This morning I attended a funeral for one of the first friars I ever lived with in community. By his request, the funeral was celebrated at the church attached to that same friary.
I arrived early so that I could visit the old house. I can't believe it has only been fifteen years since I lived there as a postulant to the OFM; so much has happened in between: out of religious life and then back in again, four years of working at the group home and living the solitary, single life, re-investiture, temporary vows, two summers in Central America, perpetual vows, five years of theology, diaconate, priesthood, taking up the parish priest trade.
It was so good to set foot back in my first home in the Franciscan world. The place has a simplicity and spiritual cleanliness about it that everybody feels right away. I went to the chapel right away and remembered so much grace. I walked up to what was my room and remembered some of the excitements and doubts, and many conversations. I went to the community room and remembered a lot of faith sharing, parties, and laughs.
I have always found such personal pilgrimages to be helpful and encouraging, and so I try to make them when I can; to return prayerfully to a place where the Holy Spirit was once working hard on me. Wherever we find ourselves in life and work at some particular moment of life, it's easy to let it become the whole world. We can let the universe shrink down to our immediate surroundings. This is such a recipe for unhappiness, however, because it makes little things and passing troubles seem like everything. For me, to return to the places I have been in the past, and to remember the grace of God that I had there (whether it be happy or difficult or--more likely--both) helps me to remember that even the little world I inhabit in this life is much bigger than anything difficult I face in my current circumstance.