Believe it or not (and there are days that I refuse to believe it!) my internship is quickly coming to a close. After nine months of living and working at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, NC, I find myself preparing to say goodbye once more, three weeks from today. The life of Franciscan itinerancy is lived most by those in initial formation, and I must move on.
Naturally, the announcement of my departure has elicited more than a few questions over the past month and I find myself almost constantly answering some variation of the same question: “What are you going to do next?” For longtime blog readers, my answer may sound a little familiar…
As is becoming a routine for me, I find myself at the cusp of a third straight year taking a road trip in the month of May. In 2015, some will remember, I drove from San Diego to Washington, D.C. in order to help my classmate move. It was, as I hope some of you will forget, the period of time when my YouTube career began with a fun, yet haphazardly and stressfully made series of daily videos about our trip. (Seriously, I’m not even putting a link. Don’t look for them.)
In 2016 I turned the camera setting from video to photo as I played tour guide for two of my classmates who had never been to the southern part of the United States, visiting all of our ministries in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. It was a fantastically energized trip, visiting eight ministries in eight days while traveling 1500 miles, that left us anything but energized by the end.
Now, in what I believe can only be the result of a developing insanity and lack of sleep, I have plans for a trip that not only combines the two ideas… it intensifies them. For 25 days beginning May 22, I will be traveling with two newly-transferred friars from another province to six of our provincial ministries sites. Covering nearly 1800 miles to stop at six locations, our trip has two goals: 1) to acquaint the new brothers to the friars and their fraternities in mission throughout the province, and 2) more to the true reason behind the trip, to film a six-part documentary series about the Franciscans, life in the Church, and active participation in both. More details to come as the time comes closer, but please keep us all in your prayers as this is unlike anything that any of us have done before!
By that point, I’m going to need a vacation. If nine months at the parish hadn’t done enough to exhaust me, this will certainly do it, and I’m looking forward to a week with my family in which I do very little at all.
Solemn Vow retreat, More Travels
Which will be a very good thing because there is no rest for the weary this summer: in another dose of déjà vu, I will be making a trip outside of the country for the third summer in a row. Starting July 2 and ending August 7 (yes, five full weeks), I will be making my first European trip. As is required by canon law, all wishing to make solemn profession must make a retreat. Traditionally extended in length (roughly a month) and done in a quiet setting (retreat center or monastery), many Franciscans in the United States have adopted a new model of late. Instead of locking us up in a monastery—a form of life and prayer distant from our own—the powers that be have transitioned to more of a pilgrimage model, one that is prayerful while itinerant, solemn while within the world. In other words, one that is Franciscan. For four weeks this July I will be joining Franciscans from around the country and of various Orders in a journey to the original Franciscan holy places—Rome, Rieti, Assisi, and La Verna—to contemplate my life as a Franciscan in the very places where the charism was born. You could say that I’m a little excited…
But wait! There’s more! What happened to that fifth week, you ask? Well… since the majority of the expense of a European trip is simply getting to Europe… and since I’m already there and am unlikely to return as a friar any time soon… my director is allowing me to use my final week of vacation and all of my vacation money to spend a week visiting other friars in the area and doing some site seeing. So, yeah. If I can walk by that point, it’s going to be quite a trip!
All told, I find myself in a haze of déjà vu. All around me, the story feels the same: move out of a house to live in another, go on a joyfully stressful road trip, take some vacation, and go on an international trip. It’s amazing how things that, for the most part, never existed in my life prior to joining the friars has become somewhat commonplace now with them. And yet, how, no matter frequency or familiarity of such things, there’s something still so exciting, joyful, terrifying, stressful, and new about them. As I prepare to move out of my sixth friary in six years to move on to another stage, I find myself torn in two directions. On the one hand, I’m still the wide-eyed and excited person I was the first time I went through it all, overwhelmed with the change and exhilarated by what most would consider mundane, while on the other hand the calm and disaffected seasoned vet I’ve become, the product of years of experience and success telling me, like the biblical teacher Qoheleth, that “Nothing is new under the sun.”
I guess that’s what makes déjà vu so mysterious: we find ourselves in two places at once, experiencing the old while living the present, confronted with the things of old from a different vantage point. And I guess that’s sort of a good thing. While we all get older and experience new things, there are aspects of ourselves and the world around us that change, but in many ways we will never escape the recurring lessons and experiences of life. What we can hope for, and maybe all we can hope for, is that the perspective we have the next time around helps us to act in a more Christ-like way with every new day.