the Church accomplishing her Gospel calling, her very mission, to bring souls into a living communion with Jesus Christ. Our service to others, offered in prayer for the glory of God, is a step taken in Faith which has God as our ultimate end.
What does this mean? In recent years, many people were attracted to a motto that says eat, pray and love, but the Gospel and monastic traditions are properly ordered to love, pray and feast. For the sake of love, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours and live the Gospel in our work as a community of cooks who prepare and serve delicious feasts. For the sake of love, we also fast. For the sake of love, we nourish our hearts, minds and souls with frequent reception of the sacraments, including Reconciliation and Holy Communion at daily Mass. As we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we’re not praying alone. We are in communion with the entire Catholic Church, i.e., the entire universal Church. Since Jesus Christ Almighty established the one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic Church (Matthew 16), the Apostles, Popes, Church Fathers and holy saints have understood that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ united in prayer. It is for this reason that ever since Christ founded His Church, Christians have described the Church as praying “through us” and “with us” in unity both with all souls and the heavenly angels, who intercede for us before the throne of God and here on Earth.
The Civic Friary’s vocation is to embody the spiritual core values of religious life in a lay setting and to make these beneficial values available and accessible to laypersons seeking them. It is recognizing the truth that living in the presence of God impacts our relations with neighbors in the best way.
As a lay community structured on the monastic model, our mission of marrying the work (labora) with prayer (ora) involves being open to the contemplative journey of consciously seeking God, leading us to the state of being and living more deeply and intimately in His presence. This wisdom and sound spiritual practice is the essence or soul of the Civic Friary, as we adapt the principles of monastic life to our practical experience of living in the world with a new, richer dimension to enhance the lives for everyone interested both in praying and in the culinary arts.
Saint Francis de Sales preached that the key to loving God is prayer, and he urges us to take up the “art of meditation and contemplation in the midst of the world.” He teaches,
By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God.”
Thus, the Civic Friary applies this spiritual principle to our practice of praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Like the motto attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, the Civic Friary aspires to “Preach the Gospel at all times, and, when necessary, use words.” With that, Saint Francis admonishes us to embrace the Gospel “always and everywhere.”
So the Civic Friars strive to live the Gospel with fidelity, steadfastness and love for God and neighbor, coupled with clarity of vision in serving Him and the good He desires to bring about through us. As Saint Francis of Assisi also said,
It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”