Today was spent mostly in the company of my religious brothers, followed by the company of my kid brother.
The friars who sit on the provincial formation council, which governs the initial formation program that shapes men into fully professed friars, met at St. Michael Friary this morning and afternoon. The postulants were asked to be present through the afternoon to offer company and hospitality during breaks in between the meetings. We were happy enough to oblige. So there was a lot of time hanging out in the kitchen and dining room, making coffee and eating donuts and trading shares of small talk. And though my own preference on a Saturday is to become scarce, lost in a book or stealing away to Manhattan, I felt good about being around the brothers on my day off.
In the in-between moments I got some chores done, purchasing a few money orders, getting mail from the St. Michael-St. Malachy parish office, completing my postulancy self-evaluation, and, with the other postulants, putting up a fresh-scented pine tree in our dining room. Tomorrow evening, after dinner, it will be ornamented and lit, and we shall have our Christmas tree.
My brother Nicholas, the birthday boy, arrived as my postulant brothers departed for their afternoons of leisure. After the formation council adjourned, we said our adieus to those friars, and Nick and I went to downtown Brooklyn for a stroll around the Fulton Mall and MetroTech district. Our main destination was Junior's for dinner and dessert. Where food and service are concerned, the place just can't disappoint! Our meals were sizable, like they ought to be in good diners; and we tipped the server generously in cash (not credit card), like you're supposed to do for restaurant workers. Mine tonight was the strawberry shortcake cheesecake. On my recommendation Nicholas had the apple crumb, which I first sampled in August when the postulants were treated there during orientation. It's not in my means to be a big spender, but on this occasion, I paid my own tab, and at least Nick's dessert was on me.
I am learning how live in the domestic church. My Capuchin friary, like any Catholic household, is the Church at the molecular level. Do we stop being Church when we leave her places of worship? By no means. Today I did not protest any law or rule; I did not risk public scorn or arrest for Christ's sake. Today I did not serve in the soup kitchen or come to the aid of someone in grave need of assistance. Today I was doing something else: fraternizing; that is, being Church, interpersonally. I got good practice this morning and early afternoon just hanging out around the house. It was like a medium-impact spiritual exercise; then, when I was ready for a cool-down and reward, Nicholas arrived. Thank God for him; through our strides and stumbles together, we have learned how to be brothers to each other, friends to our loved ones, and neighbors to the world.
"And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:14). With the spiritual credit I have built up over 27 years in brotherhood with Nicholas, I am paying attention to my brothers in religion. I trust the investment will return a profit, but my faith must be centered in love, not the profit. When the times come when I must know in my body the crucified Christ (and they will), surely some sisters and brothers will be there to watch and pray and carry me deep in their heart. Among many others, the Capuchins will be near. And Nicholas will be the first witness.