I know that it has been quite a while since my last entry. I have been on the road for that past two weeks and had some wonderful experiences in Canada (I was up in the Archdiocese of Edmonton... what a beautiful place in the world, and the people are incredibly welcoming) as well as the time I was able to spend at the Life Teen Basic and EDGE Conference in Dedham, MA (thank you to everyone who had any part in that event).
So Friday was the Feast of St. Juan de Capistrano, OFM and like most people I knew very little about this man as a saint, but I did know about the Mission in California that bears his name. Or more accurately, I knew the song about the Mission that bears his name. Or even more to the point, I know the first line from the song about the Mission that bears his name, "When Swallows come back to Capistrano..." (thank you Bugs Bunny... it was in one of Bugs' cartoon).
Thus my mind always goes to images of Swallows touching down in a Spanish style courtyard at a small Catholic Mission somewhere in a vision of California formed by "Zorro" movies. Among the many parts of this scenario is the fact that I don't think I could tell what a Swallow looks like. I know I could look it up on line or find a book with pictures of Swallows in it, but there is a part of me that kind of enjoys not really knowing... that so much of this memory I live with is in my head and formed by my heart.
There are a lot of "Swallows" in my life recently. Memories and events that actually do exist, but that I enjoy more because of the images they've etched in my heart. These images run the gambit of arenas, from the truly tragic to the blessedly wonderful.
In the past few weeks I have received word of two unexpected deaths. The first was of a young lady who I had the opportunity to know for a number of years, since she was in High School and came to the Youth Group in one of the parishes I was assigned. I remember so many things. There was her smile... so infectious. Her desire to search for experiences that would lend themselves to her journey. True enough, sometimes though searches led to mistakes (who doesn't have those moments), but she never those get to her and she always let her heart be open to want life would offer to her. I was saddened to here that this "Swallow" would not return. She was accidently killed on her motorcycle. My sorrow came not so much in her passing from this life to the next... that is after the goal for all of us, but more so in the manner in which she was taken from this life to the next. Please keep her family in your prayers.
The second, was of a man I never met, yet we share a common bond. In New Jersey this past week a Priest was murdered in his Rectory. I listened to the comments on the TV from parishioners and persons on the street, hearing how generous he was to those in need. The lifetime of Sacraments offered to the young and mature alike. The unspoken moments the faces and vocal tones these persons shared that told of a gentle man of God. And the images I formed in my own mind, knowing the life of a Parish Priest as well I do. All of these forms came together for me and moved my heart to feel such pain. Again, not because this Priest has gone on to the life to come... but because a life dedicated to love and compassion had to end in violence and anger. This "Swallow" would also not return.
Yet, there were also joyous images. The hundreds of "Swallows" who came to the Youth Rally in Edmonton. These young people and the adults who came with them were such a blessing. They each had their own stories and journeys, yet all of them came as one to this event and feed each other for the good of the whole Church in Edmonton. Then there were the people of such parishes as "Holy Trinity" in Spruce Grove, "Sacred Heart" in Wetaskiwin, and "St. Therese's" in Edmonton who were all so different as communities often are, but so bound together in their desire to search for deeper realms of holiness.
Here I would also add the people of "Sacred Heart" in Waltham, where I have been living. They are so amazing as I get to know them more and more. Its like watching birds, the Swallows, fly into view from some distant point and as they move closer the flap of their wings and turn of their bodies shows the direction they are heading in and we marvel in the grace of those movements.
Who have been your "Swallows?" Have you turned your eyes recently to the skies of your hearts? Have you seen the Mission of your souls fill with the expectation of the lives of the people around you? If not. Take the time. Let the Swallows return.
You are all in my prayers.