A month has passed since my last article, and a lot has happened. I have experienced so many things, great and small, while here and traveling. However, through it all, I have been praying over something in particular: my household and brotherhood. While this sense of brotherhood was recently reinforced by the visit of our director, the Rev. Gregory Plow, TOR, which we thoroughly enjoyed, I was still processing my concerns over the semester so far.
However, I have realized the growing presence and necessity of brotherhood. This need for brethren, a community, is for everyone here. While it can be easy to know everyone at the Kartause since there are few of us here, it can also be easy to be isolated or simply not schedule the time for others. I realized that the joy of brotherhood is not the things done by us. Instead, more important than the lunches with priests in Rome, the secret corridors of Assisi, running to catch the bus and having drinks together is that, through it all, “brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
Living Together in the Kartause
The relationships that grow and are seen while traveling are often developed back in Gaming. That part, admittedly, is tough. As households with two and a half hours of commitments every day, on top of the studying which we often are not able to push to the weekend, actually being brothers can be difficult. It is in spending time with each other, outside of commitments, that shows our true commitment to brotherhood. When I dedicate time to my brothers, it is always a joy, even if we are not “doing” something, such as an activity. Just talking or playing cards in my room while drinking wine, scotch or Coca Cola is community. This can seem like a waste of time when there is Europe around you with its many fun things.
However, I have realized there are times to slow down and just enjoy where I am. Community is also found in reaching outside our comfort zones. For many, it is the creek jump. Outside the Kartause, there is a small creek where many over the years have jumped. Especially on a warm day, everyone gathers to see people do the creek jump and perhaps do it themselves. While everyone could do this in America, though it would probably be warmer in America, we do not need to squeeze the life out of Europe to have fun.
For me, it was the Prague pilgrimage. I had no intention, or desire, to go on the pilgrimage. However, when I realized that almost everyone else in my household was going, along with the Rev. Gregory Plow since it overlapped with his visit to us, I decided to take the chance and join them. Even though Prague itself was a bit boring to me—since I have no devotion to the Infant of Prague—it was my brothers who made it so special. It is in these sacrifices, these acts of selflessness and self-giving, that community, fraternity and friendship flourishes. It is here that you will enjoy your journeys through Europe.
Rome & Assisi
I have not enough words to express the joys and consolations of Rome. However, every consolation involved encountering another person. While it may be odd for this to be written by the author of “Break apart and shine,” I do believe that the message is the same. Even when alone, I cannot turn inward. Instead, I go out of myself to encounter the three persons of the Trinity through His creation. However, what if I told you that you could encounter the same Trinity but with another human? Even with many? This is what makes it joyous.
When I see a random priest celebrating Mass on a side altar in St. Peter’s and I feel God drawing me to him, there is joy in abundance! I have no idea exactly why God drew me there and why it gave me such joy, but it was truly profound and genuine. Besides the supernatural consolations, there are natural consolations like the priest speaking Spanish, allowing us to communicate. Forever the Rev. Maurizio will be in my prayers.
After this, a household brother and I went to an Ethiopian Catholic Church. Together, we worshipped in a tongue we knew not and communed with strange people, yet a joy nonetheless. Afterwards, we ate lunch with the priests there. While these activities were amazing, one ought not to stray from the Franciscan community too much. At night (because my energy apparently has no end), I went out with other students to see more of the city, perhaps get Burger King and wear our paper crowns all the way back to the hotel. These excursions together and seeing the city with others are where one really can make the most of Europe.
In Assisi, we slowed down. There was much less to do and more opportunities to pray and unpack the Rome experience. I made an effort to spend time with people I did not know as well. At night, refusing to sleep, we found secret chambers and hidden passageways, almost as if from a horror film. While it freaked us out a bit, we will never forget it.
After It All
While I cannot express everything about the trips, including everything that was pleasant and everything that went wrong, I hope to retain everything I have learned. Not only this, but I also hope to retain everyone I have met and every good relationship that was built. While I used to be concerned that my brothers and I were getting far too dispersed, and even that the university community was drifting apart, I no longer see a brotherhood or community in crisis. Instead, I see a gathering.