Archive for the ‘brother jacob’ Category

On Friday, I will continue my Franciscan journey in New York.  I am excited to be there. I look forward to living with the brothers out there and engaging in new forms of ministry.

 But these last two weeks, I have been on vacation – a break from community life.  As I transition from one community to another, I thought I should honor that sense of shifting, of change, by stopping in the middle and allow myself to reflect on the last year and pray and open to future possibilities and pray.  I stayed at a friend’s house in San Francisco with a nice little backyard, a territorial hummingbird, and a shedding but friendly cat.  It was ideal this last week, especially, as San Francisco calmed down after Gay Pride. 

So I found a quiet spot – and without forcing anything, found quiet within myself.  I would visit with friends, saying goodbye to them and the city I love.  They would ask if I was nervous or worried about such a big change.  I said I really wasn’t and today I can say the same.  The present moment can be frustrating or there can be conflict but the future in essence is a fantasy.  It’s not here yet, so I’m not all that concerned.  By taking this break, I have allowed myself to acknowledge God’s presence in my life and with gratitude, simply sit with that great loving presence  and trust that Jesus is guiding me only into his goodness.

 I am at my father’s house in St. Louis, Missouri.  I haven’t seen him all year and it’s good to be back and to  see him and my step-mother and to hear and see the Missouri birds.  This morning I woke up and we still had a soft rain after last night’s thunderous storm.  I walked out into the back yard and saw the two of the most beautiful woodpecker’s I’d ever seen.  Most of the woodpeckers  around here are small brown things with white faces and small white specks on their backs, but this morning two large fierce and noble looking birds with their red mohawks swooped into my Dad’s yard.  I actually gasped.   Yesterday, I saw the brightest yellow finch I’d ever seen.  I couldn’t preach to the birds as Francis did, but I did just let myself feel astonished at the beauty of creation.

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While it may not be the truest joy in the Franciscan sense, a quiet house after a Sunday out is very close – and rare. Most weekends at this time, after our various church visits and outings, the house is bustling. 60 Minutes would attract its followers into the common room. The doorbell rings. Friars in the kitchen would be assembling something quick for dinner, fridge: opens and closes, maybe pans clang, but the microwave certainly whirs. In the dining room, people might share their crib notes from sermons preached and activities after church. Ten men living together, religious or not, make noise at home, joyful or otherwise.

haight street fair

The neigborhood where my church is has a wildly popular street fair every year and it was in full swing today. Every block had a different stage with punk and rock bands. People walking on the street were drunk – even at noon, screaming and hollering in excitement. Parking was a contest of agression and car honking. I had to take the bus a couple of times and each were so packed with fair goers that I got off the bus and walked – people were turned away at stops. It took hours to get home with only two errands.

But I am alone in a mostly quiet house. The wind is howling. It tunnels through the house. We live across from a park and the summer’s afternoon wind blows through open space, until it reaches our block’s row of houses. And it still demands to blow through. The sound is eerie and persistent. It is almost a low note of train whistle. The sound outside reminds me of the howl sound wind makes through wild fires in drought season on the tv news. Or of desert.

It is a bittersweet quiet (wind quiet), peopleless quiet. Donald left this morning. Christopher as well. I’m next and last on Sunday. This house of ten is becoming a house of seven. Maybe this deep unfailing wind is the sound of change, but really I’m not as sentimental as all that. But change, yes, and goodbyes, yes, are present.

One of the most difficult goodbyes was today – saying goodbye to my church on Corpus Christi – the feast day of my baptism – my big hello to the Christian life. It’s one of the best days of the year in church as it makes for wonderful preaching and the music is great as is the Mass, which is as rich and deep and soul nourishing and Christ filled as any other day of the year – Easter included, maybe even Ascension day. And of course, its my (re)birth day. They even had cake at coffee hour.

My goodbye was public and emotional, the rector’s eyes tear filled as he testified on my behalf and as he blessed me saying the words of Francis. So the other silence of today, is of quiet contemplation. But walking down the hill home today, I thought what joy it is to love a place and community so much and to be at home there and be loved in return. I’m a lucky brother.

True joy – Franciscan joy — walking in the snow miles wet, freezing, exhausted, maybe even after having gotten lost, going to a monastery and asking for a night’s rest only to be loudly denied, sent back out in the cold, told to go to some other monastery. I’m not there yet- seeing that as true joy. Few are. But the idea was that by living in God, Francis hoped his patience would be great and that he wouldn’t get upset or frustrated — that is  even misfortune has no affect on the real happiness of following Christ. Francis’ footsteps like Jesus’ are large – almost incomprehensibly so.

photo: francis experiencing true joy in blizzard

photo of haight street fair: greg z on flickr

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I wrote a post on Sunday several hours after hearing of Bishop Kelsey’s death. In those hours, in our household of brothers, we were all in terrible shock and dealt privately with that feeling of loss. On Sunday night around 9, we had a service for Jim and on Monday morning we went to Mass at the sisters’ house presided by our own wonderful Bishop Marc Andrus, who not only worked with Jim in the house of bishops but was a dear friend.

I was amazed how each of us, in grief, supported one another. I felt God’s presence among us. Christ’s living presence is the comfortor. By having a religious context and a community context, we have space for loss and a language for grief.

We will have another Mass for Jim tomorrow night at our house. Our minister provincials will go up to Michigan later for the funeral. I feel that through these services, we honor Bishop Kelsey in a good way.

Growing up, I did not feel that we had this way of honoring our dead. Emotional and spiritual support are part of the infrastructure of religious life and for this I am thankful.

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I’m in the middle of packing books, boxes and boxes of them. I’m moving from the friary in San Francisco to the one in New York next month. I don’t know what to do with all of these books – one must think of poverty and simplicity of course but reading is a form of prayer for me. These pages around me are simply overwhelming, thousands of pages of prayers. I’ve decided to only bring with me the books I haven’t read yet still I think it will a couple of boxes.

I’ve just put down Meditations on the Tarot – its not as heretical as it sounds. Published anonomysly, it’s a book of contemplation on the Christian life using the archetypes of the tarot to discuss aspects of religious vocation. I got it because of the glowing comments from Bede Griffiths, Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating and Hans Urs von Bathasar. It’s fascinating and I have notes where the the writing is really on the mark for me but damn it’s dense. At two hundred pages in, I need a break. Also I’m tired of sorting through all the goblygook and discussions of hermeticism to get to the good parts. Reading this tome is a committed relationship. With packing and trying to get things done this week, Mr. Anonomys and I need some space.

So I went to the library to clear more space and because I had a stack of overdue materials and picked up Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn. She is almost overwhelmingly radiant on the cover. It looks to be a great read – a celebrity memoir of spiritual discovery. She is one of the most gifted actors – her performance in requiem for a dream was one of the most astonshings things I’ve seen on screen.

She writes at the beginning: From the point of view of a laborer int he fields of God, I thank Him/Her for not rolling over onto me this day and for allowing me the opportunity to look up as I carry the burden of my ignorance and say thank you. Thank you for the remarkable gift of life, rememberance, and prayer.

– jacob, 02 June 07

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