Hello, Sister Snow. How surprising to see you out in such full force on the 12th of October. (Please note that the accompanying photo was not taken on the 12th of October! As impressive as today’s snowfall is, it isn’t quite substantial enough to show up in a photograph…) Of course, Brother Wind is lending his aid to your efforts, Sister Snow, perhaps making it seem as if you are more substantial than you actually are. Either way – what a surprise it is to see you. Equally surprising will it be if you decide to settle on Mother Earth for a winter’s nap.
Surprises have been the order of the day lately!
For instance, we were surprised to discover that Fr. Bob has no help-outs this weekend at all. This hasn’t happened since no one can remember when. We’re delighted by this opportunity to celebrate Mass together as a community, and we will gather at 10:30 in the chapel tomorrow morning to do so.
We were also surprised to discover a bowling ball near the cooler in the kitchen earlier this week. That mystery stymied us for a few days, until we discovered that it was a gift from one of our volunteers – who was doing a bit of autumn closet-cleaning – to one of our staff members – who was looking for a bowling ball. It was a nice exchange, benefitting both the giver and the receiver, even if it was a bit mystifying for those of us who were not initially in the know.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came when I discovered that the House Chronicle which inspired this very Chronicle wasn’t actually a House Chronicle. I’ll pause for a few seconds to give the reader time to work out the logic of the preceding sentence. Or perhaps it would be more helpful to remind the reader of the events that brought this very Chronicle – the one before your eyes – into being:
In February or so of 2018, Just Bob, Clayton, Kurt, and a crow bar made their way into the mysteriously and enticingly locked vault in the sub-basement of the house. Among other treasures in the vault, we found a box containing about 300 typed sheets of a document with no title page (the first 30 pages are missing.) However, the format of the document as well as clues scattered throughout the document led us to believe that it was the House Chronicle from the Capuchins’ house in Mt. Calvary, WI. The Chronicle covered the years 1865 to 1882 and was written in German, with a smattering of Latin thrown in to describe liturgical events. What a find!
I have been working with a friend to translate this marvelous treasure from our marvelous vault. Slowly and with many set-backs as well as interruptions, we had managed to translate just over 2.5 pages when I decided to take the manuscript with me on a visit to the good friars at St. Lawrence Friary in Mt. Calvary. After all – the Chronicle chronicles events at their house; I thought the friars might like to see it!
One of the older friars at St. Lawrence immediately recognized the manuscript, identifying it not as the Chronicle for their House, but as the personal diary of a friar named Fidelis Steinauer. He moreover pointed out that the diary had already been translated – and published in an attractive paperback book, a copy of which is now in my possession – by friars Ronald Jansch and Vernon Wagner. God be praised! The efforts of Br. Ronald and Br. Vernon have saved me and my friend several years’ worth of work, if having robbed us of an interesting way to while away winter evenings. (Not to fear: we can always play German Scrabble, instead.)
The chain of recent surprises at our house has been rounded out nicely by a phone call on Thursday from a friend of St. Anthony’s who would like to bring visiting family members from Germany on a tour of St. Anthony’s next week. I may not have a chronicle-not-chronicle to translate any more, but I can brush up on my German before offering Tuesday’s tour to our new German friends!
And so it goes in a house dedicated to hospitality: surprises are truly the order of every day. You never know who will turn up, what stories or experiences they’ll bring with them, and what gifts you can give to each other during those brief moments in time when strangers’ lives intersect one another. What a lovely way to build peace and trust in a world most in need of peace, trust, loveliness, and love.