Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hats and Pins

Tonight I met with six women who are interested in becoming candidates with our lay brothers and sisters, the Missionary Cenacle Apostolate. Tonight there were many practical questions about what this would involve.

Well, I can answer all those basic questions, but the truth is, you can never really predict where membership in a group like us is going to land you. Just the other night, as I stood singing "MaƱanitas" with my buddy Sr. Nancy at this party we crashed, I adjusted my straw hat and serape and said to myself, "How did I end up doing mariache in New England on a cold November night?" Yup, you just cannot know where you'll end up when you get involved with a bunch of missionaries.

We used to be called "The Hat Sisters," and not because we wore sombreros and sang mariache. It's because we never wore a habit and veil in the old days, we wore black dresses and black hats. Mostly, sisters joined our congregation for the charism and the work we do, but every once in awhile, you hear some elderly sister say, "I liked the hats."

Hey, you know, that's OK. Maybe she joined for the hat, but she clearly did not stay for the hat, since now, except for special occasions when a sombrero or Easter bonnet seems to be called for, we do not wear hats.

So, Ms. Strini, if you want to join the MCA because you think their pin is cool, then, for now, that is good enough for me!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Being Fire

There is a faint scar on the back of my hand. About an inch long. I got it last month during a weekend conference we gave for Catholic teens from several of our missions in the Northeast. The conference was called "Be Fire," and, ironically, the scar is from a burn.

We do all kinds of crazy things here. Someone gets an idea, and the next thing you know, it's on the calendar and we are making fliers and planning the menu. It's amazing how someone's thoughtful remark, if spoken at the right time and place, can grow into a big event, and even escalate into a tradition, a group, a movement. Like a spark which falls onto kindling, and grows into a blazing fire. I am pretty sure that the guy who suggested "some kind of jamboree for our teens," our friend Ed, does not even remember saying it last year at our Christ the King gathering.

So, I look at the scar and remember the teens, from Philadelphia, Parsippany, Hartford, and even New Hartford. I remember greeting them on a cold Friday night after their long drive here, feeding them re-heated pizza (which is how I got the burn). I remember standing with them in the Grotto later that night, watching them toss matches into a fire as a sign of willingness to Be Fire. I remember them laughing and becoming friends while they made posters, role-played hospitality scenarios, painted benches, hiked in the woods. I remember them, and I wonder what from that weekend they remember? What marked them? Did any of it? Do any of them have something like a faint scar to remind them of the fire?

Tonight, we had a prayer service to remember our dear sister Ann Miriam Gallagher. Her funeral was last week in Philadelphia, but so many here needed some way to mark this loss. Tonight, as I looked around the room and listened to the stories, I thought about Annie's gift. Annie was, to so many people, like the spark that would land perfectly on the kindling and become a fire. So small a thing, a request to help with the dishes, with the painting, with the gardens, with walking the dog. Little sparks that blazed up into relationships, into fire that marked us forever.

This is how it works. Father Judge, when he came here in 1923 and talked about what this place could be, he said he could envision Trinita as a light on Town Hill, shining out for others. And somehow, through thick and thin, this mission has hung on to that spark, and the spark has started many fires. Annie, she scattered a lot of sparks. Tonight, when I look at the scar on my hand, I know it's not from a teen conference last month, it's from a fire that has been burning for many years, a fire many people have stoked, many people caught and then passed on. As we stand here tonight and sing, we are following a great tradition. We are being fire.