Friday, September 2, 2011

75 Years

Just as spouses celebrate the anniversary of their marriage, so does a friar celebrate the anniversary of his entering religious life. Just as you would expect a couple to celebrate their jubilee in a special way, so you should expect a friar to commemorate his jubilee with heightened festivity. And just as a 75th anniversary of marriage would be the cause of great rejoicing for a grateful family, so would the 75th anniversary of religious life for a grateful family of faith.

A sizable company of friars, friends, and relatives came to Queen of Peace, a Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home in Queens Village, to recognize Capuchin Fr. Charles Repole, who entered the fraternity on this day in 1936. He is 96 years of age, nearly as old as me and the three other postulants combined. He was a missionary in the Bluefields region of Nicaragua to the Miskito people. He wrote the first and, to anybody's knowledge, only Miskito-English dictionary. Later he was assigned to Riker's Island as chaplain to the women's correction unit. For many years he and his late brother, Celsus, who was also a Capuchin priest, were inseparable. It is customary for senior friars to live their retirement in community at St. Clare Friary in Yonkers, but Brother Charlie cannot be slowed down, so he has opted to live at Queen of Peace and serve as chaplain and pastoral minister at large to the retired clergy and religious who now reside there.

To honor God, who has accompanied Brother Charlie in every step of a life given in response to his vocation, the friars held a Mass of thanksgiving in the nursing home chapel, followed by a lunch and reception. We the postulants were calculating how old we would be if and when we reached our 75th anniversary of religious life and speculating who would be there to celebrate with us. Oh, blessed are the blithe in spirit! Honestly, we would flatter ourselves excessively to believe that we will endure faithfully in religious life even for a year. Let us pray for the spirit of perseverance that has enabled Brother Charlie to run the race for so long, and may God will to grant us many years to live faithfully the life to which we have been called, the life we gladly choose.

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