Finally, a quick recap of my weekend in New Jersey/New York over spring break to pray at Br. Isaiah Marie’s first vows.
Before meeting up with the class of ’08 and friends Sunday night for a festive dinner, I had the pleasure of residing at the Floyd’s and Ulbrich’s. Experiencing the Floyd family dinner table Friday evening with six hyperactive family members ages 25 and younger confirmed my suspicions that I would love to have a huge family should I be called to and given the grace to do so. After feasting at the Ulbrich home on Saturday evening, I know also that I would love to have my son and seven of his closest friends over and cook dinner for them, while not partaking of it myself. Much thanks to the Floyd and Ulbrich families for their hospitality. Thanks also to my brothers who I traveled around The City with on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and to the Leonardo family for housing me on Monday evening.
The place of my reunion with my friends from ’08 could not have come at a better place – St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And not just anywhere in the Cathedral. Although I did not get down there myself, my friends, who had prayed at the 530pm Mass, got the chance to visit the crypt underneath the altar and see the tombs of Fulton Sheen and others. I bumped into them while taking a look at the side altars and statues hugging the walls on the perimeter of the sanctuary as they emerged from the crypt. I’ll leave any image interpretation up to the reader. Following St. Pat’s, ’08 and friends traveled to Bubba Gumps’ at Times Square for some dinner, and then hit up a pub for continuation of the good conversation begun at dinner.
Of course, the real treat of the weekend was Monday, spent at the Newark friary and St. Antoninus church. ’08 and friends spent an hour or so before the vows Mass taking a peek around the friary, mainly at the wonderful chapel, where the Sanctissimum was exposed, both on the public side and on the friar’s side, for a bit of conversation with the Lord “face to face” before the impending profession of vows. How excited I was to take a peek around and see that, although I knew they would be at the Mass, Fr. Imbelli and others had joined us for a bit of adoration of the Lord as well. Very cool to have my and my friends from Thomas More Society reunited in the flesh doing what we did every Monday of the school year. Also cool to hear the chant being softly played over some sort of speaker system in the chapel. As the friars pretty continuously walked in and out of the chapel (making a full bow to the ground each time they genuflected) I don’t think they were singing “live,” which would have been awe-some to behold. (Gotta love the CFRs – they do the chant AND the guitar music, each at their appropriate times – i.e., chant for liturgical prayer, guitar for adoration and other prayer. They know what’s up.)
After taking a look around the kitchen (naturally), the group, including the Hofmann family but sans priests, who were already at St. Antoninas for vesting, huddled up to trek over one block to St. Antoninas. These two buildings are located in what is not exactly the nicest area in Newark (though are there really any nice areas in that town? too harsh? I’d say the same about the city of Cleveland), not that that surprised me. I’d expect the CFRs to go to where their help is needed most, and, at the same time, where they perhaps fit in best – with the poor. (Of course, having a monastery in the middle of a neighborhood of run-down two-to-three family houses is not exactly fitting in, but…) It reminded me of high school (remember my comment above about Cleveland). Oh you blue and gold. Anyways. The church building itself was fit for Franciscans – relatively plain, but well kept, and made beautiful in its simplicity. The Mass was the same. Father’s preaching, though long… and a little unwieldy, was very energetic and uplifting, as the CFRs always are. “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent” was used as an offertory or communion hymn and is actually still stuck in my head. Matt Sanders, thank you for dueting with me on that during dinner.
Speaking of dinner, that was perhaps the best part of the weekend, and certainly the most appropriate closer for my time with Br. Isaiah, ’08 and friends. Following mass, after a two hour or so reception in the basement of St. Antoninus (where, naturally, Fr. Tacelli got the chance to yell over a group of a couple hundred people), the BC family hopped in some cars and traveled to a “nearby” Uno’s Pizzeria (sorry, James) for a bite to eat in celebration of Br. Isaiah’s profession. (Pictures from this dinner were uploaded in an earlier post.) With the prayer at the friary in front of the Sacrament, this was my favorite part of the weekend, and the most touching. The love between friends and family was on full display at this ordinary chain restaurant in the middle of a shopping plaza next to the highway. How interesting it must have been for the other patrons there to see a Franciscan in gray habit with “full” beard (I use the term loosely), his family, and 25 of his closest friends at one long table literally in the middle of the restaurant on an ordinary Monday evening. Yet the love present in the room was anything but ordinary. It truly was extraordinary, palpable, supernatural. I’ve said to myself and to others who asked about the weekend that it felt like a foretaste of the communion of saints. At minimum, it proved to me once again how incredible this group of friends are, how much of a family they really are. I’m extremely grateful to have been led to them by Him through my own friends from freshman year (that’s you, Ryan Boudreau) at St. Thomas More Society. I’m more grateful to have witnessed in the flesh how those bonds of friendship built at adoration, the bonds of brotherhood built at Sons, really do last beyond college. Although I’m sure everyone from ’08 had been keeping in contact with each other over the course of the past two years, I’m not sure they had had the chance to all get together like on that Monday evening in some time. Yet they gathered together as if it had been only yesterday that they had all sat down at table together. Even I, who have not had as much contact with these fine people recently, didn’t have much trouble picking up with them where we left off. Just to see everyone walking around the table, switching places with other people, sharing food, taking pictures, hugging, and so on, made my heart light and put a smile on my face. It gave me a real JOY that was truly refreshing after a difficult first half of my final semester at BC, a joy that I pray will propel itself forward from me into the hearts of my friends still here at BC.
All around, it was a darn good time, and a pleasure to be with those fine people once again. I hope that it will happen again sometime soon, and that my friends and I still here at BC will continue to build up our bonds of friendship and true love, as those who have gone before us did. I pray that those bonds will last a lifetime, as those of the ones who have gone before us have so far.
So much more to say about the weekend, but so many actual obligations I need to take care of, so my ruminations and reflections end here.