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.