Well happy New Year to all! It has been a great break from responsibilities for me, including the blog, but I’m back and ready to start the new year with some more writing!
Where to start? How about where I’ve been. Everywhere! With just ten days free out of the house, I had a lot of people to see and places to go, and let me tell you, I got the most out of my vacation. (Certainly the most miles for sure!)
Starting at 6am December 26th, not wanting to waste a single minute of vacation, I hit the road for my parents house in eastern North Carolina. For five days I played cards, watched football games, golfed in 39*F rain and ate much more than I should have (thanks Mom for the cookies and popcorn tin…) Also, just because I didn’t think the trip would include enough driving, my parents and I also decided to take a day trip to Raleigh to see my sisters (two hours each way) for dinner and a night playing pool.
From there it was off to Chappells, SC where I spent two days on a lake with nine friends from college. What a blast! Having all met Freshman year as all ten of us lived on the same hall (including the two girls from our “sister hall”), it’s been more than seven years together with no reason to grow apart. Now in it’s second year, the “Annual Furman Reunion” brings us together from all over (New York, Charlotte, Kentucky, Greenville, SC, London, Atlanta, and D.C.) and from so many diverse paths (med school students, working in politics in the US, UK, and now Saudi Arabia, certified dietician, accountant, Apple “genius” and hospital administrator). Words cannot explain the joy of getting everyone back together and hearing about how everyones’ lives are taking off. While none of these friends are Catholic, it’s also been a great experience to field the usual questions (wait… chastity??) and to see them become more comfortable (although always respectful and interested) with what I’m doing. Good times. Oh, and more than $100 worth of fireworks. Boom.
At this point, I was more than five hours away from my parents house with only a day and a half left of vacation. Was it worth it to go back just for a day, then drive another five hours north? I decided to push on. Having a special place in my heart for Greenville, SC, as it is the place where I went to college and more importantly where my vocation was born, I spent the night on Friday at our parish, catching up with friends and friars in the area. If you have never been to Greenville or to St. Anthony’s, I recommend you go. Immediately. It’s a place with the most amazing, generous people you will ever meet, in a city used as a model around the country for growth and urban renewal, at the food of the Blue Ridge mountains. God, community, entertainment, and nature, all in one. If it were up to me I would move the whole dang province to Greenville and the I-85 corridor.
Unfortunately, though, I do not have that power and my journey was forced to move on. To shorten my trip back and to see some more friars, I spent Saturday night in Durham, NC at Immaculate Conception parish. Quick and simple, yet so wonderful. The brothers welcomed me without question, served me dinner, stayed up and talked with me for a while, and gave me a warm bed to sleep in. They introduced me at the masses and I was able to get a small taste of what their parish life is like (almost meeting coach K, although he walked right in front of me without saying hello…) This is truly an underrated part of being in a worldwide fraternity. All up and down the east coast, as well as across the world, there are brothers willing to welcome each other into their homes and into their lives, sharing time together in meal and prayer. When I travel, I don’t look for hotels because I have welcoming homes all around. Whether strangers or close friends, I have always found great hospitality with the brothers.
And so, despite 1500 miles and six different places to sleep in 10 days, I loved every minute of it and felt completely energized by being on the road, living out of my suitcase. I don’t know if I could make a life of it, but I would so love to live a few years on the road, visiting the friars across the country and seeing the many expressions of Church throughout this land. Going alone was definitely a drawback and I found myself a little tired and bored in the car, but give me another friar or two and I would be on the road in a heartbeat. Or maybe five months. Let’s just say that I had this conversation with a classmate last night and something might be in the works… Cliff hanger!
For now, I don’t have to wait very long to start my next trip, although it’s not exactly cross country. In about an hour (after I finish my laundry and repack), it’s back to the suitcase and on the road for our annual “Intersession” workshop with all the men in formation, meeting in Aston, PA. It is usually a great time for informative lectures and casual fraternity, and I can’t wait to see everyone after this long break! I hope their journeys were as great as mine, and hopefully we can get another one going soon!