September 23, 2009

Pilgrimage to the Bronx

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.


Jeanne said...

This is a beautiful post. It reminds me of those trips I've taken in life back to places I lived - or once, a long time ago, when my dad drove me to the south Bronx to see the area where he had grown up. It's enlightening. It reminds us of the incredible journey we have traveled. We can get so bogged down in the present that we don't remember how far we've come.

ben in denver said...

I had not realized that you started out in the OFM's, and were not always a capuchin. Did you ever know Fr. Joseph Ganssle, OFM? He was in the Holy Name Province and died a couple of years ago in Florida. He spent much of the Last 40 years in Denver.

Brother Charles said...

Ben, I don't think I knew him; in any case the name doesn't ring any bells. That province is very large, and I was only with them for a year and half (i.e. postulancy and half of novitiate.)

Tim Powers said...

izaHow funny, but we were at the same funeral (assuming the funeral was that of Thaddeus Sappio). Thaddeus was always such a wonderful spiritual guide and he had a wonderful sense of humor. I had returned to the OFMs shortly before his funeral, and left again shortly afterward. Like you, the chapel was always my first visit when returning to Holy Cross. Thank you for this blog (it's been a great spiritual comfort), and thanks for the reminder to remember graces past and not just my current spiritual condition.

Brother Charles said...

Dear Tim, thanks for the comment. I realize that I write for the same reason; to have a record of grace, of God's faithfulness, which is sometimes hard to see in the present.

I felt so at home in that house, which was such a contrast to the novitiate, where I didn't feel at home at all. (I was in the Providence novitiate.) Visiting was also a little eerie; it was like the brothers had just disappeared. E.g., in the living room, the issues of America and NCR dated from the time of the departure where still sitting there.