In this photo, titled Following the Path, the four friars are symbolic of the long line of Franciscans who devoted their lives to the Gospel. The movement captured in the photo hints at the coming of future followers of Francis.
Franciscans figure in strongly to the history of Mexico and the presence of the Church there. Juan Diego famously reported the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, a Franciscan friar. The religious order established numerous missions across the region, with many still operational to this day. In a country with nearly 93 million Catholics, one doesn’t have to travel far before seeing signs of the Church’s presence, whether they be basilicas or the brown robes of a Franciscan habit.
In the northern foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, the bustling city of Monterrey, Mexico, is home to about 1.1 million people and a major industrial center in the Latin American nation. But like everywhere in Mexico, the Church is intertwined with society. Away from the towering modern skyscrapers and factories churning out raw materials such as steel and concrete, the St. Pio Friary, located southeast of the city, stands in stark contrast as a bastion of peace, introspection, and spiritual rejuvenation.
A mission of the Capuchin Franciscans Western America Province (headquartered in Burlingame, California), the friary is administered by the Capuchin Franciscans of northern Mexico. It’s a place for those discerning their vocation to engage in faith formation, prayer, and study while also serving as a springboard to connecting future friars to the surrounding community, local parishes, and schools.
Through a Franciscan Lens
This is also the place where Friar Javier Garza, OFM Cap, responded to the call to religious life. Finding his university studies in business administration to be less than fulfilling, a young Javier turned to a weekly religious education class for comfort and deeper meaning.
Around the same time that he made the leap to discerning the vocation of religious life, Friar Javier discovered a profound passion for photography. He’s honed his skill as a photographer for the past 10 years, and it’s clear that his identity as a friar is inseparable from his art. Friar Javier sees the world—figuratively and literally—through a Franciscan lens.
Three friars cast a fishing net, bringing to mind Jesus’ invitation to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19: “‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”
The balance and simplicity of Reflection of Peace echo core values of Franciscan religious life.
The life of a friar can be somewhat of a balancing act. Time spent alone absorbing the beauty of nature can help reenergize efforts to minister to members of the faith community.
“The areas of seeking, listening, dialogue, and discernment make fraternity a privileged place for encountering God and for the formation and companionship of our brothers,” says Friar Javier.
A friar’s rosary hangs from his cord. Devotion to Mary is immensely popular in Mexico, a nation of nearly 93 million Catholic faithful.
This photo, taken at a farm outside Monterrey, is reminiscent of Pope Francis’ call for priests to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
In the photo titled Francis, Repair My Church, one can imagine the early followers of St. Francis in a similar setting, assisting their leader in rebuilding churches and chapels.
Javier Garza, OFM Cap, is a Franciscan friar and photographer in Monterrey, Mexico. He joined the Capuchins of northern Mexico in 2008. Learn more about his work by clicking here.
Daniel Imwalle, managing editor of this publication, provided the accompanying text.