WE ARE Capuchin Franciscan Friars. You have possibly heard of us.

Maybe you have seen us in brown habits and sandals.

We are followers of St Francis of Assisi, the Rebuilder, who lived about 800 years ago and still attracts thousands of followers and admirers. St Padre Pio was a Capuchin Friar in more recent times.

More than any other follower of Christ, St Francis of Assisi has been called a "second Christ".

According to Smithsonian bibliography, more lives have been written on him than any other person.

G K Chesterton called him "the world's one quite sincere democrat", and the "first hero of humanism".

Vladimir Lenin spoke envyingly of him shortly before his death, and Sir Kenneth Clarke called him "Europe's greatest religious genius". Even in his own lifetime St Francis exerted a strange attractiveness. Perhaps it was the undeniable magnetism that occurs when truth and folly stand together. "Love is not loved!

Love is not loved, " he used to sigh.

St Francis, the Rebuilder, would say that "we cannot change the world except in so far as we have changed ourselves".

You could say that to give or receive forgiveness is among the most powerful of human experiences. I am told that two thirds of the teaching of Jesus is directly or indirectly about the mystery of forgiveness, God's breaking of God's own rules. Was it Dante who said; "to err is human, to forgive is divine".

Francis would pray, Lord make me an instrument of your peacef Forgiveness is the beginning, middle and the end of the whole Gospel.

Out of the chaos of life today often comes the greatest creativity, and the only thing that can endure deep doubt is faith. Faith gets purified every time we go through the cycle of doubt and failure, saying, "Why do I believe this"? or "Do I believe this at all"? or "What do I base my life on"? On this wheel of fortune just everything is purified, self image, Godimage, worldview. True religion gives us the way through. Cheap religion gives us the way around.

DO NOT BE SATISFIED WITH MEDIOCRITY St Francis saw an image of God in every living creature and tried to inspire his followers to do the same.

He was not interested in superiority or promotion.

He wanted to live as a humble "brother" to all.

Today St Francis challenges his followers to be "ON FIRE" with enthusiasm living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today we live in a culture of shopping around, searching for a meaning to life, a direction in life, a way to God.

It is fascinating to work as a Friar in the culture of 2005. We as Friars are called by St Francis to be tolerant, welcoming and a brother to all, living the Gospel day after day.

How, you may ask? Can I answer with the five brands of the Capuchin Family?

We are a Brotherhood, Meditation, Service to Gods people, Reverence for Mother Earth, and we want to lift peoples hearts and give them reasons for spiritual joy.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin pointed out recently that there is a great reservoir of spirituality in Ireland. The cup is more than half full.

We see spirituality in a variety of positive ways; in the workplace, where the worker finds that meditation, or silence or to spend time with God is really good for you.

And not only that, but also helps performance at work. BALANCE is a key word for me today; making sure we have prime time for myself, family and God .

God is our confidant in our worries and woes and in our hopes and dreams.

VOLUNTEERING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE This year many young people I know have gone abroad to give of their time and talent to the poor and destitute of our world.

They go to places like India and Africa.

People like Alan Kerins, the brilliant Galway hurler who, earlier this year, worked as a physiotherapist in the Cheshire Home in Mongu, Zambia and helped the locals to build houses and distribute much-needed food along with the Presentation Sisters and Capuchin Friars.

Here at home, many people . . . including student Gardai . . . help Brother Kevin in the Capuchin Day Centre in Bow Street, Dublin 7, to feed over 300 people each day, many of whom are the new Irish.

We are living with a new paradigm of thinking, fulfilling our needs, in our way of praying and in our service to our brothers and sisters.

Who said our God is a God of surprises? We launch out into the deep each day as part of God's team.

Finally, we are part of an International Family and of course our trademark is the brown habit, white cord and sandals, known all over the world from Africa through Asia and on to New Zealand.

This 'brand' is recognised and very helpful today in Ireland to our new Irish from all over Europe and Africa.

So that when they meet a Friar in his habit they feel they have a friend and I hope they find something of the compassionate face of Christ and a welcoming smile.

Wishing you Love, Peace and Joy.