08 January 2014

Week with the Franciscans of the Immaculate

The Year of Faith has been very much a year of faith for me, and spending a week with the Franciscans of the Immaculate a couple of weeks before it ended was a very important part of it. This week was unexpected and pretty much unplanned. It was only half a month that the date was set and I didn't know which friary I'd be staying at until the day I was going to be sleeping there.

I was originally just trying to find a priest to celebrate the Feast of Blessed John Duns Scotus for my intention: In thanksgiving for all the graces received and for the health of my wife and our family. I would have preferred a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate offer this Mass intention, but I would have asked any priest that could and was willing to celebrate the feast.

Another new order that has caught my attention is the Sisters of Life, whose special charism strongly connects to much of what I've gone through this past year. I had no idea a few months ago that my daughter and I would be involved in establishing the Co-Workers of Life in our diocese and that in doing so, I'd end up 2000 miles away from home with the Franciscans of the Immaculate on the Feast day of Blessed John Duns Scotus.

Out of the blue, I received an e-mail recruiting volunteers to help establish the Co-Workers of Life in Edmonton. I jumped at the chance, and my daughter didn't hesitate when I asked her if she wanted to join me. When we were asked to fly to the Sisters for training, we said yes, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to go. We had a choice of an earlier date in Toronto or a later date in Stamford, Connecticut. Since my daughter was unsure what vocation God has planned for her, we thought this was a good opportunity for her to have an informal look at religious life, so we chose Stamford.

The plan I thought of was to spend the week before the workshop with the Sisters of Life at their retreat house. Since my daughter didn't need me around for that week, I thought of spending the week at one of the houses close by of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. After which, I'd head back to the Sisters of Life for the weekend, then we'd fly to my sister's to spend a week with her family before flying back home.

A little more than half a month before the workshop, I found out this wouldn't work for the Sisters of Life, so the next plan was for both of us to spend a week with the Franciscans of the Immaculate, my daughter with the sisters, and me with the friars. Plans were made and tickets were bought. In making these plans, I realized we'd be with the Franciscans of the Immaculate on the feast of the Subtle Doctor.

A week before our flight to New York, I received an e-mail that made me question my accommodations, but nothing too serious. However, the night before our early flight the next morning, I decided to check my e-mail one last time before I unplugged my computer. Turns out... I had no accommodations after the weekend. Not to worry (or so I tried), I simply forward the e-mail to the superior of the house my daughter was going to stay at and asked for assistance. One thing I've learned, women make things happen, especially nuns, and most especially superiors of a religious house.

The weekend with the Sisters of Life was wonderful and much more influential than I thought it would be. My last day there, I received a phone call from the Mother Superior of the Franciscan house, and everything was taken care of. The Sisters of Life took us to Mass at The Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, a most extraordinary Novus Ordo Missae, and dropped us off at the train station.

The train station was a little weird, but entertaining, and we discovered that people get in line for something they have no intention of... they put us on a later train... that was sold out. (Do you get in line for something you don't want in case what you paid for is sold out?) When we got to the end of our train ride (we didn't sit together because it was sold out) on the the beautiful east coast, we found a woman in a habit, and we knew we were safe. Extraordinary Form of Vespers by a dome light in a moving van (that's a van that is moving), and I was dropped off at the Marian Friary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Griswold, while my daughter went on to the Convent of the Sacred Hearts and St. Anthony in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

It was an extraordinary week with the Friars, especially the liturgies in the Ordinary Form. (As I had said a couple of months ago, when there was some rather negative comments concerning the Franciscans of the Immaculate not been allowed to celebrate the Extraordinary Form for now, that it may be a very good thing as they would celebrate the Ordinary Form in the most extraordinary way.) Even getting so sick I couldn't sing and could hardly even think at one point seemed to be an important part of this week. I still don't know why I couldn't start paper on fire the second night, but that second night was the coldest in my life. The fact that I got in line for haircuts that morning, after my first breakfast with the friars, didn't help with keeping warm either. I almost felt I was in the 13th or 14th century (St. Francis: 13th century, Blessed John Duns Scotus: 14th century).

After getting really cold and really sick, I had the fire going really good... too good the third night, but it was all working out according to plan, just not my plan. It was all very meaningful and very important in preparing me for the continuation in the direction I've been going.

Being with Franciscans, particularly this branch of the Franciscan family, and specifically this house, was the perfect way for me to celebrate the Feast of Blessed John Duns Scotus:

Followed by the Feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran:

Even though I didn't have all the modern conveniences:

And, Fr. Benedict was just the right spiritual director for that week. Thank you Father. (I like calling someone a few months younger than I am, out of respect, "Father.")

On the bus to Boston to catch the plain to my sister's, my daughter told me what she did and what she learned. And, she did, indeed, learn some truly profound truths:

Well, that's all I'm willing to write at this time. I'm a bit late posting this, but it is appropriate as I'm finishing this post up at the Cross Cancer Institute (using their free Wi-Fi) where I go every three months for the next five years to confirm that the cancer is still gone. (It keeps looking more amazing with each report.)

Does anyone remember this a couple of weeks before the end of last April?

Of course this was is a bit more funny:

I would say that these videos were made very late at night at a time that I was very sick, but those that know me would know that that doesn't explain anything.