cum benedictione Dei, of course.
When a letter of obedience suddenly made this new assignment in Rome real a few weeks ago, there were many practical details to look after. Attending to all of them, I didn't really think to become anxious or even excited about the move. As of today almost everything is done and squared away: I'm just about packed, with just some minor questions about what's going to fit and what will have to be left behind, other things have been stowed in a friary basement, the car I've been using has been passed on to the next friar, my American cell phone has been disconnected.
It's funny how the unfolding of life shifts how one looks at the past. I first moved to Boston from the old Capuchin novitiate in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin, at the end of the summer of 2002. Five years later I had an MDiv and an STL and had made my final vows in the Order. As I went to my first assignment in Yonkers, New York, and was ordained priest there, I had a strong sense of having arrived, of having landed in the place to which I had been journeying--whether I knew it or not--for a long time. Three years later I was back in Boston starting another degree program. At that point my time in the parish ceased to be a landing and began to be an interlude, a kind of blessed break between academic assignments.
As I experience the shock of this new assignment now becoming real, memories of prior moments in Italy come up in prayer as matter for re-vision in the Spirit. One evening twenty years ago this spring, I was on a city bus in Florence with my college girlfriend, on our way to see the Ramones. I remember another kid on the bus trying to strike up a conversation by addressing me quizzically: "Punk Americano?" In those days I wasn't even baptized, though I would be just a few months later. I was thinking about that night yesterday when I got a shout-out and good wishes for my journey from a local college radio legend here in Boston, Joanie of the Late Risers' Club on WMBR.
The following spring I found myself in Italy again. Having taken our Easter break from University College Galway as a chance to wander around on the continent, this kid Travis and I eventually found ourselves in Assisi. It was there that we split up; he wanted to try to go skiing in Switzerland and I wanted to stay in Assisi to make a retreat of sorts. I spent almost a week getting to know the place and attending prayers and Masses in various Churches. I remember one afternoon I was hiking around on the trails out around the Carceri. I paused in my rosary to notice the beauty and solitude of the place. I thought about how nobody in the whole world knew where I was or what I was doing, and how secret was my prayer. I experienced a refreshing sense of being at home, of being where I belonged. At the time I interpreted this as an attraction to the Franciscan family, and this was certainly true. But the Holy Spirit knew it was even more than that, as He always does.