This weekend, one of St. Anthony’s volunteers brought his six-year-old daughter to play in the abundance of leaves with which our lawn and woods have been blessed. Mind you, this girl is a six-year-old who knows how to PLAY in leaves. There was no timid, half-hearted shuffling involved in her play date with St. Anthony’s leaves. She dove straight into the massive pile of leaves reaching heavenwards in our woods, alternately (and gleefully) insisting that the adults involved in this endeavor either bury her or be buried themselves under an ocean of leaves.
As she raced through the woods, jumped into the mountain of leaves, and squealed with the sheer delight of being alive, being loved, and being a part of Mother Nature’s glorious autumn world, I found myself wondering how our Capuchin forbears would have felt about a disruption of this sort to their quiet, cloistered October days. The apocryphal story of the Guardian who insisted that the House and grounds be re-consecrated after an accidental visit from a pre-school aged child of the female persuasion sprang immediately to my mind, causing me to suspect that the weekend’s leafy shenanigans would not have been tolerated, let alone appreciated.
But then I thought of the Family Retreats and Youth Retreats that found their home here at St. Anthony’s for so many years. I thought of the school girls who pranked the friars of St. Anthony’s every day on their way to school by knocking the concrete finials off of the gateposts at the end of the driveway until the friars got the last word by cementing the finials in place. I thought of Fr. Tony Scannell’s video, “Behind the Walls,” in which the viewer is assured that young men are not kidnapped into a life behind these cloistered walls! I thought of Br. Fidelis, whose personal journal inspired this House Chronicle: this good friar wrote often and fondly of the students in his and his Brothers’ care at St. Lawrence Seminary in the Mt. Calvary, WI of 1863. I thought of our beloved Brother Loran, may he rejoice perpetually in the eternal light of Christ, who danced joyfully in the dining room with his young niece when she came to visit St. Anthony’s 20-some years ago.
I thought of the Franciscan quest to recognize and honor the Divine in all of creation. I listened to the laughter resounding through the woods, amplified by the good cheer of the very trees themselves. I thought about the sweetness and utter necessity of being able to appreciate simplicity; I thought about relationships; I thought about joy.
And I decided that, for the most part, our Capuchin forebears would have been just fine with this little girl’s leafy endeavors. I strongly suspected that a few of them might even have joined in the silliness.
After all, a sense of wonder at God’s creation – from the people to the ants to the sticks to the leaves and the trees that graciously showered them down upon us – is the perfect starting point for the awe, respect and care that allows us to see the Divine in our divinely beautiful, divinely Divine world.
God grant that we never lose a child’s wonder.
Wonder is in no short supply this evening: the setting sun reflecting through the courtyard is peaceful and perfect – a harbinger of comfort on a strange October day when the corn is still in the fields and Sister Snow is predicted to flurry in for a night-time visit. This is strange, but no less sacred for it.