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Just hearing the first notes of the song, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” from the familiar 1935 opera, “Porgy and Bess,” causes me to want to slow down. It’s a tune that jumps to my mind whenever I even hear the word “summertime.” I imagine that most of us long for summertime moments with some easier living. And we’re in the middle of it right now!
Henry Beck, from St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, writes about the opportunity of retreat — a vacation with the Lord. Retreats don’t need to be held during the summertime. But I do think about vacation during this time. So, summer is a reminder for me to plan, to clear away a week of time just for the Lord alone. Having a prolonged time of silence for Him to speak directly to my heart has led me to some very life altering decisions, as well as just feeling the internal spring of the Spirit that can well up. It’s always baffled me that some friars don’t take advantage of this gift—that’s even commanded by our Constitution! That’s like someone commanding me to take a vacation: You wouldn’t have to tell me twice!
Going away from my work a day world, puts me into “liminal” space. It’s just not life as normal, so all my props and supports aren’t there. Life slows down. Living becomes more intentional. My heart opens to really depend on God for companionship. It increases my awareness of the acute beauty that’s always around me, supporting me.
Our movement towards becoming one, new province coast to coast has had a similar effect on me. I am more aware of some of our provincial ways that I so enjoy, will not be the way everyone will always do it. This liminal space, as I said at our Chapter/APA, certainly feels like a pilgrimage. Every step we take moves away from what is familiar. It’s an unknown terrain without a precise map. Some things could be up for grabs. How will we pray together? Will I be able to order my “special meal” on my birthday in our new province? Will my new brothers enjoy my quirkiness, or find it a pain? How transparent can I be with these brothers? We confront these uncertainties any time that we move to another friary, or try living in a different part of the country.
I find comfort in knowing that I’m not on this pilgrimage alone, but that you are walking with me. I am even more comforted and encouraged by God who has called me to this way of life that is as pilgrim and stranger, not as “gypsy and tourist.” We are pilgrims on the way to God’s kingdom, gradually becoming God’s instruments, God’s song, God’s troubadours. Trusting God and my brothers makes the livin’ easy.