Around the Christian world, it is Holy Week, the annual commemoration of the final days of Jesus’ life and the beginning of his, and our, new life. Here at St. Anthony’s, it is also the second week of spring, nature’s annual recreation of life after the apparent death of winter.
On Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus as well as the promise that one day we will also experience our own life-after-death. Each year, we also witness the reality of life after death in the rebirth of the grass, trees and flowers that adorn our grounds. What we may not so easily recognize that the very existence of St. Anthony’s is a testament to the truth that there is new life when the old life has died.
In 1970, St. Anthony’s life as a House of Studies for young Capuchins was coming to an end. But there was the hope of new life as its mission would transition to reaching and teaching and forming a larger audience of retreatants. Then after more than 50 years of Capuchin-led retreat ministry, that life would also have to die. But before that life ended, hope for a new life was born with the promise of a retreat ministry under lay leadership on the horizon.
Then a year ago, another death came in the form of COVID, a state-wide shutdown, and months of locked doors and no ministry at all at St. Anthony’s. After three months in the tomb, the rock moved ever-so-slightly to allow private retreatants to return. After another month, the stone rolled back a little further to welcome volunteers. A few weeks later, more light and life as our first group of retreatants came, followed by another, then another. And while our new life has not yet fully bloomed, there is hope as the supply of vaccine and the percentage of vaccinated citizens grows daily.
St. Anthony’s life reflects what each of us experience in our own life. We all experience changes, disappointments, trials and struggles, “winters” that seem lifeless, “deaths” of dreams and relationships. Through all the winters, all the struggles, all the deaths, what carries us through is the hope and promise of new life.
For the ever-present hope born from the promise of new life, we say Deo Gratias! And a Blessed Easter!