May 19, 2013

One Year In Italy Post

There's still a week left to go until I will have been here in Italy for a calendar year, but in liturgical time the anniversary has come. It was the Monday after Pentecost, the first day of the greater stretch of Ordinary Time, that I left the USA.

Some of us had gone to the Pentecost Vigil at Holy Cross Cathedral, where I concelebrated the Mass with Cardinal O'Malley. On Sunday I made my final decisions about what I could bring and what had to be left. Most of the choices I made turned out to be good, but not all. I didn't need to bring two albs. I wish I had brought my 1962 Roman-Seraphic breviaries, and I'm still surprised at myself for not bringing my oil stocks. On Monday my guardian got Chinese for lunch and then took me to the airport. The next morning I was here in Italy, and I've been here ever since. Those moments came back to me during the post-second-vespers-of Pentecost ritual of paging up my volume III of the Liturgia delle Ore secondo il rito romano e il calendario serafico, the same book I tried to pray with on the airplane, maybe understanding enough to say that I had said my prayers, maybe not.

I'll admit that it's been a curious time; very graced in some ways but often difficult. In some ways I've felt somewhat unhinged ever since Sunday morning, August 1, 2010, when I went to the sacristy to ask the blessing of my guardian and pastor and then left Yonkers to move back to Boston. (By the way, one of the reasons I use the term 'unhinged' is because it's so wonderful in Italian, especially in Rome: 'scardinato', from cardo (whence 'cardinal'), 'hinge' in Latin.) First there was my false start in the doctoral program at BC, which I now realize was a half-hearted effort, then my appointment as guardian of a house, a ministry in which I didn't succeed in getting my feet under me before it too was cut short by the unexpected call to Rome.

Once here I spent a month in Assisi as a student at the Accademia Lingua Italiana Assisi, then three months in Garbatella, riding Roman Metro B each day to the wonderfully named Torre di Babele. On the Saturday after the feast of St. Francis I moved here to the Capuchin General Curia, where I have been ever since, translating news blurbs, ghost-writing correspondence, scrivening decrees, and posting translations of web pages by case and paste.

It's been an intense time in prayer; sometimes intensely dry, sometimes very rich, always inviting and never easy to interpret. It just becomes more of what it has always been becoming over the years; an adventure by which I grow more convinced and aware of how God has been with me at all kinds of moments and points of my life, but simultaneously less sure of what it all means.

To take a more concrete manifestation, I get more convinced of myself as a Franciscan, that God has always willed for me to be a Christian according to this pattern. I read Francis more than ever, and pay more attention. But on the other hand I seem to understand less what it is supposed to means for me exactly, how it ought to translate into my reflection, my choices, my behavior. At some level the comment could be disingenuous; after all, I have disposed of my earthly life and its choices by my religious profession. Obedience decides what I do with my days. In this sense the thought could be one of those pious, interior charades that pretend to be religious but are really just delights for the flesh...and which please the devil so much more than what are usually thought of as the 'sins of the flesh'!

But it's also true that religious obedience, narrowly understood, only touches on the most exterior things, the house where you stay, what you are supposed to do for work. There remain a multitude of choices to be made in the conduct of daily life: fraternal charity, personal prayer, friendships inside and outside of the Order, what to read, whom to trust, to whom to confess, whether and from whom to seek spiritual counsel, whether or not to write a blog or tweet and what such things might mean in the context of everything else, if one were to be honest about it, and whether one, if he were to do such things, could stand to do them with a little more honesty in the first place.

So for everyone who supports me in this little way that I have come to express myself over the past seven years, thanks for that and for your prayers, and be assured that you have mine as I continue to find myself in this blessed and curious condition, in this blessed and curious place, writing big words in a little room in a big building next to a round highway, a twenty-minute walk and two buses from the tomb of St. Peter.


Unknown said...

Thank God for your growing certitude as to your "Franciscanness" if I may coin a word! Following Il Poverello is not always easy, I am sure. His austerity, while beautiful and admirable, is not for the feeble of heart. And if there is one thing that you are not, it is feeble of heart. God preserve us from a lilylivered Franciscan! And so, continue to follow, even when you have no idea where you are going, because you are being led by the spirit of Francis acting under the influence of that Holy Spirit Whose coming we celebrated yesterday. Be ever poor in spirit, but rich in grace; meek, but conquering all; pure of heart to be more like Him Whom you serve; hungry and thirsty for righteousness, but satisfied in your being; merciful but tempered with counsel. Yes, be a man of the Be-attitudes! You surely are who and where you are meant to be although I wish that the where were back here in Yonkers. However, I myself, will be leaving Yonkers in the not-too-distant future (perhaps within 6 mos. to a year) to take up residence in West Haverstraw. I am within the top 10 applicants for a unit at West Haverstraw Senior Apartments at Walnut Hill, a stone's throw from the Marian Shrine, which is my spiritual home and my Cooperator unit's home. No more rising at 5 AM to take a two hour bus trip (each way) to our meetings which has been becoming more tiring each month! I will also be a few minutes from my cousin which will be wonderful, especially as I am becoming a bit more disabled by the MS and multiple spinal problems. I may be needing some help in the future, and her daughters are only about a half hour away also, which gives me more security. While I will be saddened to leave Sacred Heart which has been a glorious harbor in my journey, I will not be sad to leave "The Manor" which is declining in the quality of residents. Many folks are moving out and many are very unhappy.

So let us both keep on keeping on, you on your journey with the Poor Man of Assisi, me on mine with the Friend of Youth. May you continue to be blessed in your journey and a blessing to all you encounter, as you have been to me. I will certainly keep in touch so this is not a farewell note.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks, Judy, for your encouragement, as always. Let's be praying for each other.

Unknown said...

I pray for you every day!!!

Louis M said...

Me, too :)