I’ve been thinking for months about what I would write for this blog on the weekend of Pentecost—one of my favorite holidays. Now that it is here however, all those plans are cast aside. Between family, diverse friends, distinct groups of colleagues, Marist family, and my Marist Brothers in particular, I don’t think I can claim to have one squad I am a part of… but this week I felt like I did. Among all the support I have received during this time, particular gratitude goes out to my brothers Sam Amos and Luis Ramos: this blog is dedicated to you (for whatever that’s worth).
Some context: these past several days I have been fully occupied with Foundation Stones, a weeklong program for young men curious about and at least the tiniest bit open to considering the vocation of a Marist Brother. In one way or another, I have had this program on my mind for the last several months and I have been very grateful and humbled by the support I have received in bringing this week together. It has been a team effort that has included Marist Brothers and Lay Marists as featured presenters, activity leaders, cooks, and prayer leaders. Being able to rely on this team has been a great gift, but through it all I have felt especially blessed by the presence and contributions of Sam and Luis.
We often joke that it is important to have young brothers around in order to have somebody to push your wheelchair when you get old or clean the spittle off your chin. Given that I have about eight years on Sam and twelve on Luis, that could very well end up being the case down the road. The real richness in our brotherhood though lies not in how I imagine we might support each other in old age, but rather how we can enrich and support each other in the here and now.
One Foundation Stones participant noted how instead of simply talking about our life as brothers, we showed it to them. While I have many friends among the brothers, the bond I feel with Sam and Luis is particularly special. Perhaps this is because part of me sees them as younger brothers to nurture. Also though, I can reasonably hope that among all my Marist Brothers in the USA, these two are the ones with whom I will share the most decades (of years, not rosary beads). Knowing that I can count on and trust them, and being able to feel the trust they have in me, has been a great gift that has been especially pronounced this week. I lived with Sam one year, with Luis another year, and next year the two of them will live together. Although we have had (or will have) significant one-on-one experiences with each other in every possible permutation, this is safely the most intense experience of mutual presence and collaboration that we have yet been able to live among the three of us.
This week, Sam brought his erudition, sardonic wit, and selflessness. Luis brought his effervescence, and creativity, and he tried to bring his basketball game (sorry, Lu). I think that together we were able to present a compelling picture of why and how this life could reasonably still speak to young people—and believe it or not, it seems as if this 38-year old can still fake being young at times. It is a lot easier though if I have others to help me be youthful.
In religious life we do not commit to particular companions for their own sakes. Instead, we are brought together with companions through the commitments that we share. In the meanwhile, we are called to accept the gifts that God gives us through them and be ready to move on when necessary in order to be gift to a new set of people in both ministry and community.
We can’t do this alone. At least I can’t.
This week’s “Ear Candy” is “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold, better known as the theme to the sitcom ‘The Golden Girls’. The theme and lyrics simply seemed fitting for this post. It also led me to the article I chose for this week’s “Brain Food” which I consider a must-read for anybody interested in religious life—it describes the phenomenon of empty-nesters choosing to co-house with friends or others in similar arrangements in order to avoid loneliness and isolation. Some even seek multigenerational living arrangements of this nature: “College-style living – minus the keg stands”. To me, this sounds like a secular and watered down version of religious community, but it also affirms some of the value and appeal to this way of life.
Ear Candy: “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold
Brain Food: “Grow Old Like ‘The Golden Girls’” by Amy Blackstone
Come back next Saturday for a new post!