Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
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Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.
I arrived at my new home, Getsemani, on October 14th, 1993. The flight to Novara, Italy was long and difficult. I was scared and felt completely out of place. Just three months ago I had quit my job, broken up with my girlfriend and left behind nearly all of my earthly possessions, including my brand new car. My destination at that time was Cheshire, Connecticut, and the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ.
I thought leaving my career and family was the toughest decision I would ever make in my life. Little did I know I would be making tougher decisions, and sooner than I ever imagined. For now, though, I was able to handle all my fears and trembling about my vocation to religious life. I have no doubt in my mind I received a special “calming grace” from God.
When I arrived in Connecticut, I did not immediately feel at home. I knew in my heart this is where God wanted me to be, but it was and felt so different from what I had lived all my life. There were no comforts, no privileges, no perks. My room with consistent to that of a prison cell. My clothes were numbered like a prisoner. My day was dictated to the very last minute. My mail was opened and read before it got to me. But somehow, I began to feel like I was part of a larger person, and so I fully embraced the fact that if I wanted to become a holy priest, then I would first need to become a humble man. To this day I am still working on it.
To my relief, after two months in Cheshire, I began to sleep through the night.
But on October 7th, 1993, I received news I was being transferred to a new location, our novitiate known as Getsemani, a former retreat center located nearby Novara, Italy. The news stunned me. And the way it was delivered stunned me even more. I was called into the instructor’s office (the superior’s office) and was told to pack my bags. He handed me an airline ticket and told me I was going to Italy. He asked me if I had any questions. Still in shock, I didn’t – couldn’t – say a word. I thanked him the best I could and walked out of his office. I shook my head in disbelief. I was furious with God. I finally feel like I am home and now, after three months, you tell me I have to leave and move again? I went to the chapel to pray and for the very first time in my life as a seminarian I began to cry.
After spilling my guts to God, I got up enough courage to go back to my superior and ask him why I was going to Italy. He told me, “Well, we don’t send the best. We don’t send the worst. So we are sending you.”
If there was any pride left in me, it finally got sucked out. But I left, vowing to myself, I would give my very best.
Take nothing for the journey. I left for Milan, Italy, with no more than twenty dollars in my pocket. Crazy! But the amount was the usual for overseas travel. As far as my belongings, everything fit in comfortably well in someone else’s old and beat up suitcase. The brand new suitcases I bought and brought with me to Cheshire no longer belonged to me. I didn’t mind. It was part of our vow of poverty. Nothing belonged to us, except for our Cross.
When I finally arrived to my new home, I had to look up, literally. Getsemani was “hanging” from the side a huge mountain. It over looked Casale Corte Cerro, a tiny industrial town situated near mountains and lakes. But my new home looked nothing like the old postcards I had been shown. It looked cannibalized and dilapidated.
In the old days, there was a “funivia” or cable-car that would transport luggage and people to the front of the door. When I inquired about it, the seminarians, who picked me up from the airport, laughed it off and said it had not worked in over thirty-years. That was not the only thing that was busted. I soon found out the furnace was not operational as well, and that meant, there was no hot water for showers. On January 16th, one of the coldest evenings I ever experienced in my life, I wrote in my journal: “I think I am going to die.”
I didn’t. In fact, I grew stronger.
He instructed them. There is so much more I could say, but for now, I will simply say that the two years I spent in Northern Italy will forever be dear to me. Yes, they were wonderful years full of tears and laughter; fears and victories and moments of profound loneliness and camaraderie.
The Lord knew what he was doing when He sent His men on their very first mission. He was sending them away as men, hoping they would return as Apostles.
They did. (0)
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