Sometimes, just to keep me going, God gives the grace of a little awe at the journey.
Today I'm thinking of a night back in the late winter or early spring of 1995. We were postulants to the Order of Friars Minor at Holy Cross Friary on Soundview Ave in the Bronx. After supper we got in our van and drove over the river into New Jersey, where we visited the friary where the brother tailor lived. Juniper Capece, OFM. You couldn't forget him. There we were measured for the habits we would receive later that year as our novitiate began. I remember it being a fun time; Br. Juniper joked with us and gave us beer.
I have a picture of the two of us from that night; Br. Juniper has the tape measure around my neck, and is either speaking or laughing. I have a look of devout, awful solemnity about me. I still get tempted to the latter, though it feels so wrong to me now that it never sticks. The former I miss somewhat and wish I could find again.
Br. Juniper died a couple of weeks ago. Eighty years of life on this earth, sixty of religious profession. I still have the name tags from the habit I got from him. One of them is in my New American Bible. The other is in my Roman-Franciscan Christian Prayer. He also made me a Franciscan Crown for my habit. When I left the novitiate I sent it back so that he could give it to somebody else.
It graces me with a little awe when I think that on that night, in spite of my awful solemnity even given the beer and the fun, God knew that eighteen years later I would have left the OFM, spent some time on my own, praying, working, seeking him, that I would finally enter the Capuchins and twelve years into that find myself here in Rome.
On that same night there was also a kid who must have been a freshman in high school. Did he have any idea that in ten years or so he would enter the Capuchins and then, after some years, switch over to the OFM? I don't know if he knew. But I know that God knew it. And God knew that he would inspire this friar to send me a memorial card from Br. Juniper's funeral, all the way from Maryland to Rome, so that I could be encouraged by the memory of my journey and how, despite all of my distraction and nonsense and interior darkness and sin, it is God who leads me by the his own subtle and obscure light, his rayos de oscuridad, and suffers on the Cross so that I might have the courage to take the next step.
Thank you, brothers.
Br. Juniper Capece, OFM, requiescat in pace.