Friday, May 4, 2012

Full of Celebration

Celebrations, all day and continuing into tomorrow.

Celebrations at Neighbors Together today for the members who realized our leadership development program, and for a Capuchin postulant concluding his eight months of ministry there. The heart is full after an afternoon such as this.

Would that everyone could be soaked in the simple, multiple kindnesses poured out today by staff, volunteers, and members. A picnic in the scruffy community garden down the street from the soup kitchen; awarding of certificates to show our appreciation; a few brief and uplifting words from our budding leaders. Happy tears, as opposed to the usual tears of rage or sorrow. And the conviction that we will all meet again, in the ways of providence, and the place we meet will be changed for the better for the work we have done.

This is why celebrations are so important. With them you can go on for another day, another month, another year in the struggle for a more just and merciful world. With them you can rejuvenate hope. This is why the Church has to do its celebrations well, especially every Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection, the greatest affirmation of all.

The celebrations began before Neighbors Together and continued after ministry.

This morning at St. Patrick's Cathedral there was the celebration of the life of a major philanthropist for the Catholic Church who died on April 24. The Capuchins of the New York/New England province benefited from her generosity and were represented by our provincial minister, vicar provincial, our formation director, and the postulants. I would have liked to have known the woman whose life we remembered today in light of Jesus' resurrection and his resurrection promises. Hers is a household name in the Catholic institution and among its prelates. I was at a disadvantage because her family, friends, and fellow dignitaries had a familiarity with the person, whereas she was just a name for me. I wish the rituals we observed could have scoped out the humanity of the deceased and her identity in the risen Christ a little better, for it is the person who will be saved, not the name engraved on all the buildings she built, preserved, and restored.

This evening at St. Michael Friary we celebrated evening prayer and shared a meal with the site supervisors for two of the postulant brothers. We have become practiced at the art of being at table together -- we, this formation class, we, this iteration of the fraternity at St. Michael. We have precious few moments left at this table, two or three at best.

The celebrations go on in the morning and early afternoon in Yonkers, first at the Mass of thanksgiving at a pediatric hospital named for St. Elizabeth Seton, then at St. Clare Friary for the Cinco de Mayo luncheon, the postulants' official farewell. Then I go back to downtown Brooklyn for a personal celebration with my sister and brother, Jennifer and Nicholas.

The goodbyes are growing longer, and pretty soon the leaving will become real. The celebrations are critical. They will pull me and my postulant brothers through what could be a jarring transition. So let us rejoice and be glad. Truly, celebration is our duty and our salvation.

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