Moving

After 13 years in Tampa, my Franciscan Province has relocated me to St. Francis of Assisi parish in  Triangle, VA – right next to Quantico Marine Corp Headquarters. I had about 30 days between receiving the word to move and arriving here in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

We friars are supposed to be itinerant; it is something that has an uneven history in the 800+ years since St. Francis founded what became the Franciscan order. Itinerant is part of poverty I would suppose. That idea of not becoming so ingrained, so rooted in a place that you have a sense of possession. So to be itinerant means not too stay in one spot too long. It is an idea and goal unevenly applied at best. 13 years is a long time in one place…but then 20 and 30 years is not uncommon among many of our friars. Our ideals are admirable, our application human at best.

Still, there comes the day when the people and the place you love are seen only in the “rear view.” It is a day that comes with a whole range of possible emotions. Emotions unique to the Franciscans? Hardly. Anyone who had moved house for whatever reasons can experience a range of one or all of these feelings:

  • Surprise – be it pleasant or not, change can still be unexpected. When change comes it is good to be rooted in Trust, so that this unwanted news is seen, even if only mysteriously, part of God’s plan.
  • Denial – not very useful and in the case of we Franciscans, there is the vow of obedience.
  • Excitement – That would have been nice – looking forward to meeting new people, exploring a new place, and in my case, less responsibility. The reality is that 30 days is not a lot of time to prepare a parish, to prepare and brief the next pastor, pack, say goodbye – and all the while a pandemic swirls around the normal rhythms of life which does not stop just because you have to move. Functional and a compressed timeline overcame excitement.
  • Confusion – not about moving, but about other things. Thoughts for another day perhaps.
  • Fear – for the important things, not so much. The one “dread” was returning to NOVA and its beyond horrible traffic. I had lived there 25 years ago and the traffic has only gotten more random and even worse. My first day in the area and I got to experience two 1-mile-plus backups on I-95. Deja vu.
  • Sadness – An expected feeling and it came in an overabundance. 13 years of relationships.  Rather than me describing it again, take a look at two recent posts: Looking Back and The Sure Foundation.  Lots of people, lots of families, lots and lots of great and personal things. In the military there is sadness at a change of duty station, but also the possibility of being posted again with you friends in the future. In my case, I will have to settle for visits. I still have family in the area and friends galore.
  • Stress – Moments here and there. There was a fine balance of getting ready and being present. Sacred Heart has an amazing staff and it was hard to see them come into my office and watch their expression when they realized a little more of this and that had been packed and boxed.  Slowly the approach of “departure day” gave evidence in its all-too-rapid approach in pictures gone from the wall, boxes stacking up… even the orchids look a bit forlorn.
  • Anger – There were moments; not about moving, but about other things. Thoughts for another day perhaps.
  • Relief – a bit now that I am in Virginia and 90%+ moved into the friary. After weeks of non-stop, it is nice to just stop.
  • Depression – by God’s grace, no.  Grace that is the seedbed of Hope. If Christians are called to be anything, we are called to be people of Hope. It is in God, that we can find a Hope that inspires us, sustains us, anchors us and lifts us. Hope that is a shield held against despair and a weapon against fear. Hope that holds out the vision of eternal life, and sustains us in everyday life. St Augustine wrote that Hope has been planted in two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. What biblical hope means is that the way things are today, are not the way things are intended nor have to be. That the kingdom of God is breaking into the world and it is already made manifest – the seeds of a better world are already planted and growing today.
  • Love – above all Love. Love experienced in all the notes, the cards, the calls, the emails, the 400+ people who came out of “safer-at-home” for a socially distant goodbye with masks. Love in the young women, chemo treatment just finished, who felt the need to be present – even if only briefly – to say goodbye.  Love spoken in words and in embraces.

There comes the day when the people and the place you love are seen only in the “rear view.” What do I see in the “rear view?” – only love.

11 thoughts on “Moving

  1. Dear Father George,
    As I was reading your latest post about moving away from your parish in Tampa, I could certainly feel the sadness from leaving your parish. They are lucky enough to have had your guidance for 13 years. Thank you for your writing and sharing about real life and God’s grace. You always manage to remind us about Hope and Love as solutions to life’s difficulties. It’s simple and sincere. God bless you and your continued work.
    Deirdre M.

  2. We already miss you greatly, but it is nice to know that we can get a “Father George fix” in your musings! I lived in Fairfax County in my high school years. I can’t believe places that we thought were country or “the boondocks” like Manassas and even further out are considered within commuting distance to DC!

  3. Just read the previous comments. What beautiful testimonies to your shepherd ing at Sacred Heart! I pray that your memories will warm your heart in our colder climate. And that our beautiful autumn colors will ease the sadness in your heart. Welcome to the mid atlantic area. Sometime in the next month or so take a trip to my neck of the woods; Harpers Ferry, indeed, “Almost Heaven” in any season but especially in melancholic times.

  4. Some emotions are best handled by the passage of time and a bit of reflection to allow perspective to bubble up and smooth the rough edges. Love doesn’t need a waiting period — and it is a joy to see your focus on the outpouring of love from every corner of Sacred Heart. It is amazing to hear from people you (often) barely recognize who tell you that some simple action or some casual words of insight or comfort “changed their lives” or put them on a new path of faith development. Your impact on the lives of people in our Parish and in our community continues to grow through the many seeds you’ve planted here in rich soil. When the “smoke clears” — when you’ve rested mind and soul sufficiently — when you’re ready — there is so much more rich soil waiting for you!

  5. Father George, I think there is a saying of what you leave behind is a measure of the kind of person you are. Your post is a testament to that. Your concern for the young who just finished her chemotherapy is a perfect example. There are so many people here at Sacred Heart who have been forever changed by your tenure here. Don’t ever forget that! You wear your habit well! I hope you will enjoy the cooler temperatures and the change of the seasons. I, too, am very happy that you will be able to continue your Friarmusings! A bright light of our faith! Extremely grateful!

  6. I can not thank you enough for creating ( it is ok to take credit) an environment at Sacred Heart that welcomed me back to my faith. My spiritual life continues to grow. I can tell you that whenever someone asks me how I am doing I always answer Grateful! That comes from one of your sermons that has stayed with me. I do enjoy your musings and luckily they will always be available……Best wishes

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